Hyundai kicks off 2016 WRC season with a podium finish
With Thierry Neuville finishing in third place
Hyundai Motorsport has begun its third season in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in style with a fantastic podium finish in the debut event for the New Generation i20 WRC.
Thierry Neuville steered the team’s new car to third place overall after a competitive weekend for the Belgian and despite battling transmission problems in the final stage of the rally (SS16 Col de l’Orme - St. Laurent 2 Power Stage).
Fresh from a 1-2-3 stage result on Saturday afternoon, the team had its sights set on securing third place for Neuville on Sunday morning, as well as a top-six result for his Hyundai Shell World Rally team colleague Dani Sordo.
The Spanish driver had a strong final morning with a trio of second place stage times, scoring points in the Power Stage, to finish in sixth place overall. The double top-six finish sees Hyundai Motorsport jointly lead the Manufacturers’ Championship with Volkswagen Motorsport on 25 points apiece.
For Neuville (#3 New Generation i20 WRC) and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul, third place in Monte-Carlo – his best result in the rally so far - marks a welcome return to the podium and brings his tally of Hyundai podiums to six. The Belgian nursed his car home after experiencing transmission problems in the final stage but made it back to service in Monaco to celebrate the podium result with the Hyundai Motorsport team.
Neuville commented: “That was a nerve-wracking end to our Rallye Monte-Carlo. We started to experience transmission problems before the Power Stage, which meant we were running 2WD only. It wasn’t easy but we only lost one minute of time so our podium was safe - and that was the objective all morning! We can be very pleased with our weekend. The New Generation i20 WRC has shown its potential and it is good to be back on the podium, particularly after the difficulties we had at the end of last season. To register the first stage wins and now first podium with the new car is a great feeling and this result is for the whole team.”
Sordo (#4 New Generation i20 WRC) and co-driver Marc Martí put their early struggles with the new car well and truly behind them with a string of second-place stage times today. They moved into sixth place after an impressive run in SS14 (Col de l’Orme - St. Laurent 12.07km) and extended their grasp on the position during the morning, scoring two points in the Power Stage.
Sordo said: “We can all be pleased with the final result. It’s great for the entire team to have two New Generation i20 WRCs in the top-six, and to see Thierry on the podium. Well done to him and Nicolas. From my point of view, the start of the weekend was not very easy and I struggled to find confidence in the car. Working with the team, we have improved the car from one loop of stages to the next and we could already see yesterday that we were heading in a good direction. I was very happy with the balance this morning and could set some good times, which have shown the performance potential of the car. We must continue working in this way but this result is a nice start to the season.”
The focus for Paddon (#10 Hyundai i20 WRC) and John Kennard was to gather experience of Monte-Carlo’s notoriously tricky stages. The Kiwi continued to do that in the final three stages, setting top-six stage times. Despite suffering damage to the differential in the Power Stage, Paddon completed his first Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Paddon said: “It has been a positive, character-building weekend for me. We knew coming to Monte for the first time would be tough, and we approached the event realising we had lots to learn. Some of the stages were harder than others, but I have thoroughly enjoyed tackling Monte’s iconic stages and we were able to have some fun along the way. We’ve learned a lot and this morning’s final stages were a continuation of our learning curve. We broke something in the driveshaft under braking in one of the hairpins during the Power Stage, which slowed us down, but even that can’t take away from the encouraging weekend. For the team, it is great to see the new car on the podium in its first event, and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the New Generation i20 WRC in Sweden.”
Hyundai Motorsport entered the opening round of the 2016 Championship with its New Generation i20 WRC targeting an improvement on last year’s result and a fight for the podium. Neuville’s run to third is therefore a welcome result for the team, even if there’s more to come from the new car.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We are all delighted to see the New Generation i20 WRC finish on the podium here in Monte-Carlo. It’s an important result for the entire team and it is the culmination of a lot of work from our colleagues in Alzenau. Thierry has had a competitive and consistent weekend, and it’s really fantastic to see him back where he belongs - on the podium. Dani made big improvements over the weekend and he had a positive morning, including scoring Power Stage points. Hayden did everything that was expected from him - and he can now tick Monte-Carlo off his list with valuable experience gained. We can’t rest on our laurels because there is much still to do. We will run three New Generation cars in Sweden and we are determined to continue improving. For now, though, we’ll savour a hard-fought and well-earned podium.”
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