Hyundai Shell WRT tackles tough conditions on Wales Rally GB

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The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team will begin the second day of Wales Rally GB with all three Hyundai i20 WRC cars running after a day of mixed fortunes for the team in the final rally of 2014.

In addition to today’s eight competitive stages, a cumulative distance of 145.78km, the team has also dealt with a remote lunchtime service in Newtown, adding an extra layer of complexity to the day’s itinerary.  

Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul) has ended Friday in sixth place overall after being embroiled in a close fight for fourth place. Just 20 seconds separate the Belgian from the final podium place but it has been a hard fought first day in the typically muddy and wet conditions in Wales.

Neuville said: “It has definitely been a challenging day but I think we have worked well to get the most out of ourselves and the car. I have been reasonably satisfied with the car even if we know there are some areas in which we can still improve. This morning went well and we were in the battle for the top three for much of the day. We struggled this afternoon in the slippery conditions but we achieved our target of finishing the day and we’ll sit down with the engineers to make some changes for tomorrow. I’d say it’s been a solid learning day for us.”

Hayden Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver John Kennard) has battled hard to keep pressure on the top ten positions after developing power steering issues on his Hyundai i20 WRC in this afternoon’s loop. Despite the obvious hindrance to his performance, the Kiwi kept pushing to ensure he finished the opening day – still in 12th overall.

Paddon said: “It’s been a while since I’ve competed in conditions as slippery as the ones we’ve faced today so it took some time to get used to the varying grip levels in the stages. It’s been tough but we’ve gritted our teeth and pushed through, determined to make the end of the day. Unfortunately, we developed a power steering problem during SS5 (Gatheiniog 2 – 14.58km). We completed the stage but had to stop to try and fix the problem. There wasn’t much we could do so we had no other option but to carry on regardless, which wasn’t easy. This is a new event for the team and for the Hyundai i20 WRC so we have to learn from it and improve, which we hope to do in tomorrow’s stages.”

For Juho Hänninen (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver Tomi Tuominen), it was a day to forget as he went off the road in SS3 (Hafren Sweet Lamb 1 – 23.55km), and ended up in a ditch. The Finn had shown encouraging pace in the opening two stages but the damage to his Hyundai i20 WRC should be reparable so he is due to resume the event under Rally 2 regulations on Saturday morning.

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Hänninen said: “We knew from the first stages today that the conditions were bad and would present us with some unique challenges. I felt quite good after the first two stages, despite the muddy and wet conditions, but in SS3 we lost the car and ended up in a ditch. It was impossible to re-join the road so we had to retire for the day. The team will inspect the car when it gets back to service later tonight but it looks like we will be able to restart. I hope for a better and trouble-free day tomorrow.”

Wales Rally GB represents the final event in Hyundai Shell World Rally Team’s rookie season in the competitive WRC. The team has never rallied on the gruelling Welsh roads before, so this event marks yet another important milestone on its ambitious learning curve. The team has been honing the set-up of the Hyundai i20 WRC throughout the day to adapt to the muddy, slippery conditions and will continue to work tonight to find improvements ahead of tomorrow’s nine stages.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “Wales Rally GB is a very unique and exciting event, full of tough, slippery stages and very muddy conditions. For our first WRC event here, we knew it would not be straight forward. Thierry had a solid day and showed that we are able to fight for the top five. It was difficult for him to find confidence this afternoon but there are a lot of valuable things we’ve learned to improve the car for the rest of the rally. Hayden had a power steering issue in the afternoon which we have to investigate. He did well to get to finish the day in the circumstances and we’re sure he will fight back. Unfortunately, Juho went off in SS3 this morning into a ditch, as a result of the conditions, so we will be working on his car this evening to get him back under Rally 2 tomorrow. It’s been a busy day and hard work for the drivers but we’ll regroup this evening to set our plan of attach for the remaining stages of this rally.”

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