Hyundai Motorsport has made a strong start to the tenth round of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with all three Hyundai i20 WRCs in solid positions at the end of Friday.
Coffs Harbour, Australia - Hyundai Motorsport has taken three stage wins on the first day of this weekend’s Rally Australia, the tenth round of the 13-event FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with all three Hyundai i20 WRCs competing strongly.
A competitive morning loop for the team saw Dani Sordo (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC) claim a trio of fastest stage times, topping the classification after Utungen 1 (7.88km), Bakers Creek (16.75km) and Northbank (8.42km) - all new stages for this event. Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville also claimed top-three stage times this morning.
A largely trouble-free afternoon ensured that the Hyundai i20 WRCs were all comfortably inside the top-seven on the overall classification with Sordo in fifth, Paddon in sixth and Neuville in seventh.
Dani Sordo (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC)
For Sordo, it was a positive start to the weekend. The Spaniard has never driven the Coffs Harbour-based Rally Australia before so he made the most of the level playing field offered by the new stages to lead the rally early on.
Sordo said: “I am very pleased with how this first day has gone. This is my first time on this version of Rally Australia because I did not compete last year but many of the stages today were new for everybody. The car has been perfect for most of the day and the team has been working well. The only issue we had was at the end of the morning loop, in SS4 (Newry Long 1 - 29.51km), when I experienced a downshift problem and stalled the engine at a hairpin, which cost us time. The afternoon was a bit trickier and there was a lot of dust in the final stage so we couldn’t take too many risks. Overall, to be in the top-five is a good position heading into Saturday.”
Hayden Paddon (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC)
Paddon has moved into the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC for this rally and had a competitive start to the event, finishing the morning loop inside the top-three. He was unable to maintain that pace in the afternoon but retained a promising top-six position well in sight of his immediate rivals.
Paddon commented: “It’s been a day of two halves really. Our morning went well and we had a little advantage from those road-sweeping ahead of us. However, because of that the roads were wearing the tyres a lot more, so we had to manage them and drive quite carefully. In the afternoon, the balance of the car felt more inconsistent, almost as if we had a puncture. We’ll be looking at that this evening because something felt strange, even if there was nothing obviously wrong. The stages today have been new so everyone’s had some learning. Tomorrow, we’re back on familiar stages so we’ll be looking to push a bit more.”
Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC)
Hyundai Shell World Rally Team driver Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) enjoyed a trouble-free opening day to the rally and has shown good pace. He claimed a top-three stage time in SS3 (Northbank 1) and finished Friday seventh overall with more to come tomorrow.
Neuville said: “I have been quite pleased with my driving today. We had a generally strong morning loop although we struggled a bit with the car settings on the long SS4 stage. We made a few changes over lunchtime service on the settings and on our pace notes, and I felt better in the afternoon. There was a lot of dust on the final stage and the visibility was just a couple of metres in some places. We made it through, so now our focus has to be on making more progress tomorrow. Not a bad first day, really.”
Hyundai Motorsport’s second trip ‘down under’ to Australia has run to plan so far with all three Hyundai i20 WRCs in the mix after eight stages and 125 competitive kilometres of rallying. The team added three more stage wins to its tally and led the rally for much of the morning loop - the fifth event of the season in which the team has topped the overall classification.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “There are some positives to take away from this first day of rallying in Australia. Many of the stages today are new to the event so everyone has had to get acquainted with them. This has made for an interesting day and it was very pleasing to see Dani take three stage wins this morning. We started the day in a spirited manner and, although we benefited from road position, the performance of the Hyundai i20 WRC cars has been good all day. It’s not all been perfect but we have shown their potential and we will now analyse everything from today to see how we can improve for tomorrow. There is a good atmosphere in the team so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve in the remaining two days.”