Hyundai Motorsport has salvaged a top-five finish from an extremely tough Rally Argentina with Dani Sordo taking fifth place overall in the 12-stage event
April 26, 2015 Hyundai Motorsport has completed a tough Rally Argentina, round four of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with a top-five finish following two passes of the dramatic El Condor stage today.
Dani Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC) was the highest classified Hyundai Motorsport driver in the rally, taking a hard-earned fifth place overall and two Power Stage points after a strong Sunday for the Spaniard.
Sordo, driving for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team, was one of two Hyundai i20 WRC finishers at the end of the 12-stage rally following a dramatic late retirement for Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) in the El Condor Power Stage. Like Sordo, Hayden Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC) re-joined the rally after his retirement late on Saturday, and the Kiwi was classified in 16th for the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team.
A two-car finish with Sordo in fifth place marks an improvement on the teams performance at this unforgiving rally compared to twelve months ago when just one car made the finish.
Sordo has put in a valiant effort this weekend. Power steering problems hindered the Spaniard and his co-driver Marc Martí on Friday morning, while his impressive comeback was halted on Saturday afternoon following an electrical issue on the days final stage. He got straight back to form when he returned under Rally 2 this morning, setting the second fastest time in SS11 (El Condor-Copina 16.32km), and repeating the feat in the SS12 Power Stage.
Sordo said: It has been a very tough event for everyone so I am pleased that we have been able to finish Rally Argentina with some good points for the Manufacturers classification. After the disappointment of finishing early yesterday, we were back on the pace in the two El Condor stages this morning, finishing second on both runs. That allowed us to pick up some Power Stage points as well, which is a nice bonus! The team has done a great job this weekend. We had some mechanical issues at times but I feel that we drove well and set some good times. We can take a lot of positives from this as we prepare for the next event, Rally Portugal.
Paddon has had a frustrating weekend with an initial retirement at Friday lunchtime service forcing him to restart on Saturday under Rally 2. The Kiwi and co-driver John Kennard then showed good pace on Saturday morning with two top-six stage times before an unfortunate incident in the afternoon loop. Returning on Sunday morning, Paddon used the opportunity to build up his confidence and learn more about the El Condor stage, bringing the #20 Hyundai i20 WRC home.
Paddon commented: Its been a difficult event but nothing more than we expected. We could see on the reconnaissance that it was going to be hard on the cars. We had planned to take it nice and easy this weekend knowing that conditions were rough. Some things just unfortunately didnt work out. I think it was important for us to re-join today just to get some confidence and to get some momentum for the next rallies. There were some nice stages this weekend, particularly SS3 on Friday, really nice and smooth. As an event, its a nice challenge and different from the others we do, and thats what the World Rally Championship is all about.
Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul battled hard throughout the weekend having lost a sizeable chunk of time on Friday mornings opening stage due to a puncture. The Belgian crew lost four minutes fixing the problem which put them on the back foot for the remainder of the rally. However, they fought back in style with a series of top-four stage times, which helped them move back up through the rankings. Heading into Sundays final El Condor stage, Neuville was firmly in fourth place but he hit a rock early on in the stage, losing his rear-left wheel, preventing him from continuing much further.
Neuville said: This is a disappointing end to the rally for all of us in the team. I made a mistake in the Power Stage, by attacking too much from the beginning of the stage. I should have focussed on securing our position, which was the most important thing for both championships. I lost the rear of the car in a corner that should be flat out. We must now learn from this weekend and move onto to returning to form in Portugal.
For the Hyundai Motorsport team, it has been a long and difficult event with the notoriously harsh Argentine roads putting the drivers and cars under extreme pressure. The team, in only its second Rally Argentina, has coped well in a range of different circumstances, and has shown a real improvement year-on-year.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: We knew it would be a tough event, and tough it has been! We had various issues throughout the three days with mechanical problems or incidents, so the team has had to work hard, for which they should be commended. Our objective today was to secure this mornings positions and bring home Manufacturers points. The result is of course not what we wanted but I always look for the positives. Dani did a great final stage to score two Power Stage points and claimed fifth overall. Hayden also had a good morning, and showed that he has lost none of his skill or confidence in the car. Thierry, of course, is incredibly disappointed to have retired but he was clearly pushing hard. We will analyse everything from this weekend and will use this experience to continue building rally by rally.