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Hyundai battles through difficult Friday in Monte-Carlo

Neuville is the highest placed Hyundai driver in fifth place

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By Olivier Ferret

22 January 2016 - 21:09
Hyundai battles through difficult (...)

Hyundai Motorsport has fought its way through a difficult day on the demanding stages of Rallye Monte-Carlo with both New Generation i20 WRCs inside the top-seven, following Friday’s six special stages.

Having made its competitive debut on Thursday evening’s two night-time stages, the New Generation i20 WRC tackled a total of six stages today - a repeat loop of three stages totalling 116.50km. The Hyundai Motorsport team approached the day with the main objective of learning more about the performance of its brand new car on Monte’s infamously tricky and icy terrain.

Thierry Neuville ended the day in fifth place overall despite not being on the optimum tyre in the afternoon loop. His Hyundai Shell World Rally Team colleague Dani Sordo experienced the same disadvantage but can take comfort from being seventh on the classification at the event’s halfway point.

Friday came to an unfortunate early finish for Hayden Paddon, driving a 2015 specification i20 WRC for the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team in this event, after he was forced to retire midway through SS3 (Corps-La Salle en Beaumont). The Kiwi slid on an ice patch and clipped a tree with the rear of his car, pulling off the rear-left wheel. He will re-join under Rally 2 on Saturday morning.

Neuville (#3 New Generation i20 WRC) had a consistent day, setting top-six stage times on all runs including a top-three time on the 25.78km SS4 (Aspres Les Corps - Chauffayer) stage. Despite making improvements to the chassis set-up for the afternoon loop, an incorrect tyre choice prevented the Belgian from extracting more pace from the car.

Neuville commented: “It’s been a difficult but useful day for the entire team as we look to make improvements to the New Generation i20 WRC. This morning’s loop was really tough. The car was bouncing around a lot because the suspension settings were too soft. We made some changes over lunchtime service, which definitely helped. However, we weren’t on the best tyre to make the most of those changes so we were missing some traction. We have to put what we learned today into practice for the rest of the weekend so we can build on this base. The feeling is getting better, as is the understanding of the car, so we’ll continue in this way. I’m feeling good in myself and it’s nice to be fighting consistently in the top-five.”

Sordo (#4 New Generation i20 WRC) struggled with confidence for much of Friday but battled through the demanding conditions to claim seventh overall at the end of the day. The Spaniard will sit down with his engineers to make improvements ahead of Saturday’s five stages.

Sordo said: “It hasn’t been the best of days for me but we are still adapting to our new car. We knew we’d have some lessons to learn in these opening stages and so it has proved. The set-up we had this morning was not really a good match for me and I couldn’t get the confidence you need in Monte-Carlo’s slippery conditions. We made some changes to stiffen the suspension but we had no grip with the soft tyre, so couldn’t push as we wanted. We know we have work to do but we will focus on this as a team tonight and hope to make some advances tomorrow.”

Paddon (#10 Hyundai i20 WRC) was hoping to build on a promising opening to his first ever Rallye Monte-Carlo, having started the day fifth overall. The Kiwi’s retirement in SS3 was an unfortunate part of his learning curve but he’ll resume his programme under Rally 2 on Saturday.

Paddon said: “The morning didn’t go at all how we planned. We just got caught out by a patch of ice that pitched the rear of the car into a tree, pulling off the rear-left wheel. There was no way we could continue so we had little choice but to retire. We knew it would be a rally of learning but we weren’t expecting our first full day to be over so soon. That’s the nature of this rally, I guess. We are able to come back tomorrow under Rally 2 where we’ll look to resume our learning curve - with the mighty 51km stage first thing. That will be our next big test.”

Hyundai Motorsport has already shown one of its most consistent performances on the Monte-Carlo stages with the New Generation i20 WRC with regular top-five stage times and clear improvements compared to the same event last season.

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We had no preconceptions over the performance of the New Generation i20 WRC here at Monte-Carlo, but there are some positives we have found after today’s two loops. The set-up of the car was not optimal on the first pass; we started with a softer set-up based on our pre-event test programme, which did not suit the tarmac conditions encountered this morning. Thierry and Dani both reported the car to be too soft on the suspension so we stiffened that over lunchtime service and saw immediate improvements in the afternoon loop. Unfortunately, the tyre choice was not the best for the final three stages but we found a better direction for the car itself. Tomorrow’s itinerary, which includes two attempts at the monster 51.55km Lardier et Valenca-Faye stage, will offer a new challenge but one we are ready to tackle. Hayden had an unfortunate morning, getting caught out by one of Monte’s hidden dangers but he’ll be back tomorrow to continue his own learning.”

Saturday’s itinerary takes in a total of five stages run over a total competitive distance of 174km. The daunting 51.55km Lardier et Valenca - Faye stage kicks things off early in the morning followed by the 17.13km St Leger les Melezes - La Batie Neuve. That duo of stages will be run again in the afternoon and followed by the 36.60km Sisteron-Thoard to bring Saturday to a conclusion.

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