Hyundai Shell World Rally Team carried out a test in Poland between Argentina and Sardinia with all three drivers to work on the Hyundai i20 WRC.
The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team will continue its learning curve in the competitive WRC environment at a new-look event for the championship, Rally Poland, this weekend.
The team, which experienced a challenging and ultimately productive Rally Italia Sardegna just a few weeks’ ago, is looking forward to learning more about its ever-evolving Hyundai i20 WRC car at another gravel event, with three cars entered once again.
Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul will spearhead the team’s assault on Rally Poland in the #7 car, joined by Finnish pair Juho Hänninen and Tomi Tuominen in the #8 car and Kiwi crew Hayden Paddon and John Kennard in the #20 car entered by Hyundai Motorsport N.
For Hyundai Shell World Rally Team, the objectives remain, as at all previous rallies, for all cars to complete the rally and to accumulate experience of the new terrain with the Hyundai i20 WRC car. The team tested in Poland after Argentina with all three driver crews taking part; Neuville and Hänninen drove on two days and Paddon on one day. The team also used Rally Italia Sardegna to prepare for this weekend’s rally with some of the road sections in the last event expected to be similar to those faced this weekend.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We were able to take a number of positive elements away from Sardinia, including our first 1-2 stage wins. I feel that we are stronger as a team as a result of the experience of that event, which was certainly not an easy rally. Poland will be another new event for us and in fact quite new territory for everyone. It hasn’t been on the calendar for many years and a lot of the stages are completely new – including those in Lithuania which is a completely new country for WRC to visit. On Rally Poland, the stages are fast with a sandy surface so we need to have good traction. We carried out some important work on suspension and differential settings in between Argentina and Sardinia, which will be important for this weekend. It will not be easy but that is why we are here: to learn. We have three cars again with the same driver line-up so we will be able to pick up from where we left off in Sardinia – and aim to get all cars to the finish of the rally.”
Hänninen and Tuominen also scored a stage win in Sardinia and briefly led the rally (their first in WRC). The Finns will be looking to put the disappointment of their Sardinia crash behind them as they aim to register a rally finish in their #8 Hyundai i20 WRC. Hänninen said: “Tomi and I were obviously disappointed with the outcome of Sardinia but we are pleased to be going to Poland where we will be able to get back into WRC action.
It looks likely to be another tricky event but we have some recent testing experience from Poland which will be helpful. It is a new event for many people and it will be good to go to a new country when we have the Lithuania stages. We had some positives from the start of the rally in Sardinia, so for Poland I want to make sure we complete the rally and support the ongoing development of the car and the team.”
We will be expecting rougher conditions on repeat stages, which will make it difficult, so we will have to make the most of the first pass on the stages. Since Sardinia, I have also analysed the data with my engineer and have identified two key areas that I will work on with my driving. We will go into the event trying some parts on the car for the first time but both my engineer and I are confident this will help me get a better feeling for the car in rally conditions. We have had our taster in Sardinia, now we are ready to step it up and try and get closer to the other Hyundai i20 WRC cars."
Rally Poland marks the halfway point of the 2014 season, round seven of 13, and represents the first time that the event has appeared on the WRC calendar since 2009. Rally Poland itself is one of the world’s oldest rallies, having hosted its first event in 1921. It featured in the first WRC season in 1973 but left the calendar to become a European Rally Championship event. A one-off return in 2009 was the last time that WRC visited the country. This year’s event will take in two countries with WRC visiting Lithuania for the first time. It will be the 32nd different country to have staged a WRC event in the championship’s history.
The schedule will take in three stages on Thursday including one in the dark. Friday will see a remote service in Lithuania with four stages in the country, two either side of the service. The event will have four Super Special Stages held at the Mikolajki Arena in Poland, one on each day of the rally. All in all, it will be a step into the unknown for most teams and drivers but a challenge that Hyundai Shell World Rally Team is relishing as part of its learning year in the WRC.