Hyundai Motorsport has had a trouble-free opening day to this weekend’s Rally de Portugal with all three cars comfortably inside the top ten.
The Hyundai Motorsport trio of drivers have all enjoyed a difficult but mainly problem-free start to this weekend’s Rally de Portugal, round five of the 13-event FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with all three Hyundai i20 WRC cars inside the top ten.
Tyre choice and management has played an important role on the first full day as drivers acclimatise to the unknown terrains of this new-look rally, which has today taken in five of the six scheduled stages. Following Thursday evening’s Super Special Stage - Lousada - drivers were ready to tackle a repeat loop of three stages today on tough terrain. The repeat of the opening Ponte de Lima stage (SS5) was cancelled due to forest fires in the area, meaning just two stages were run in the afternoon loop.
It’s been quite a good start to the rally for us and I am pleased to be in a top five position overall.
For Dani Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC), the Portuguese rally is something of a local event with plenty of supporters out in force for the Spaniard. He did not disappoint today with a strong performance overall, which saw him take the stage win in SS2 (Ponte de Lima 1 - 27.53km) and finish in the top five for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team.
Sordo said: “It’s been quite a good start to the rally for us and I am pleased to be in a top five position overall. The tyres have been the key factor today so we have had to manage them carefully. I started strongly in the opening stage, taking the stage win, but I opted to save the tyres a bit in the next stage before pushing again to finish the morning loop. In the afternoon, the tyres were perhaps a bit soft for the conditions but we made it through safely and have to prepare for tomorrow. The times have been good and the support from the fans has been fantastic.”
Kiwi Hayden Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC) also had a positive opening day, setting the second fastest time in the final morning stage, SS4 (Viana do Castelo - 18.73km), in his fourth event of the season so far. He ended the day in eighth overall for the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team, 40 seconds off the leader.
Paddon said: “It’s been an encouraging day overall and I am reasonably satisfied with our level of competitiveness. This is a new look rally for everyone, which is something of a leveller, but it has put a lot of emphasis on tyre management. In the morning loop, I had to look after the soft tyres a bit, and had to take a conservative approach in SS3 but we then finished the loop strongly.
The first of our two afternoon stages was very rough and the car was bottoming out a lot but we kept a good pace. There are definitely things that we can work on - both from a car and driver point of view - to go faster, so that’s what we’ll do ahead of tomorrow.”
Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) opted for a different tyre strategy to most other drivers, which hampered the Belgian’s performance in the morning loop. With tyre tactics continuing to influence performance, he will now assess and adjust his strategy, together with the team, for Saturday’s stages.
Neuville said: “It’s been a difficult day for everyone. In our case, we gambled on a different tyre strategy compared to the others, opting to keep some soft tyres back for tomorrow as we expected conditions to be more slippery. As a result, we had a tough start to the rally, and we lost a bit more time than I expected. We saw some significant tyre wear in the afternoon, which might make things difficult tomorrow. We will sit down this evening to adjust our plan accordingly and hope for a stronger day.”
All three Hyundai i20 WRCs have completed the first day with clear potential for improvements during Saturday’s six stages, which include the longest stage of the rally - the 37.67km Fridão stage. With Sordo firmly in the top five, and Paddon and Neuville chasing hard in the top ten, the team will focus on further improving on the new-look Portuguese stages tomorrow.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “My summary for this first day is quite positive considering this is a new-look rally for us all. Tyre strategy and management has been an important element today and it has been interesting to see how the drivers have tackled this. Dani has had a strong start to the rally and really showed his potential with the stage win in SS2.
Hayden, too, had an encouraging day and his second place in SS4 shows that. Thierry took a different approach to his tyre strategy this morning and will have more soft tyres available for tomorrow’s stages. We have three cars in the top ten after day one so we can be satisfied with the start of our Rally de Portugal.”
A repeat loop of three stages will make up Saturday’s running - Baião (18.57km), Fridão (37.67km) and Marão (26.46km) - will offer drivers new challenges so there is no opportunity to be complacent as Rally de Portugal enters its penultimate day.
Overall Classification after Day One
- J.M Latvala / M. Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:07:19.4
- K. Meeke / P. Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +11.1
- A. Mikkelsen / O. Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +16.0
- O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +17.8
- D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai i20 WRC) +21.8
- S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +25.9
- M. Østberg / J. Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +31.3
- H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +40.0
- T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:08.0
- R. Kubica / M. Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:29.1