Hyundai vows to keep fighting after tough start to Wales Rally GB

Wales Rally GB

By Franck Drui

13 November 2015 - 20:17
Hyundai vows to keep fighting after

The Hyundai Motorsport team is not giving up in its fight for second place in the Manufacturers’ Championship despite a challenging first day of Wales Rally GB, the final round of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

Hyundai Shell World Rally Team drivers Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon have navigated themselves safely through a tough day in tricky conditions, holding fifth and seventh positions respectively after six stages. Unfortunately, it was a morning to forget for the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team drivers Thierry Neuville and Kevin Abbring after they were both forced to retire from Friday’s running through no fault of their own.

Sordo (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) is the highest placed of the Hyundai Motorsport drivers after a solid day. Four top-five stage times, including a top-three in the second run through Sweet Lamb (SS5) helped him to fifth overall.

Sordo commented: “We have had a reasonably satisfying start to this rally. Our target is obviously on the two Citroën drivers who have both been running well today but we are concentrated on our own rally. I have tried to keep the pressure on as much as possible. The first stage was a bit of a surprise because there wasn’t as much grip as we expected. We made some adjustments over lunchtime and had a decent afternoon loop with top-five stage times. It’s early days so let’s see how things unfold on Saturday. I have enjoyed the stages today and we’ll keep pushing.”

Paddon (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC) has kept calm in the face of difficulties today to finish in seventh place at the end of the first day. The Kiwi struggled with confidence in the morning loop and experienced technical issues in the afternoon, which have hampered his progress.

Paddon commented: “It has been one of those days today. We had a tough morning loop because the stages, despite looking slippery in places, seemed to have quite a bit of grip. I struggled to trust it, though, and that showed from our times. After lunch, I was hoping to find improvements but we had a spin at the start of SS4 (Hafren 2) and it took me three attempts to get the car started again. We lost 15-20 seconds of time as a result, which was a shame because I actually felt more confident. We then experienced hydraulic problems in SS5 (Sweet Lamb 2), which meant we had to run the final stage (Myherin 2) without paddle shift, with no handbrake and no gear display, so it was a challenge to say the least. We stayed calm to get to the end and tomorrow is another day.”

Neuville (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC) lost the rear-left wheel 10km into the final stage of the morning (SS3 - Myherin) as the wheel studs broke. Thankfully, the team will be able to get the Belgian back into the rally on Saturday morning under Rally 2 regulations.

Neuville commented: “We have to draw a line under today after a character-building day. Our morning got off to a difficult start straight away in the opening stage after I made a small mistake at a hairpin left after the first kilometre. I had to reverse the car to get going again which lost us ten seconds. We found reasonable pace in the short second stage but, at just over 10km into the final stage of the morning, we lost the rear-left wheel and we had no choice but to stop. We were determined to find a good rhythm so we will have to re-focus on tomorrow and Sunday.”

In the final rally of his four-event programme with Hyundai Motorsport, Abbring (#10 Hyundai i20 WRC) was forced to stop just two kilometres from the end of SS3 after a leak into the water system. The issue caused irreparable damage to his car and he will not be able to re-join on Saturday.

Abbring commented: “That was definitely not how we wanted our final rally of the season to go. We got off to a cautious start in the opening stage the grip was higher than we expected. We increased the pace in the second stage and I had a better feeling. We knew we wouldn’t be at the same level as the front-runners because our pace notes are completely new, but we were hoping to show a steady improvement. The final stage of the morning started off well but towards the end we had to stop the car because of a leak into the water system, which made the temperatures increase. We tried to keep going but it wasn’t possible. Unfortunately, the damage to the car was also too great for us to be able to carry on tomorrow. It’s a disappointing end to the season but I feel that I have learned a huge amount in our WRC programme with Hyundai Motorsport and this will provide a very strong platform for the future. Thanks to the team on behalf of myself and Seb for the opportunity.”

Hyundai Motorsport is still keeping an eye on its battle with Citroën World Rally Team for second in the Manufacturers’ Championship but admits that today’s running has made the fight that bit harder. With 13 special stages still to run this weekend, anything can happen and both Hyundai Shell WRT cars are still in the hunt.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “It’s certainly not been a smooth start to the weekend for the team but we don’t expect that in Wales and we’re still putting up a fight. Dani and Hayden have had mixed fortunes today but have both battled through to finish the day in fifth and seventh. Unfortunately both Thierry and Kevin had issues on the same stage this morning. Thierry lost a wheel ten kilometres into SS3, which we have since identified is the result of the wheel studs breaking. Kevin had a leak into the water system, which caused engine temperature to rise and meant he had to stop his car just two kilometres from the end. For Thierry, thankfully he will be able to start under Rally 2 tomorrow but the damage to Kevin’s engine was too much, so he has to retire from the event, which is a real shame for him. It’s been a hard day and we know tomorrow will be equally demanding on these fantastic, tricky Welsh stages. We still have some work to catch up to the Citroën drivers but that’s our target for tomorrow. We’re not going to give up easily.”

Saturday’s itinerary will take in nine stages over a total distance of over 140km. The morning will start with a repeat loop of Gartheiniog and Dyfi stages before the afternoon comprises two runs of Dyfnant and Aberhirnant separated by a short stage at Chirk Castle.



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