Hyundai Motorsport has begun its fight for a third consecutive WRC podium finish with an encouraging performance in Rally Mexico, the third round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
The team enjoyed a positive opening evening to this weekendâ€™s rally on Thursday with all three crews occupying top-six positions, as well as Thierry Neuville kick-starting the event with a stage win in SS1.
The first complete day of action today delivered mixed fortunes for the team with Dani Sordo mounting an early podium charge in third place and Hayden Paddon also finishing the day inside the top-five. However, Neuvilleâ€™s strong start melted away in the opening El Chocolate stage as he was forced to retire with suspension damage.
Sordo (#4 New Generation i20 WRC), driving for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team this weekend, put in an impressive run in the long 54km opening stage on Friday (SS4 El Chocolate), finishing second and helping him to cement third place overall, a position he retains by a comfortable margin heading into the penultimate day.
Sordo said: â€œWe can be very happy to hold a provisional podium position after this first full day. It wasnâ€™t the most straightforward day and there is still a long way to go, but itâ€™s not been a bad start. We really enjoyed the ceremonial start and the first stages yesterday in front of an impressive crowd but today was all about the long El Chocolate stage. We had a decent opening stage, even if we lost a bit of time, but we were carrying two spare soft tyres in the boot, which ultimately we didnâ€™t need. That caused the rear of the car to move around a bit too much. Still, it wasnâ€™t too bad. The repeat stage was very slippery and I found it very difficult but we made some improvements in the repeat of Las Minas. We have a bit of a buffer to Mikkelsen behind us but we have two very demanding days to rally so itâ€™s too early to get excited. Iâ€™m looking forward to another long day tomorrow.â€
Paddon (#20 New Generation i20 WRC) is representing the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team in Mexico and has adopted a sensible approach on the first opening day of the rally. The Kiwi, fresh from his podium finish in Sweden, aims to retain his current top-five position over the next two days.
Paddon commented: â€œWe didnâ€™t have the best of mornings, making the wrong tyre choice which wasnâ€™t the cleverest decision on my part. We expected conditions to be best suited to the hard compound but it didnâ€™t turn out as we thought. We had a very slight contact with a wall in SS5 (Las Minas), which usually you would get away with but we bent the suspension. We made it through and thankfully the afternoon went better. The grip was improved and the tyre choice was easier. Iâ€™m trying to do a sensible rally and our aim is to keep hold of this top-five position, which Iâ€™d see as a very good result here this weekend. Thereâ€™s still a lot of tough stages still to run, and another long day ahead of us tomorrow.â€
Neuville (#3 New Generation i20 WRC) endured a torrid start to the first full day of action in Mexico. The Belgian had started Friday in second overall after a clean run on Thursday – including a stage win in SS1 – but he was forced to retire 13km from the end of SS4 – the gruelling 54.21km El Chocolate stage – after losing the car on a crest, spinning and causing damage to the front-left suspension. He will resume under Rally 2 tomorrow.
Neuville commented: â€œIâ€™m very disappointed. It was certainly not the day we wanted or expected to have after the positive way we started this rally yesterday. We made a good tyre choice and were setting encouraging split times in El Chocolate (SS4), which makes it even more frustrating. We lost the car over a crest and spun, causing damage to the front-left suspension – game over for the day. Thursday eveningâ€™s opening stages were positive and helped us build confidence, something we will now look to rebuild tomorrow. Itâ€™s a long, tough rally and anything can happen â€“ as we have seen today – so weâ€™ll keep working hard to see what we can salvage despite the time penalties we will incur for re-starting under Rally 2.â€
For Hyundai Motorsport, Rally Mexico brings back happy memories of the teamâ€™s maiden WRC podium in 2014. Just two years later and the team is targeting a third top-three in a row after a fine third place in Monte-Carlo and second place at the most recent event in Sweden.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: â€œIt has been something of a typically unpredictable start to Rally Mexico, an event we love and fear in equal measure. The stages we face here represent a completely different challenge to those in Monte and Sweden so itâ€™s a step into new terrain for our New Generation i20 WRC. All three drivers had a trouble-free start on Thursday evening with Thierry taking a stage win in front of the many fans that have turned out to support WRC once again in Mexico. Today has seen the famous and challenging El Chocolate, which unfortunately caught Thierry out. He damaged the suspension on his car after a spin but we are pleased to have him re-join the rally tomorrow. Dani has had a strong start and is firmly in a podium position. We canâ€™t get carried away because we have some really tough stages ahead of us on Saturday – as well as the monster 80km stage on Sunday, which can transform the event. Hayden, too, is doing well inside the top-five, a position he will aim to keep hold of. So far, itâ€™s been a bit mixed and I hope weâ€™ll be able to see more performance from the car and drivers tomorrow.â€
There will be nine stages held on Saturday starting with a loop of Ibarrilla (30.38km), Otates (42.62km), El Brinco (7.15km) followed by the live Agua Zarca (16.47km) stage after lunch. Otates and El Brinco will be run a second time in the afternoon and followed by two Super Specials and a final Street Stage. All in all, over 150km of challenges ready to test the greatest drivers in the WRC!
Overall Classification after Day One
J. M. Latvala / M. Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:48:00.0
S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +32.1
D. Sordo / M. MartÃ (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +1:15.6
A. Mikkelsen / A. Jaeger (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:46.7
H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +2:20.8
M. Ã˜stberg / O. Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:35.6
O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:53.8
M. Prokop / J. Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:56.3
L. Bertelli / S. Scattolin (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +5:11.3
T. Suninen / M. Markkula (Å koda Fabia R5) +5:43.7