Strong start for Hyundai on home ground at Rallye Deutschland
All drivers enjoyed a largely trouble-free Friday
The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team has concluded the opening day of special stages at Rallye Deutschland with all three Hyundai i20 WRC cars in the top ten and the #8 car holding a provisional podium place following a promising first day of action in Germany.
A repeat loop of three stages has made up Friday’s itinerary (SS1/4 Sauertal 14.14km, SS2/5 Waxweiler 16.40km and SS3/6 Moselland 21.02km) with drivers negotiating the first proper tarmac event of the season.
Once again, the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team fielded three cars but with a new-look line-up as Dani Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver Marc Martí) joined lead driver Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul) alongside Bryan Bouffier (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver Xavier Panseri) who takes part in his first competitive WRC event with the team this weekend.
Sordo, whose last rally was in Argentina back in May, was quickly back up to speed in the #8 car as he ended the day in third place overall. Last year’s Rallye Deutschland winner, Sordo put his experience of the event to good use to set some impressive stage times, particularly considering his 14th place on the starting order. He finished a very close second in today’s final stage (Moselland 2) to take him up into the podium positions.
Sordo said: “It is good to be back with the team and to take part in this rally which holds very special memories for me after winning last year. I can really feel a lot of improvement from the team and from the Hyundai i20 WRC. We knew that it wouldn’t be an easy day because of our position on the road but we gave it our maximum and I think we can be satisfied to be in the podium places so far. The first stage this morning was not too bad but the second one was very muddy and slippery. We had a decent afternoon. I made a small mistake in SS5 which lost some time but we pushed hard at the end and had a very competitive final stage so we have to be pleased. There’ll be more to come tomorrow, so third overall is a good place to be tonight!”
Lead driver Neuville also had a promising day following a high profile accident during shakedown on Thursday that necessitated significant repair work to the #7 car overnight. Everything was replaced, including all body panels and the roof, although the engine was not changed. The tireless work of the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team mechanics, who worked for 18 hours to fix the car, enabled the Belgian crew to take the start this morning and they ended Friday in a solid fifth overall.
Neuville said: “Firstly, I would like to thank all of the mechanics for their incredible work to fix the car after yesterday. They are really to be commended and their efforts allowed Nicolas and me to start the rally this morning. We had some handbrake set-up issues in the first stage which cost us some time but things improved throughout the day. I felt confident in the car and, although the conditions were a bit tricky at times, we were able to end the day not too far from the podium. There was a problem in the final stage and we had a lot of smoke in the cockpit so we’ll look into that. Overall, I am sure we will find some improvements for tomorrow, which is a longer day of eight stages, including the long Panzerplatte stage, so it will be a decisive day for everybody.”
Bouffier has already celebrated success behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 as he won Rallye Antibes in May. He is also no stranger to the team as he has been a test and development driver since the team’s foundation year in 2013. In his first competitive WRC event with the team, the Frenchman focussed on acclimatising himself gradually and building up momentum as the first day progressed. He ended Friday with an overall top ten position and pleased with his day.
Bouffier said: “It’s been a special day for me to take part in my first WRC event in Hyundai Motorsport colours. I know the team and the car well from my involvement in testing and development, as well as Rallye Antibes, but a WRC weekend is another experience completely. It was not a bad start today. We had to adapt our driving to the slippery conditions and just to focus on finding a rhythm. The car was very nicely balanced although I struggled a bit on the exit of hairpins because my gearbox is in gravel spec. I enjoyed the second pass a lot and overall it is great to end the Friday in the top ten. There’s a long way to go but already I find confidence from the improvements made to the Hyundai i20 WRC since Antibes, which makes for a more responsive car. I am already looking forward to the morning.”
Hyundai Motorsport’s WRC factory is located in Alzenau, just 225km away from the Trier Service Park, so Rallye Deutschland, round nine of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship, is something of a home event for the team. As the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team continues to make a positive impression in the challenging WRC environment, it would be a fitting event for the team to push for another podium.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We have made a good start to Rallye Deutschland and I am pleased, first of all, to see all cars finish the day in the top ten. To have two cars in the top five and one in the podium positions is indeed encouraging. We had a busier start to the weekend than we had anticipated after yesterday’s roll in shakedown. The team did outstanding work to get the #7 car ready to take the start this morning and they really showed their professionalism. The work was substantial and took 18 hours in total, so huge thanks go to them for such a heroic feat! This is our first proper tarmac event and it is a pleasure to welcome back Dani to the team, and to have Bryan with us for his first WRC event with us. Dani had a very good day and fought hard to secure third place overall. Thierry put yesterday behind him to make improvements during the day and Bryan also made good progress. We have some work to do ahead of tomorrow’s long day, which will see us tackle the 42km Panzerplatte stage twice. Our objective is to complete the rally with all cars but we must also acknowledge that we are in contention for the podium positions, so that has to be where we’re aiming.”
add_circle Breaking news: Sordo secures Italian double
More on WRC