Hyundai on the pace in Argentina as Paddon holds provisional podium
Two New Generation i20 WRC inside the top-five
Hyundai Motorsport has shown encouraging pace on the opening day of Rally Argentina, round four of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with two New Generation i20 WRC cars inside the top-five.
Hayden Paddon is leading the Hyundai Motorsport charge in third place, just over 11.4 seconds from the rally lead, with Dani Sordo close behind in fifth. All three driver crews have registered a stage win already this weekend with Sordo setting the pace in Thursday evening’s Super Special, Thierry Neuville top of the timesheets in SS5 and Paddon taking honours in SS6 (Soconcho / Villa del Dique II).
Kiwi driver Paddon and co-driver John Kennard (#20 New Generation i20 WRC) have been at the sharp end of the action throughout Friday’s eight stages, taking four top-two results in addition to their SS6 stage win - in just their second participation in Rally Argentina with Hyundai Motorsport.
Paddon commented: “I’m really happy with the way things have gone today. The car was working pretty well from the first stage this morning, although I felt my driving was a bit messy in places. I made too many mistakes so my aim for the afternoon was to tidy things up. The roads were in better condition than we expected on the second loop and we were able to find some improvements. Our pace notes were good and it was fun. There was a slight issue with the rear damper in SS8 but nothing that massively affected us. There’s still a long way to go, but we’ve stayed in touch and tomorrow’s my favourite day of the rally.”
Sordo (#4 New Generation i20 WRC) and Marc Martí lost time in the morning loop with a stuck throttle pedal in SS4 (Santa Rosa / San Agustin) but have finished all stages inside the top-five. They hold fifth position overall and will aim to reduce the gap to the front-runners in Saturday’s six stages.
Sordo said: “It’s a great feeling to be back rallying here in Argentina. The atmosphere is incredible and the rally is really enjoyable. Overall, we have had a reasonably good Friday. The feeling with the New Generation i20 WRC was good in the first stage but the pace was really fast so I had to start to take things carefully. SS4 was not so good. We lost some time because our throttle got stuck - and then we lacked confidence in the repeat of that stage this afternoon. Apart from that, it was all OK; we concentrated on making it to the end of the day safely, and the top-five is a decent place to be with two tough days remaining.”
Neuville (#3 New Generation i20 WRC) and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul had a day to forget as they experienced electrical issues in the morning. The Belgian duo lost over six minutes of time in SS4 but fought back to claim a stage win in SS5 - the first run of the Super Special in Villa Carlos Paz. Despite their difficulties, they remain in the top-ten and will resume their fight for valuable Championship points.
Neuville commented: “We have struggled with some technical difficulties since the shakedown yesterday. In the morning loop and we were lacking a lot of confidence. We tried to keep calm but losing six minutes in SS4 was hard to take so early in the event. The engine kept cutting off so we had to stop and repair the problem to make sure we could continue until the end of the stage. We had a small consolation by winning the super special stage (SSS5) before we could work on the car over lunchtime service. The problem was resolved with the car working well as the afternoon loop progressed. We need to find a good rhythm tomorrow and fight for Championship points – that’s our target now.”
Hyundai Motorsport is hoping to build on its most competitive start to a World Rally Championship yet, following podium results in Monte-Carlo and Sweden - and fourth place in Mexico. The team has never finished on the podium in Rally Argentina with fifth place the best result in 2014 and 2015.
Team Principal Michel Nandan: “Rally Argentina has lived up to its reputation of being a tough test on WRC machinery today but there are signs of real encouragement for our team. Hayden has had a positive day to position himself firmly in the chase for a podium. There is very little between the top-three so it seems all to play for. I have been pleased to see all three of our crews take stage wins this weekend so far. Dani was top of the timesheets on Thursday night and has had a solid day today. He battled a throttle pedal problem in the morning but recovered well to remain comfortably inside the top-five. Thierry too added to his stage wins total but he experienced electrical issues this morning. We worked on the car over lunchtime service but it was a difficult day for him. His objective now will be to pick up some points for the team and to rebuild his confidence.”
Saturday’s itinerary consists of six special stages, a repeat loop of three stages: Villa Bustos-Tanti, Los Gigantes - Cantera El Condor and Boca del Arroyo - Bajo del Pungo. Drivers will negotiate almost 160km of unforgiving Argentinian stages in front of a passionate crowd of fans - with everything still wide open.
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