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Podium in sight for Hyundai after strong afternoon

In Rallye Monte-Carlo

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By Olivier Ferret

23 January 2016 - 20:07
Podium in sight for Hyundai after (...)

Hyundai Motorsport will enter the final morning of Rallye Monte-Carlo with the podium in its sights after an impressive performance on Saturday afternoon saw the team claim its debut stage wins with the New Generation i20 WRC.

Thierry Neuville led a team 1-2-3 in SS12 (St Leger les Melezes - La Batie Neuve 17.13km) before heading up a 1-2 for the New Generation i20 WRC in the final stage of the day (SS13 Sisteron-Thoard 36.60km). The result marked the first ever stage 1-2-3 for Hyundai Motorsport, the first stage victories for the new car and the debut Monte Carlo stage wins for the team.

Dani Sordo took third in SS12 and second in SS13 to move within two seconds of sixth place on the overall standings. Hayden Paddon, meanwhile, returned under Rally 2 today and put a character building morning behind him to take second in SS12. The team’s astute tyre choice paid dividends in the afternoon loop as the drivers found a good rhythm in their respective Hyundai i20 WRCs.

For Hyundai Shell World Rally Team driver Neuville (#3 New Generation i20 WRC), the opening round of the new WRC season has seen consistent performances across all stages as he builds his confidence in the new car. Two stage wins this afternoon helped him close the gap to second placed Andreas Mikkelsen to just 12 seconds with three stages left to contest on Sunday.

Neuville commented: “We were able to show a bit more of our potential in this afternoon’s loop, thanks to improved settings on the New Generation i20 WRC and a great tyre choice which gave me the confidence to push where it counted. We started the day without taking any risks, building on yesterday, but I could already feel the benefits of the new set-up. In the afternoon, we lost time on the long SS11 (Lardier et Valenca - Faye 51.55km) but we hoped the tyre choice would give us an advantage on the final stages and it definitely did! To take the first stage wins with the new car was a special moment and I could really enjoy myself. The car worked perfectly. Things are coming together step by step so tomorrow our focus will be on securing our third place and aiming to take a podium finish for the whole team.”

Sordo (#4 New Generation i20 WRC) put a difficult Friday behind him as he looked to become more at ease with the new car. The Spaniard hit a bank in the morning’s opening stage but after fixing the car, he made it to service with no further issues. With the correct tyre choice and improved confidence, he had a strong end to Saturday and now has his eyes set on the top-six.

Sordo said: “In the first stage, we slid and hit a bank, which damaged the rear left of the car. We ended the stage slowly and thankfully we managed to fix this. We had a small gearbox issue at the start of the second stage but this issue was fixed in service. Over lunchtime service, we made some set-up adjustments and, it turned out, the best tyre choice. The long stage was not fantastic but we were on the right rubber for the final stages and could really show more our potential. It was the first time all rally that I felt comfortable and enjoyed myself. We must continue like this tomorrow to try to secure a top-six finish.”

After a tough introduction to his first Monte-Carlo, Paddon (#10 Hyundai i20 WRC) restarted under Rally 2 this morning and proceeded to learn more about the unforgiving Monte stages. An incident filled morning was quickly forgotten as the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team driver claimed second place in SS12 and fifth in SS13.

Paddon said: “That was certainly an interesting day of rallying! This morning we were determined to start fresh and put yesterday behind us, but it was an equally tough start. We tried to learn all we could but with patchy ice and snow in the long opening stage, it was really hard. I don’t think I’ve ever spun so many times in one stage, but that’s part of our learning process. We definitely made progress this afternoon, with the right tyre choice and finding our feeling in the drier conditions. I enjoyed the final stages a lot. It was nice to be part of the team’s first 1-2-3 in stage in SS12 and I had a lot of fun both in that stage and SS13. Tomorrow, we will remain focused on our job and look forward to some more iconic Monte stages.”

In a number of firsts for the team today, Hyundai Motorsport claimed its first ever stage wins with the New Generation i20 WRC, which represented the team’s first stage wins on the Monte-Carlo rally. Continuing to discover the nuances of the new car, the team can be pleased with its strategy and approach this afternoon. Holding third place overall, the team will do all it can to secure a podium tomorrow - and to get the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship off to a positive start!

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “Today is a good example of why the Monte-Carlo rally is so special - it’s tough, demanding and unpredictable. We saw a few high profile retirements today, which certainly benefited us in terms of overall position but we must also take some positives from our own tyre strategy this afternoon, which allowed us to show some encouraging pace. It was fantastic to take the first stage wins with the New Generation i20 WRC. The drivers reported good progress with the car today and felt more comfortable to push, which we could see from the times. We are now in a podium-chasing position and with just 12 seconds to second place. We still have things to learn about the car and we face some more demanding stages tomorrow morning, so we will keep our feet on the ground. As we’ve seen again today, anything can happen.”

Rallye Monte-Carlo will conclude tomorrow with three stages - the 12.07km Col de l’Orme - St Laurent stage run twice, once as the Power Stage, as well as the 21.36km La Bollene Vesubie - Peira Cava stage. Drivers will tackle the legendary Col de Turini and look to end the first rally of 2016 in style in Monaco.

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