The Hyundai Motorsport team have shown competitive form on the opening day of Rally Italia Sardegna, the sixth round of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship.
Hyundai Motorsport has enjoyed a competitive but mixed start to this weekend’s Rally Italia Sardegna, completing the first full day of action at the top of the overall classification with Hayden Paddon in the #20 Hyundai i20 WRC .
All three of the team’s cars were running strongly in the top five mid-way through the day but issues on the #7 and #8 cars pushed Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo down the classification.
The rally began on Thursday evening with a Super Special Stage in Cagliari before a range of new and returning stages on today’s opening loop. Road position benefited those later to run, while tyre choice also proved a factor in performance. Nonetheless, the stages also placed a premium on accurate pace notes and driver commitment, which initially rewarded the Hyundai Motorsport drivers.
Hayden Paddon - #20 Hyundai i20 WRC
One year on from his competitive debut with Hyundai Motorsport, Paddon was arguably the standout driver of the entire field today. The young Kiwi and his co-driver John Kennard took a hat trick of stage wins this morning - in SS2 (Grighine Sud), SS3 (Grighine Nord) and SS4 (Montiferru) - to lead the rally from the start of the day. Further competitive stages during the afternoon maintained their advantage and established them as firm podium contenders this weekend.
Paddon commented: “It’s been a great day. To lead the rally at any point is an amazing feeling but to do so throughout the whole day is more than we could ever have imagined. We didn’t expect these stages to be our best but we made the most of our road position and tyre choice and things just clicked. The car felt competitive and I was confident in myself, so the perfect combination really. Taking the three stage wins was a surprise but we kept focused on the job in hand. Things were a bit tougher in the afternoon with more slippery conditions. We lost a bit of rhythm at times and we were fortunate to finish the day after puncture on the final stage. Overall, though, I loved driving the car and had a nice comfortable speed today. There’s still a long way to go so it’s important to stay calm and concentrate on the remaining stages.”
Thierry Neuville - #7 Hyundai i20 WRC
Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) showed flashes of competitiveness but his day was compromised. The Belgian recovered from a puncture in SS3 and an engine stall in SS4 but still held a top-five position heading into the afternoon. Unfortunately, issues related to a loose pipe on his turbo unit lost him a lot of time in the penultimate stage. He was able to partially resolve the issue to make it safely to the end of SS10, ending the day inside the top six.
Neuville commented: “It has not been the start of the rally that we had hoped for. The morning loop wasn’t perfect but it was good to build up my confidence with the car. We had a couple of issues, including a puncture in the first stage and an engine stall, which lost us five seconds in SS3 but generally it was OK. These stages are very tricky and technical so we had to take extra care with the pace notes. We started the afternoon well but we experienced a loss of power in SS9 as a result of a broken turbo pipe. I tried to fix it but had to manipulate it in order to get the car to the finish. The team will look at this overnight and we hope to return strongly for Saturday’s long day. There’s still a lot to play for here in Sardinia.”
Daniel Sordo - #8 Hyundai i20 WRC
Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC) picked up a ten second penalty on Thursday for a start line infringement but pushed hard on Friday morning. With four top-three stage times, he was holding an encouraging fourth place into the afternoon loop but reported issues on SS9, which turned out to be a broken rear anti-roll bar. He then had an impact in the day’s final session, SS10, and lost the rear left wheel. The damage meant he had to retire but he will restart under Rally 2 on Saturday.
Sordo commented: “The day was going quite well until the very last stage. It wasn’t ideal to start the day with the ten seconds time loss but we put that quickly behind us and focused on pushing through the nine stages today. We were in the fight, more or less, and we could find some good pace from the car and ourselves. Our start position was good and that helped a bit in the morning loop but we still had to make the right tyre choices. The afternoon started fine but in SS9 (Grighine Nord 2), something felt strange with the car and it was moving around a lot, it turned out we had a broke rear anti-roll bar. We lost some time but kept going. Then, in the final stage, we were a bit unlucky because we had a contact and lost a wheel. We made it to the stage-end but had to retire due to the damage incurred. It was a very frustrating end to what was a positive day for me and the team up to that point but we’ll re-join under Rally 2 tomorrow and see what can be achieved.”
Hyundai Motorsport took its first 1-2 in a stage at last year’s Rally Italia Sardegna so it was timely for the team to repeat that performance level. Three more stage wins today takes the team’s season total to 12 and reiterated the performance potential of the Hyundai i20 WRC against tough competition. Despite the issues faced at the end of the day, the team remains in confident mood.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We have mixed feelings this evening because we had a good day overall but a tough end to the afternoon loop. The great news is that we are leading the rally at the end of this first day with our young Kiwi, Hayden, who has been driving maturely and confidently all day. He has managed to avoid a lot of the problems others have faced on these challenging stages and he can be proud of his performance. An eight-second lead over Ogier is impressive considering Hayden only made his WRC debut at this event last year. Dani had a good day. He was consistent with his times and made astute tyre choices. It was a shame that he had an issue on the final stage when he lost a rear wheel through a contact. Thierry, too, had a good morning but suffered mechanical problems in SS9 with handbrake and turbo related problems. We’ll look into the issue tonight and aim to return tomorrow with all three drivers resuming their charges for position, with Dani restarting under Rally 2.”
Saturday’s schedule takes in nine stages including the long and demanding 42.22km Monte Lerno stage, which will be held twice with the famous Micky’s Jump. A total SS distance of a staggering 212.83km will greet teams and drivers tomorrow, so there’s all to play for and plenty to lose.
Overall Classification after Day One
- H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:35:08.5
- S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +8.8
- J.M Latvala / M. Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +25.8
- O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +57.1
- M. Østberg / J. Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:50.4
- T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:51.7
- M. Prokop / J. Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:10.3
- L. Bertelli / L. Granai (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:07.7
- P. Andreucci / A. Andreussi (Peugeot 208 T16) +4:07.8
- E. Evans / D. Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:17.9…
19. D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai i20 WRC) +10:36.6