Strong start for four-car Hyundai squad on opening day in Germany
— Hyundai Motorsport has concluded the opening day of stages for Rallye Deutschland with two cars just outside the podium positions
— Dani Sordo is the highest placed of the four Hyundai i20 WRCs in fourth place with his Hyundai Shell World Rally Team colleague Thierry Neuville in fifth place after eight stages
— Hayden Paddon and Kevin Abbring are both using this rally to gain more experience and will be looking for more improvements on Saturday.
Hyundai Motorsport has enjoyed a positive start to this weekend’s Rallye Deutschland, round nine of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with all four of the team’s driver crews fulfilling their objectives on the first day of action.
Hyundai Shell World Rally Team drivers Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) and Dani Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC) returned to the scene of the last year’s memorable 1-2 result and have made a positive start to this year’s rally to take top-five positions at the end of Friday.
Hayden Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC) has been joined in the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team by Dutchman Kevin Abbring (#10 Hyundai i20 WRC) as the team fields a four-car entry into a WRC rally for the second time this season. Both drivers are using Rallye Deutschland as a valuable learning experience on tarmac, and will be aiming to show gradual improvements over the three-day event.
Sordo has pushed hard in today’s two loops to move into fourth place overall. The Spaniard will continue to focus on his own rally strategy with the ultimate objective of securing as many manufacturer points as possible for the team by Sunday afternoon.
Sordo commented: “It has been a pretty good start to this rally. We had a decent morning loop although we had some work to perfect the set-up of the car. We struggled with some understeer but fought through to lunchtime service where we made some modifications and improvements. I pushed harder this afternoon and had some good stage times, especially in the final two runs. We have not been able to compete with the top-three drivers but the times are close for the remaining positions so we have to continue pushing hard to score a good haul of manufacturer points.”
Neuville, who won last year’s Rallye Deutschland, has shown competitive pace today with several top-six stage results. He currently resides fifth overall with a similar combined time to his team-mate with 13 special stages still to run over the next two days.
Neuville said: “I have had a good day overall with just one difficult stage at the end of the morning loop (SS4 Mittelmosel 1) which I started in the wrong rhythm. I had pushed quite hard in the third stage so I didn’t want to take too many risks and I perhaps took it too cautiously. Otherwise, I have tried to push hard throughout the day, finding a rhythm and confidence. The cars at the front are incredibly fast but we need to focus on our own programme, making sure we find improvements all the time and to work as a team to secure important points for the championship. Tomorrow is a long, tough day of stages so we have to remain focused.”
Paddon has adopted a sensible approach to the rally using it as a further opportunity to adapt his driving style to unfamiliar tarmac conditions. A top-eight position overall is an encouraging performance for the Kiwi at this early stage of the weekend.
Paddon said: “We knew heading into this rally that we would have to use it as a learning experience and to build our confidence on tarmac, a terrain with which I am not as familiar as gravel. It’s not been a bad first day and we are perhaps closer to Thierry and Dani than we expected. We’ve had a few tough stages but we have to be realistic and focus on finding improvements where we can. It’s a bitter pill after we’ve been competing for top-fives in recent rallies but we’ll persevere and see what tomorrow brings.”
In his third event for Hyundai Motorsport, and the second in a four-rally campaign with the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team, Abbring is using this event as another valuable experience to build confidence in the Hyundai i20 WRC. He sits just outside the top-ten at the end of day one.
Abbring commented: “Our aim for this rally is to continue our learning curve in our first event with the team on tarmac. It has certainly been a challenging day. In the very first stage this morning, we were delayed when some horses got loose onto the stage and it was difficult to cope with cooling brakes and tyres. I didn’t really have the confidence in the first two stages and we then had some issues with the differential, which made it hard to keep the car on the road at times. The team changed the gearbox at lunchtime and I felt better at the start of the afternoon. But, I lost feeling with the brakes as the afternoon went on, so we have to understand what we can do to improve for tomorrow.”
Rallye Deutschland brings back happy memories for the Hyundai Motorsport team from last year but it is also something of a home rally for the squad, which is based in Alzenau. All four cars have completed the opening day in an encouraging manner although with room for further improvement.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “It’s great to be back competing in Rallye Deutschland. We can’t forget last year’s success, of course, and being a local event for our young team, it makes it even more special. This is, however, a different season so we have to reset our expectations. Dani and Thierry have focused on finding a good rhythm with their cars today and it has been satisfying to see them have a trouble-free day to finish in the top-five overall. Hayden is using the event to adapt his driving style to tarmac conditions and he has achieved what we expected of him today. Kevin, too, is learning all the time and although we have had some technical issues with the differential, he has composed himself well and I am sure will continue to grow his confidence tomorrow. All in all, it’s early days but we’ve had a pleasing start to our home rally.”
Saturday’s itinerary comprises nine special stages with five in the morning and four in the afternoon. The schedule will see the gruelling 45.61km Panzerplatte Lang stage run twice, once on each loop, with a total of three runs of the short 2.87km Arena Panzerplatte stage. It will be a demanding and potentially decisive day for teams and drivers alike.
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