Lessons to learn for Hyundai on penultimate day of Rally de Portugal

Sordo holds fourth position heading into Sunday’s four remaining stages

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By Olivier Ferret

21 May 2016 - 20:55
Lessons to learn for Hyundai on (...)

Hyundai Motorsport continues to have one of its New Generation i20 WRC rally cars inside the top-four of the Rally de Portugal classification, but it’s been a tough day in the office for the Rally Argentina winning team.

Starting the day in third place overall, Sordo pushed hard to defend his podium position but the Spaniard lost time to his closest rivals as the day progressed. He has a just over 30-second deficit to the two Volkswagen Motorsport drivers Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen and to the podium.

Unfortunately, the team suffered a double blow in this morning’s loop as both Thierry Neuville and Kevin Abbring were forced to retire from the rally. Neuville will re-join under Rally 2 on Sunday but Abbring’s first WRC event of 2016 is over.

The objective for Sordo (#4 New Generation i20 WRC) was to consolidate his top-three position but the difference in surface on today’s stages was not as well suited to the New Generation i20 WRC. There are still plenty of competitive kilometres to run in this rally, so the Spanish crew will dig deep to reduce the gap to the top-three.

Sordo said: “Today was not as straightforward for us, and we were not able to keep hold of our top-three position. The stage conditions were more slippery than yesterday, which didn’t suit us as much as our rivals. Generally speaking, I was satisfied with the balance of the car but we needed a bit more traction at the rear. We were missing grip and we lost a lot of time as a result. We tried some things at lunchtime service and made some changes to the differential, but it wasn’t really enough. We have four stages tomorrow so it’s not over yet. We’ll keep pushing and hope to reward the incredible fans here with a good result.”

Neuville (#20 New Generation i20 WRC) was pushing for a strong top-five finish after claiming two stage wins and building momentum throughout Friday. Frustratingly for the Belgian and for the team, his New Generation i20 WRC ran out of fuel halfway through SS11 on Saturday morning (Marão 1 - 26.31km). He will re-start under Rally 2 tomorrow with four stages still to compete.

Neuville commented: “It is a shame, of course, because we were expecting a strong result here. We were feeling more comfortable in the New Generation i20 WRC and aiming for the top-five. We got an alarm in the car at around 15km into this morning’s second stage, and the car ran out of fuel. There was no way for us to continue. Everyone can make mistakes but the important thing is to learn from it as a team. We are working together, fighting and pushing hard. These things can occasionally happen. They shouldn’t but we have to look forward and focus on having a trouble-free finish to the rally on Sunday.”

It was another character building day for Abbring (#10 Hyundai i20 WRC) and co-driver Seb Marshall. After being forced to stop in SS3 on Friday, the Dutch-British crew failed to complete the opening stage this morning (SS10 Baião 1 - 18.66km) after hitting a rock. They were forced to retire from the rally, and will now prepare for the next round of the Championship in Sardinia.

Abbring said: “A rally to forget for us. We honestly thought it couldn’t get any worse after our issues with the broken steering arm on Friday. So, it was very frustrating for us to stop in the opening stage this morning with the same reason. We hit a rock that was sticking out, which we didn’t have in the pace notes, and that was it - game over. Portugal has not been a very good experience for us. We just wanted to complete decent kilometres but we have to learn from this disappointment, look ahead and focus now on Sardinia.”

Having started Rally de Portugal with four cars, Hyundai Motorsport will only have two New Generation i20 WRCs when the event resumes on Sunday morning. From the highs of Rally Argentina, the team has experienced a day at the other end of the spectrum today.

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “It has not been a good day for our team, but we are determined to learn from everything. Dani has done his best to maintain his podium push against the Volkswagen pair of Ogier and Mikkelsen, but he has not been able to get as much pace out the New Generation i20 on the more slippery surface today. He’s dropped to fourth but there’s still all to play for on Sunday. Kevin hit a rock on the opening stage this morning and was forced to retire. Thierry’s situation was obviously very frustrating and we are all feeling the consequences. It was human error but we have already identified what went wrong in the process, and this will help us prevent it happening in the future. We are a team; it’s the combination of every individual’s work that makes the difference. Mistakes happen. It’s important to learn from them, and we vow to do that in all areas. We have four more stages tomorrow where we can learn more and prepare ourselves to bounce back at the next round.”

Sunday’s itinerary takes in a repeat of two stages over a total distance of 67.32km. The 22.47km Vieira do Minho will get things underway early on before drivers tackle the legendary 11.19km Fafe stage. The second run through Fafe will act as the event’s Power Stage.

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