Hyundai Motorsport Driver Development Program (HMDP) crew Chewon Lim and Martijn Wydaeghe fought back from an early problem on Rallye Lyon-Charbonnières as they continued their 2017 campaign in the New Generation i20 R5.
Their fourth event in as many countries to start the year the rally was another new challenge for the Hyundai duo. Rallye Lyon-Charbonnières, the second round of the French tarmac season, featured some of the fastest stages the pair had faced together, in stark contrast to tight, technical roads they faced in many of their previous outings.
However, the speed of the stages was not their main challenge when the rally began on Friday afternoon. On the very first stage Lim and Wydaeghe lost over four minutes to the overall leader after having to stop to change a punctured tyre. With the time lost, the crews attention turned to completing the rally as they continue to add their experience in the New Generation i20 R5.
It was quickly clear that the early setback had done nothing to deter Lim from pushing on the fast roads around the events base north-west of Lyon. By setting times competitive with the other R5 crews on the entry list he lost only a further minute to the more experienced crew in quicker, former WRC, cars at the head of the rally as he climbed back up the overall rankings throughout the four other stages before the overnight halt.
The pattern continued when the rally restarted on Saturday. With 170km of competitive running over eight stages the final day was one of the longest the crew had faced in their career. Twice over the course of the day Lim set stage times fast enough to take a spot in the top ten as he continued to prove himself in a four-wheel drive car.
By combining his knowledge of racing lines with the pacenote system he is developing as part of his training at Hyundai Motorsport the former circuit racer and his Belgian co-driver continued their climb up the rankings. Despite a scare in the closing stages, when they ran wide though a corner and had to be pushed back onto the stage by spectators they finished in fifteenth position overall. This placed them among the other R5 competitors, despite their difficulties on the opening stage.
Lim and Wydeaghes next outing in their New Generation i20 R5 will be the Transilvania Rally (May 5-6). The weekend in Romania is the first of the Tour European Rally (TER) Series championship, where the HMDP crew will compete for the full six event season.
Chewon Lim said: Im really pleased with my performance at Rallye Lyon-Charbonnières. Again, the stages were completely different to anything I had faced before. A lot of the roads were very fast, so I focused on my lines through the corners to maintain speed while following the pacenotes to know how hard I could push to make the most of the New Generation i20 R5s performance. We felt it was important to get as much time in the car this weekend before the first TER event next month, so Im happy to have completed every stage. To have a puncture on the very first stage was frustrating, but Martijn and I changed the tyre and luckily there was no other damage so we could continue and push for the rest of the rally.
Hyundai Motorsport Team Manager Alain Penasse said: Chewon has shown again that he is capable of competing with crews who not only have more experience in their cars, but have local knowledge of the stages as well. It has been a busy start of the year for he and Martijn with four rallies in four countries, but each has presented a different challenge as they develop together as a crew. The average speed on Rallye Lyon-Charbonnières was higher than any event they had done previously, but they set some strong times and moved up the order, challenging the other R5 runners. The puncture on the first stage was not the start they needed, but they didnt let the problem get to them and they showed great consistency through the rest of the weekend.