Corsica offers tough proving ground and valuable learning experience
Weve endured a tough competitive debut with the New Generation i20 R5 on the Tour de Corse Rallye de France, as a water leak stopped Kevin Abbring during the rallys second afternoon.
The long stages for which the Corsican event is known were a tough proving ground for the new machine. Kevin was third quickest in WRC2 throughout the opening day of the rally. On a day without a midday service the brand new car completed 160km of competitive running. After making some set-up improvements to the car during service he showed renewed pace on Saturday morning.
It was stage five that started the second days itinerary. Through the 54km La Porta Valle di Rosina run Kevin and the New Generation i20 R5 were able to match the times of the more seasoned WRC2 competitors. The same was true throughout the 30km Novella Pietralba SS6 until close to the end, where a puncture and suspension damage dropped the Dutchman off the pace.
Though Kevin and co-driver Seb arrived at the Bastia Service Park late after making a temporary fix on the road section the team took the decision to repair the car, and return to the stages for the afternoon. Stage seven revisited the road of the morning opener and the initial times promised a reward for the crew. The New Generation i20 R5 was fastest of the WRC2 entrants early in the stage. Unfortunately, the run was halted halfway through the stage by the water leak, a potential consequence of the mornings incident.
Sadly, once the car was brought back to the service park it was discovered that the engine had been damaged, closing the teams rally a day early.
Kevin said: We were just starting to show some of the pace of the New Generation i20 R5. We had a strong run on Friday to complete such a long day without a problem, and with the improvements we made in service we were setting some really good pace early on Saturday. Because of the delays after the suspension damage we were out of the battle for the front, but the whole team wanted to have the car on the stages for the afternoon. Again our times were competitive, but we had a water leak and had to stop on the stage. Once we were back in service, we found that the engine had been damaged, so we had to retire.
Driving for one of the two privateer teams running New Generation i20 R5 in the rally Fabio Andolfi also showed the potential in the new car. On Saturdays final stage the Italian, competing in a four-wheel-drive entry for the first time, was just two seconds down on the WRC2 stage winner, despite catching the competitor ahead on the road.
Stéphane Sarrazin, in the third of the New Generation i20 R5 on the event, was forced to retire with damage from a broken wheel on Saturday afternoon.
Our Customer Racing manager Andrea Adamo said: We came to Tour de Corse Rallye de France to prove the performance of the New Generation i20 R5. Both we and, more importantly, our customers showed that the car can compete at the very front of WRC2. To be matching, or even beating, the times of teams and drivers who have been competing all season on our first event is really impressive. Unfortunately, the water leak happened at the point of the weekend where the car looked at its strongest. We knew the long stages of this rally were always going to be a tough place to debut a new R5 and so it proved. With what we have learnt here we can make improvements, so that our customers can continue to prove themselves at the highest levels of the R5 category.
The Customer Racing department will return to our headquarters in Alzenau, Germany, using the knowledge gained in Corsica, as we continue to build new cars.