Hyundai draws positives from dramatic opening day in Rally Argentina

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By Olivier Ferret

25 April 2015 - 01:20
Hyundai draws positives from dramatic

 Hyundai Motorsport has ended the first full day of this year’s Rally Argentina with two cars running in the top seven after some gruelling and unpredictable stages
 Dani Sordo holds a top four position after a mixed Friday, which saw as the Spaniard battling power steering problems in the opening two stages and secure a stage win in SS6
 Thierry Neuville fought back from a morning puncture to finish the day 7th overall, while Hayden Paddon will restart under Rally 2 after being forced to retire at mid-day service.

Hyundai Motorsport has completed the first full day of action in this weekend’s Rally Argentina with two cars running in the top seven after an incident filled Friday.

All three drivers started out strongly having negotiated Thursday evening’s Super Special Stage in Villa Carlos Paz without any dramas. However, the harsh terrain of the Argentine stages has taken its toll on many drivers today. All three Hyundai Motorsport crews encountered different problems during Friday’s gruelling stages, which included the unforgiving 51.99km Agua de Oro-Ascochinga.

Popular Spaniard Dani Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC) ended the day as the top Hyundai Shell World Rally Team driver, finishing in fourth place just outside of the podium positions. Sordo and his co-driver Marc Martí experienced power steering issues this morning, which hampered their progress. Nonetheless, they were still able to secure a top six position by mid-day service, which they converted into a top four place after a solid afternoon loop. The pair ended the day with a fine stage win in SS6 Super Especial in Villa Carlos Paz.

Sordo said: “Firstly, it is important to acknowledge the fantastic support that Marc and I have had so far this weekend. The fans are really great and it helps to motivate us. It was a difficult start for most drivers so I think we can be satisfied to finish the day in fourth place. It was certainly very pleasing to end it with a stage win! We started out strongly this morning and I felt really good in the car. We were running well in the long opening stage but the power steering broke 15km from the end of the stage. I had to drive the remaining kilometres of that stage, as well as the road section and SS3 without the power steering, which was incredibly hard work, and we lost a lot of time. We pushed hard in the afternoon despite having to manage the tyres and that allowed us to make up some positions. There’s a long, tough two days to go so we’ll have to keep focussed and hope for more progress tomorrow. A podium is still in our sights.”

Currently third in the drivers’ standings, Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) was also running strongly in this morning’s opening stage but a rear left puncture in the final 25km meant the Belgian and his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul had to change tyre, losing them over four minutes of time. The pair fought back in the afternoon to recover to seventh place overall.

Neuville said: “We had a better afternoon than we did this morning when an early puncture cost us a lot of time. This morning’s two stages were difficult for everyone. We picked up a puncture and tried to change it, which lost us several minutes. In the second morning stage, we managed to catch up with Andreas in the stage but we got stuck in his dust. We had to push him a little to overtake but the contact was a bit stronger than anticipated. Everything was fine, thankfully, and we could both bring the cars to service. In the repeat stages, we found a good rhythm and could set some respectable times. It was still tough but that is the nature of this rally. We will continue to push tomorrow.”

Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team driver Hayden Paddon had a tough introduction to his third WRC outing of the season. The young Kiwi and his co-driver John Kennard found conditions to be even tougher than expected and suffered damage to their #20 Hyundai i20 WRC after just three kilometres of Friday’s opening stage. The damage could not be repaired at lunchtime service so Paddon will return to action under Rally 2 regulations on Saturday morning.

Paddon said: “It was definitely a tough morning for us. In the long first stage this morning, after just three kilometres we broke the gearbox mounts, and that led to a host of other issues with the car as the stage continued. We couldn’t do anything about it so had to nurse the car to lunchtime service. Unfortunately, the car’s exhaust manifold was broken so the team couldn’t fix it for the afternoon loop. It was a shame because a good result was definitely possible. We knew the rally conditions would be rough but it’s even harder than we expected. These things happen but the team will work hard to fix the car so we can return under Rally 2 tomorrow and continue our learning at this event.”

In its second ever participation in Rally Argentina, the Hyundai Motorsport team has already shown significant improvements year-on-year. The team has two of its Hyundai i20 WRC cars running solidly in the top seven, proving that plenty has been learned from the disappointment of a double retirement on the opening day of last year’s event.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “The road conditions today have been incredibly rough and we’ve seen most drivers and cars struggle in different ways. The first pass – including the very long and harsh Agua de Oro-Ascochinga stage - was particularly challenging. We have had to take a cautious approach to ensure the cars make it through safely while adopting a more aggressive approach when the conditions were better. In that respect, all the drivers have done well despite a few problems along the way. Like many of our rivals, we had various mechanical issues on Hayden and Dani’s cars, which we solved at lunchtime service. Unfortunately, we discovered that Hayden’s damage was more serious and required the exhaust manifold to be repaired. We had no choice but to retire him from the rally today but he will start again under Rally 2 tomorrow. Dani had strong pace today and finished fourth overall – fighting hard for a podium – but his day was affected by power steering issues which slowed him down this morning. He definitely ended it in style with a stage win in SS6. Thierry had a puncture this morning but has also battled back well this afternoon. We know this rally is tough – and we prepared for that – but as we have seen today, Rally Argentina always has more surprises, so we’ll have to see what’s in store tomorrow!”

Saturday will see drivers take on 130km of stages including a revised SS8/SS10 – San Marcos-Characato – which has been shortened to 42.50km. Two morning stages will be repeated in the afternoon, offering yet more rigorous challenges on the penultimate day of Rally Argentina.

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