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New Generation i20 WRC makes rally debut

As 2016 season begins in Monte-Carlo

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By Olivier Ferret

22 January 2016 - 00:40
New Generation i20 WRC makes rally (...)

The 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) got off to an action-packed start in Monte-Carlo today with a star-studded launch event in the Principality this afternoon acting as the prelude to the event’s two opening stages this evening.

Hyundai Motorsport has begun its third season in WRC with a brand new car - the New Generation i20 WRC - and its first ever three-car line-up at Rallye Monte-Carlo. With only 41.63km of stages on the opening day, the objective for the team was to get all three cars safely to the end of the evening’s slippery night stages.

All three cars hold top-ten positions heading into the first full day of rally action on Friday with Thierry Neuville in a promising fourth, Hayden Paddon in fifth and Dani Sordo in tenth.

Neuville (#3 New Generation i20 WRC) and his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul got off to a solid start as they got to grips with the new car on Monte’s unforgiving stages. The duo end the day in fourth place as they look to build on last season’s top-five result.

Neuville commented: “I think we can be satisfied with this opening day. It is fantastic to start the new season with our New Generation i20 WRC and to get the first competitive stages under our belt. It’s hard to know where we are after the first two runs. Conditions were slippery and our aim was just to get through without any trouble. I took it a bit too carefully in the second stage this evening; I didn’t want to make any mistakes. I could have pushed more in places but we are still learning the car and adapting to the Monte conditions, so we have to take things stage by stage. I look forward to tomorrow!”

Paddon (#10 Hyundai i20 WRC) and his co-driver John Kennard are starting their first complete season in WRC with their maiden attempt at Rallye Monte-Carlo. The Kiwi crew are running an 2015 specification Hyundai i20 WRC for this event only to acquaint themselves with the rally.

Paddon said: “It’s a pleasure to be starting our first full season with Hyundai Motorsport with our debut at the legendary Monte-Carlo. We have the previous specification i20 WRC at our disposal for this event as we learn all about this special but tricky rally. I took things easy in the first two stages this evening, adapting to unpredictable conditions and just focusing on what we needed to do. I made a good tyre choice in the second stage, being the only driver opting for snow tyres mixed with super softs, which played into our hands a bit at the start but required us to take it carefully on the icy sections. We’re here to learn and that’s precisely what we’ll continue to do tomorrow.”

Sordo (#4 New Generation i20 WRC) and Marc Martí completed the first stages of the rally safely but lacked confidence in the conditions. The Spanish duo will work with the team to find improvements to tackle Friday’s six special stages.

Sordo said: “It was not the start we hoped for but there’s plenty more to come, I’m sure. We lacked a bit of confidence in the opening stage, which was slippery in places, and I didn’t feel comfortable to push. Then, in the second stage, I wasn’t overly happy with the handling of the car. Tomorrow’s another day but we know we have the performance potential in this New Generation i20 WRC and we will look to build on today. There is a good atmosphere in the team and we’re just at the start of what will hopefully be a positive season.”

The opening round of Hyundai Motorsport’s third season in the WRC sees a bold and confident approach for the team. With the New Generation i20 WRC car making its debut on the unique Monte-Carlo stages, the team knows it will take time to tap fully into the car’s full capabilities.

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We’ve started our third season in the FIA World Rally Championship in good spirits and it has been a special moment to see our New Generation i20 WRC complete its first stages. This new car is the product of a lot of hard work from the team in Alzenau and I’m sure everyone shares in this proud moment. All three drivers have quite rightly taken a cautious approach to these first stages with Thierry and Dani in the new car and Hayden embarking on his first ever Monte-Carlo rally in an older generation i20 WRC. Monte is a special event and not really indicative of the rest of the season so our aim is to learn more about the New Generation i20 WRC in competition over the next three days. It may be our third season in WRC but the learning never stops. One thing is for sure, it’s great to be back rallying!”

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