One year on from the public debut of the New Generation i20 R5 at the Ypres Rally crews at the wheel of the car took multiple stage wins, as well as a top five finish in a very competitive field last weekend (22-24 June).
The rally was led initially, both overall and for the New Generation i20 R5 crews, by Hyundai Motorsport drivers Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul. The pair was focused on enjoying a rare weekend competing in front of fans in their home country as part of the ‘Back in Town’ campaign. Sporting a unique livery for the weekend they won the qualifying stage. However, they opted to run fifth on the road, choosing to put themselves in the middle of the pack, fighting for the victory. The opening loop proved they had done just that, as they won two of the first five stages to return to service leading by just 2.9 seconds.
Unfortunately their time at the front came to an end at the start of the evening loop when they entered a corner too fast and, struggling for grip on the dusty surface, slid wide before rolling into a field. Happily the crew was unhurt in the accident and after a massive, six-hour, effort by the Hyundai Motorsport team they returned to the rally on Saturday morning. Motivated to continue the show for their fans, the pair were fastest on seven of the day’s stages to complete the weekend.
Top ten result for title chasing customer team
After their early exit the role of the best placed of the i20 R5 crews fell to Giandomenico Basso and Lorenzo Granai. Contesting the second round of the TER Series the Italian pair was competing in Ypres for the first time since 2011. Despite a water leak that was quickly repaired in the first service the pair remained a fixture in the top ten overall, finishing the rally in sixth position. With the result they also claimed second among the TER registered teams, maintaining their championship lead in the process.
British Rally Championship pairing Tom Cave and James Morgan again showed their promise in the New Generation i20 R5. Despite only having previously driven the car on gravel the duo were on course for a British podium, and a place in the top ten overall. However, a mechanical problem on Saturday afternoon would end another strong weekend for the crew. Belgian championship regular Guillaume Dilley and André Leyh were also running in the top before famously tricky stages caught them out, a small mistake leaving them stranded in a ditch.
The same weekend Hermann Gassner Jr. made his debut driving his family team’s New Generation i20 R5, contesting the Rallye Stemweder Berg in Germany alongside co-driver Ursula Mayrhofer-Baumschlager. Despite his lack of experience in four-wheel drive cars he was able to compete with the leading crews throughout the event, finishing fifth overall. Last weekend’s action was completed when Salvatore Riolo and Gianfrancesco Rappa took victory at the Rally di Caltanissetta on Sunday.
Overall podiums on gravel and tarmac
At the third round of the French gravel championship, the Rallye Terre de Diois (3-4 June), Jordan Berfa and Damien Augustin finished on the final step of the podium. His performance put his Turbo ABP Competition run i20 R5 among the WRC-spec machinery entered in the event. The result also put him at the top of the championship standings as the second half of the season begins next weekend.
After a pair of events in the Canary Islands the Spanish tarmac championship returned to the Iberian Peninsula. At the Rallye de Ourense (10-11 June), at one his home events, Galician driver Iván Ares kept up his tremendous run of podiums in the championship, claiming second place overall to maintain perfect record of finishing in the top-three every time he has run with his New Generation i20 R5. He is currently second in the championship, with Surhayen Pernía in third after taking a strong fourth position in his Hyundai Canaries supported entry.
Luca Cantamessa was another driver to take his i20 R5 to an overall podium. His third place with the HMI team came at the Rally di Alba (17-18 June) in Northern Italy. There was also an overall podium in San Marino for Burak Cukurova on the Rally Bianco Azzurro in an entry run by Italian team Friulmotor.
There were also strong results in the national championships of Finland and Lebanon respectively for Jesse Turunen and Eddy Abou-Karam. In his second outing in his New Generation i20 R5 the Lebanese driver finished fifth overall in the Jezzine Rally (3-4 June). A week later Turunen once again improved his career best finish, with fourth position at the SM O.K. Auto-Ralli (9-10 June) as he continues his maiden season in an R5 with the backing of Hyundai Finland.
The same weekend fourth place was also the result for Korda Racing driver Ádám Velenczei at the Székesfehérvár Rallye in Hungary to move up a position in the championship rankings. There was less fortune for multiple Croatian champion Juraj Šebalj. In the first of three planned events in an i20 R5 supported by Hyundai Croatia. Leading the INA Delta Rally in his car, another Friulmotor effort, a small mistake on a left-hander just two stages from the finish was enough to put him out of the rally. It was similar story for Fabio Andolfi in WRC2 on the rough stages of Rallye Italia Sardegna (8-11 June). Enjoying his best WRC2 showing so far, he was challenging for the class podium on his home event until an accident forced him to withdraw from the running.
Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing department manager Andrea Adamo said: “Twelve months ago we came to Ypres to show the New Generation i20 R5 for the first time. This year we had a total of five teams competing in an i20 R5, and we have a good top five finish from a very tough rally, with a R5 strong entry. Thierry was able to take multiple stage wins, so it’s clear what he and the car were quick enough to have taken victory without the problem. Away from Ypres; our customers continue to show the i20 R5 is very strong on both gravel and tarmac, with crews in championship contention in France and Spain as we begin the second half of the season in seasons across Europe and the Middle East.”