Hyundai will continue its fight for the title at Rally de España
Neuville sits atop the drivers’ table with a seven-point advantage
Hyundai Motorsport is ready to put up its strongest fight as the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) moves onto the penultimate event next weekend, the mixed surface challenge of Rally de España.
Hyundai Motorsport heads into round 12 of the 13-event season trailing in the manufacturers’ title chase by 20 points with a maximum of 86 available over the final two rallies in Spain and Australia. Thierry Neuville, meanwhile, holds a slim seven-point margin at the top of the drivers’ classification.
Despite a string of disappointing weekends compared to its title rivals, Hyundai Motorsport hopes to turn the tide at the popular multi-surface Spanish round. The team will field three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC crews with home hero Dani Sordo re-joining alongside Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen.
All sights will be set on fighting for victory at a rally where the team has previously taken three individual top-three finishes. Sordo took third in 2015 before going one place better a year later as part of a double podium with Neuville in third.
Two become one
Often seen as two rallies in one, Rally de España gets underway with a short tarmac test in Barcelona on Thursday evening before moving primarily onto gravel for Friday’s stages. A spectacular 75-minute service is held on Friday evening during which mechanics transform the cars into tarmac specification for the Saturday and Sunday.
In order to prepare the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC for the unique challenges of Spain, crews have carried out a mix of tarmac and gravel testing. There has been a particular focus on tarmac performance, something the team has worked hard to improve throughout the season.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “There is no room for error in Spain, if we are to overturn the deficit in the manufacturers’ championship. We still have a mathematical chance to achieve our title goal by the end of Australia. We’ve seen that anything can happen in the WRC this season, but we also know it will be a big undertaking. We will still give it our maximum. We will also do everything we can to support Thierry in the drivers’ title – engineers, mechanics and crews alike. We have a good car, a strong team and competitive drivers; we need to put all elements together and aim as high as we can. It’s a privilege to be in such an exciting battle, and the competition is as intense as we knew it would be. We will push right up to the Power Stage in Coffs Harbour. The most deserving team will take the title.”
Mikkelsen said: “We have made important steps in the past few rallies, which have not really been reflected in our overall results. The feeling and rhythm I have had with the i20 Coupe WRC has allowed me to pick up stage wins and to fight at the top end of the field. This is greatly encouraging. Rally Spain could be good for us. I feel that we have made some improvements on tarmac in preparation for this event. We have to see if all our homework pays off. It will be a crucial rally for the championship, so we have to be on top of our game.”
Neuville said: “These two final rallies of the season are massively important for us in the championship fight. We have lost some ground in the past couple of events, but we are still on top and we won’t give up without a fight. The opening day on gravel will be particularly vital in setting the tone for the rest of the weekend, so we have to start strongly. We know we have had some deficiencies on tarmac this season but we have worked hard on that and hope we can see the fruits of that hard work.”
Sordo said: “Rally de España is one of the most special events of the whole year for me. Nothing can replace the feeling we get when competing on home soil and in front of such passionate supporters. It makes for a tremendous atmosphere from the opening super special right through to the Power Stage. The gravel-to-tarmac schedule is like no other rally we tackle, and requires a very different approach. It’s been a long time since Portugal, my last event on gravel, so it will be a tough start even with a beneficial road position. We know the car is strong on loose surface, while we also have some evolutions for tarmac so I hope we can perform stronger than in Germany.”
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