Hyundai Motorsport has ended Saturday’s gruelling stages with one car holding a podium position and two cars in the top four overall.
The Hyundai Motorsport team has maintained its impressive performance at this weekend’s Rally Italia Sardegna, tackling one of the longest and most demanding days of the entire championship today.
It wasn’t a trouble-free day for the team, however, with the rigours of the Sardinian stages affecting all three drivers on the penultimate day of action. Nonetheless, the team heads into the final day with one car holding a strong second place and another comfortably inside the top four.
Hayden Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC)
Hayden Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC) and co-driver John Kennard started this morning’s loop as leaders of the rally, and it wasn’t a position they would relinquish easily. The Kiwi crew set a string of top-three times across the five early stages to increase their lead over reigning Champion Sebastian Ogier to 9.3 seconds by lunchtime service.
A tougher afternoon loop saw them lose the hard-fought position with a spin in SS17 (Monti di Ala 2) and a broken gearbox mount, which required a cautious approach in the final stages. Paddon still holds a comfortable second place - with a debut podium still well within their sights.
Paddon commented: “We expected today to be a tougher day than yesterday but I didn’t expect it to be such a dramatic end. We started with the same approach as yesterday and I was surprised that we were able to extend our lead of the rally by lunchtime. The car felt good and we made the most of our starting position but we knew the afternoon would be rougher.
We lost the lead when we had a spin in SS17 but we then broke the gearbox mount, which I thought would be the end of the rally for us. We persevered and took a cautious approach. Thankfully we made it through to hold onto second place with a buffer, so tomorrow we will look to secure the podium result, which would be an amazing result. It’s not over yet, so we have to keep focused on the job in hand.”
Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC)
Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) put a challenging Friday behind him and set out to find improvements in the epic 212km of stages today. He started brightly with second place in SS11 (Ittiri Arena 1) but encountered trouble on the subsequent stage when a power steering problem lost him time. Along with his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul, he expertly fixed the issue but he arrived four minutes late for SS13 (Coiluna-Loelle 1) and was given a 40 second time penalty. The team’s mechanics worked hard over lunch to get the car ready for the afternoon loop and Neuville responded with an excellent stage win - the team’s fourth of the weekend - in SS16.
Neuville said: “It’s not been an easy day again but we have some positive things to take away, for sure. We started well but had a problem with the power steering, which we were able to fix for the long stage. Unfortunately, we incurred a 40s penalty which wasn’t good but we were happy to make it to lunchtime service. The team did a fantastic job to get the car sorted for the afternoon and it was nice to repay them with a stage win in SS16. The afternoon loop was rough but we pushed where we could and I’m pleased we are holding fourth place. Four stages left tomorrow and who knows what might happen.”
Dani Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC)
For Dani Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC) and co-driver Marc Marti, the day started under Rally 2 following their problems at the end of Friday. The pair looked set to resume their strong form but a a fuel leak forced them to retire before SS14. They will once again use Rally 2 regulations to start again on the final morning.
Sordo said: “We started the day with a good feeling in the car. Obviously it wasn’t quite as positive as yesterday when we were fighting for the podium and leading stage times but we were feeling comfortable. We only managed to complete two stages properly because we had a fuel pressure problem, which meant we couldn’t keep the car going once we’d finished SS13. The car has been good and we’ve seen what has been possible so it’s a shame to have had to retire. We will look to finish on a positive note when we return tomorrow.”
Hyundai Motorsport is still in the hunt for a second podium finish of the 2015 season and remains buoyed by the performance of the Hyundai i20 WRCs in Sardinia - with another stage win today and top-five potential shown by all cars.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “That was an intense day of rallying. Ultimately, though, it was another positive one for our team as we have Hayden in second place and Thierry just off the podium positions in fourth place. We have faced a number of issues today but the biggest disappointment was Dani having to retire this morning. It is obviously frustrating given the pace that he has shown this weekend. The drivers have given everything today, pushing all the way.
Thierry took a stage win this morning and was competitive. He had a mechanical issue, which meant he was late for a stage this afternoon, losing a lot of time, but in the end that hasn’t affected his position. He has made up places and now sits fourth going into the final day. Hayden has had another great day and continues to impress everyone.
He kept Ogier at bay until lunchtime and battled through gearbox mount problems this afternoon, keeping a level head to finish the day and secure a hard- earned second place. Tomorrow, we have four more stages. We won’t become complacent and will do all we can to keep these positions.”
Just four stages remain left to run on Sunday with two 11km stages repeated. The 11.77km Cala Flumini run will also act as the Power Stage, bringing the sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship to its culmination.
Overall Classification after Day Two
- S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:54:43.9
- H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:13.6
- M. Østberg / J. Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +3:25.6
- T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:57.0
- E. Evans / D. Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +5:15.5
- J.M Latvala / M. Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +8:08.6
- Y. Protasov / P.Cherepin (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +13:32.4
- P. Andreucci / A. Andreussi (Peugeot 208 T16) +13:39.4
- J. Kopecky / P. Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +15:30.8
- Y. Al Rajhi / M. Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC) +16:28.8
24. D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai i20 WRC) +52.54.0