Hyundai Motorsportâ€™s drivers are involved in a thrilling battle for second place at the end of the first day of action for Rally Sweden, round two of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
Fielding three New Generation i20 WRC cars for the first time this season, the Hyundai Motorsport team embarked on todayâ€™s stages – run across Sweden and Norway – looking to build from the podium result at the season-opener in Monte-Carlo last month.
Hayden Paddon completed Fridayâ€™s six stages in second place overall with Dani Sordo registering a top-five position to ensure a strong Hyundai Motorsport presence near the front of the field.
Paddon (#4 New Generation i20 WRC), representing the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team this weekend, brought the first day of stages to a stylish conclusion, taking two stage wins en route to second place overall. The Kiwi, in his first rally with the new i20 WRC, topped the timesheets in SS8 (RÃ¶jden – 18.47km) and SS9 (Torsby – 16.48km) and heads into Saturday 26.9s from the rally leader.
Paddon said: â€œItâ€™s pleasing to be involved in such a close battle for second place but weâ€™re still only in the early stages of this event so weâ€™re not going to get carried away. Road position has played a big part in todayâ€™s stages. We knew that weâ€™d have an advantage in the afternoon loop but, still, itâ€™s nice to have capitalised on that. I was getting more confident in the car with each stage but there is still work to do to improve my feeling with the New Generation i20 WRC. Today was my first day of rallying with the new car so itâ€™s natural that we are still learning. The final stage today was the best of the lot with a lot of grip and consistency, which gave me the confidence to push. Weâ€™ll see if we can find more improvements tomorrow but for the first day itâ€™s not been too bad.â€
Just 15 seconds separates Paddon in second and Andreas Mikkelsen in sixth, setting up a closely-fought five-way battle, which also includes Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team driver Sordo (#20 New Generation i20 WRC). The Spaniard had a consistent day and lines up fifth overall.
Sordo said: â€œWe have had a pretty good day all in all, and I have really enjoyed these stages. This is the first time I have been in Sweden as a Hyundai Motorsport driver and it has been fun to experience the New Generation i20 WRC on these stages. The afternoon was a bit harder than the morning because the car started to move a bit at the rear but we are fifth and in the middle of a very close fight for second. Itâ€™s a good start and we must continue in this way.â€
Neuville (#3 New Generation i20 WRC) made a solid start to the morning loop, setting a top-three stage time in SS3 (RÃ¶jden – 18.47km). Unfortunately, rear differential problems halted the Belgianâ€™s progress. With no lunchtime service, he and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul had to battle hard to complete the dayâ€™s running.
Neuville commented: â€œItâ€™s been a frustrating and difficult day for us. We started the morning with a lot of confidence and things were going well. We had two clean runs and were third in the overall classification. We broke the rear differential in SS4 and lost a lot of time. There was no lunchtime service and it was not a problem we could fix ourselves, so we had no choice but to persevere. We tried our best but it was really tough. The team will look into the problem tonight and we will start afresh tomorrow hoping to regain the pace we had this morning.â€
Having secured a podium with the New Generation i20 WRC in the first rally of the season last month, Hyundai Motorsport aims to follow that up with another top-three finish in Sweden.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: â€œItâ€™s been a good start to this rally and after all the discussions about the weather this week, it is good to focus on the fantastic action that these stages have to offer. We have had stages in Sweden and Norway today, with no lunchtime service, so itâ€™s been an intense day for our drivers. Hayden and Dani have both had strong runs and are firmly in the exciting battle for second place. Thierryâ€™s positive start to the day unfortunately ended on the final stage of the morning loop when he broke the rear differential. We have to look into the issue and fix it for tomorrow. The lack of lunchtime service meant there was no way to resolve it sooner so it was a long, tough afternoon for him. Weâ€™re remaining focused on our job and are, of course, continuing to improve the performance of the New Generation i20 WRCs.â€
Five stages make up the curtailed Saturday schedule with a solitary run of Frederiksberg (18.19km) and RÃ¤mmen (22.76km), two runs of the popular Vargasen stage (24.70km) – including the famous Colinâ€™s Crest jump – and a Super Special stage in Karlstad to round off the day.
Overall Classification after Day One
S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:03:10.6
H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +26.9
M. Ã˜stberg / O. Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +33.7
O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +34.8
D. Sordo / M. MartÃ (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +38.2
A. Mikkelsen / A. Jaeger (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +42.0
H. Solberg / I. Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:36.9
C. Breen / S. Martin (CitroÃ«n DS3 WRC) +1:38.8
E. Camilli / N. Klinger (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:43.5
L. Bertelli / S. Scattolin (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:08.6
26. T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +6:20.3