Hyundai shows podium potential on opening day of Rally de España
Hyundai Motorsport has enjoyed an encouraging start to this weekend’s Rally de España, the penultimate round of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with all three Hyundai i20 WRC cars setting top-three stage times on the first full day of action.
Following a trouble-free Super Special Stage on Thursday evening - in front of thousands of passionate Spanish spectators in Barcelona - Friday’s action took in a repeat of loop of four stages, including the demanding mixed surface Terra Alta, the longest stage of the rally at 35.68km.
The trio of Hyundai i20 WRCs all finished Friday inside the top-nine with local star Dani Sordo in a fighting fourth position, Hayden Paddon in seventh and Thierry Neuville in ninth.
Home hero Sordo and his compatriot co-driver Marc Martí (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC) received plenty of Spanish support today and fought hard to hold fourth place after a tough but positive day of rallying.
Sordo commented: “It’s always a pleasure to drive in front of the home supporters and they really deliver a great atmosphere on the stages. We had a good day and we are definitely in the fight. The morning loop went well, although the Terra Alta stage was difficult with a lot of stones on the surface, which lost us a lot of time in the middle of the stage. The second pass was not completely to my satisfaction but the important thing is that we are on the pace and will look forward to fighting more tomorrow.”
Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC) got off to a competitive start for Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team, claiming a joint stage win in SS2 (Móra d’Ebre-Ascó 1 - 9.62km) and regularly posting top-five stage times. He ended the day in seventh just 0.9s from the top-six overall.
Paddon said: “It has not been so bad today considering how tricky the road conditions have been. The morning loop went well and although the set-up that we took forward from Australia didn’t really work as we’d hoped, our speed was still satisfying. We would have liked to be faster, particularly in the long stage. We tried to make some improvements for the afternoon but the car didn’t feel quite right. It was all about managing our tyres this afternoon and the second run through Terra Alta was crucial. We are not a million miles away but there’s more to come, I’m sure.”
Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) built up momentum as the day progressed. He took second in Thursday’s Super Special and third in SS7 (Caseres 2) but lost time on both runs of Terra Alta (SS5 and SS9). He sits comfortably inside the top-ten ahead of Saturday’s eight stages.
Neuville commented: “Overall I think it’s been a decent day for us. We had a good start to the rally but in the first run of the long Terra Alta stage, we stalled twice and lost around ten seconds, which dropped us back a bit. With no lunchtime service, it was good to start the afternoon in a more competitive manner with a top-three time in SS7. The repeat of Terra Alta was, as expected, another tough run. We had a front right puncture in that stage but, despite that, I think we can be satisfied. We have built our confidence throughout the day and this bodes well for tomorrow where we will look to fight back up the classification.”
Hyundai Motorsport has a solid base on which to build for tomorrow with all three cars. The team mechanics have a 75-minute service this evening in which to swap the Hyundai i20 WRCs from gravel to asphalt specification with 14 tarmac stages still to contest this weekend.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “This is a long and complex rally so we have to be quite satisfied with a trouble-free opening day. We have had primarily gravel stages today but the big challenges have been both runs of the mixed surface Terra Alta, which has really dictated the classification at the end of this first day. We are pleased to see all cars running strongly and with good pace in almost all stages. Dani has kept the Spanish fans entertained with fourth position overall, while Hayden and Thierry have also got plenty to fight for inside the top-nine. We now move to full asphalt spec and have a lot of tough stages still to complete, so there’s a lot more to come. We still have our eyes on second in the Championship, so we’ll remain focused on the job in hand.”
Saturday will see a repeated loop of four stages - Porrera, La Figuera, Poboleda and Capafonts - all asphalt stages over a total distance of 123.05km.
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