Thierry Neuville and Juho Hänninen have completed an encouraging day of rallying on the first full day of Rally Sweden
The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team has enjoyed a positive start to this week’s Rally Sweden with both Hyundai i20 WRC cars in the top eight of the overall classification after the first proper day of competition, having demonstrated some encouraging performances in the seven stages so far.
The day started off with the 7.03km Torsby 1 stage in Sweden before moving into Norway for the 7.16km Kirkener 1 and longer 16.82km Finnskogen 1 stages. With no mid-day service today, the cars headed to lunchtime regrouping which was then followed by a repeat loop of Kirkener, Finnskogen and back into Sweden for the second Torsby stage – all in all a total distance of 62.02km. The team was hopeful for a smooth start to Rally Sweden and it certainly achieved its objectives.
Thierry Neuville and his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul returned to the cockpit of the Hyundai i20 WRC #7 intent on building up mileage and experience in their second WRC event with the team. Neuville was satisfied with his day’s work as he finished seventh on the overall classification. The Belgian put in a particularly stellar performance in SS5 (Kirkener 2) as he narrowly missed out on the outright stage win to finish second by a mere 0.5s.
Thierry Neuville: “It has been a positive day overall. We have shown some great potential and by the end of the day we had a good feeling from the Hyundai i20 WRC. Throughout the day we got more and more confidence and were able to set some good stage times. We worked on some items in anticipation of tomorrow’s stages. I know in what areas we need to focus overnight and to find improvements to go even quicker tomorrow. It has taken time to adapt to the conditions but we have two more days to go and I’m pleased with what we’ve achieved so far.”
The Finnish duo of Juho Hänninen and co-driver Tomi Tuominen have taken control of the #8 car for Rally Sweden, an event they have contested four times previously. The flying Finns settled into a good rhythm in their Hyundai i20 WRC and ended the second day in eighth overall, pleased with their approach.
Juho Hänninen: “It’s been a reasonably good day and it’s a pleasure for Tomi and me to be competing with the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team here in Sweden. I was a bit nervous before starting the first stage this morning but after finding our confidence with the car was good and that we could reach a good pace, all the tension went away. I made a small mistake on the final morning stage and lost a few seconds but our focus has been on completing the stages and improving our feeling with the Hyundai i20 WRC. The Michelin tyres have been very good and I am really happy with the performance of the car. We have a good set-up, so I look forward to making more progress tomorrow.”
The 2014 season is one of learning for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team and in just its second event, the team has shown signs of significant potential.
Team Principal of the Hyundai Shell WRT Michel Nandan commented: “Overall, we have had a positive start to Rally Sweden with both cars. The Hyundai i20 WRC has not had a great amount of experience in these conditions so it was encouraging to see both Thierry and Juho put in some strong stage times. We have made it our objective to complete maximum mileage with both cars so far so that we can build up more experience in these tricky conditions.
Both drivers have given useful feedback to us today which we will use to find improvements for tomorrow, but to end the second day with both cars in the top eight is a satisfying achievement for us in our second WRC event. I have to say also that Thierry’s performance in SS5, to nearly take the stage win, showed that there is exciting potential from the car here. We aim to continue our learning tomorrow.”
Tomorrow will see crews compete in nine more stages of the 24 that make up Rally Sweden, a repeat loop of four stages, including the short Hagfors Sprint (SS11 and SS15), followed in the evening by the second Super Special Stage in Karlstad.
Hyundai Shell World Rally Team