Hyundai Shell World Rally Team has continued to make progress in this weekends Rally Finland with its two remaining Hyundai i20 WRC cars.
August 2, 2014 The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team has made positive progress during todays ten long and demanding stages with both remaining cars running in the top seven as Rally Finland enters its final day.
The team endured a disappointing Friday after having to retire the #7 Hyundai i20 WRC of Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul due to a damaged roll cage, but bounced back today with a series of highly commendable performances across a repeated loop of five stages.
Juho Hänninen (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver Tomi Tuominen) and Hayden Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver John Kennard) were both handed early starting positions after yesterdays classification, which resulted in some slippery conditions at times during the mornings first loop. The two crews, however, remained focussed on the job in hand and found notable improvements for the afternoon stages which helped them both set top five times.
Paddon, taking part in only his third event with the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team, benefitted from another day of learning as he made his way into the top six overall. The Kiwi crew have continued to increase their confidence on the Finnish stages with the #20 Hyundai i20 WRC and have made significant gains in terms of their driving and pace throughout the ten stages on Saturday.
Paddon said: Weve had a very good day and have made some really solid improvements as the stages have progressed. I lacked a bit of confidence this morning, particularly with the front of the car. On the first two days of this rally, I was focussed on my own driving so today weve been able to look at some set-up adjustments. The team made some changes at lunchtime service and the car responded well in the afternoon loop. I felt comfortable in the car and set some pretty decent stage times. Im obviously pleased to be in the top six but we have three more stages tomorrow so well have to push a bit more to defend from Juho, who has also had a good day. The most important thing from my perspective is that I feel weve learned a lot this weekend and I have come on a lot as a driver. Weve got to keep moving in this direction.
For home hero Hänninen, it was an encouraging day in front of his dedicated fans as he made his way up into seventh place overall at the end of the long day. The Finn put in generally faultless runs in all stages with some consistent results, the highlight of which was a fifth place in SS20 (Jukojärvi 2 – 21.93km). Hänninen will now aim to finish with a flourish in Finland on Sunday, which takes in the 6.79km Ruuhimäki stage (SS24 and repeated as a Power Stage for SS26) and the 23.02km Myhinpää SS25.
Hänninen said: Its been a pretty good day for Tomi and me after the difficulties we faced yesterday. This mornings stages were a bit more challenging than I expected with some loose gravel due to our position on the road. I tried to keep my runs as clean as possible and it was reasonably ok. It was not so easy to find a good rhythm in the slippery conditions but things were better in the afternoon. I was perhaps a bit too careful on occasions given the increased grip levels but we had some decent stage times and I had a good feeling with the Hyundai i20 WRC car. We are involved in a close battle for sixth place with Hayden, which is fun, so I will do all I can to reduce the gap tomorrow. We have just three stages left but it promises to be another enjoyable today in front of some fantastic local supporters!
Rally Finland is just the eighth event in Hyundai Shell World Rally Teams debut FIA World Rally Championship, so the team is still learning at each stage of a rally weekend. The team has kept its morale high despite encountering difficulties on Friday and has responded positively with two cars in the top seven after 23 of Finlands 26 stages.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: Juho and Hayden have both had satisfying runs on this penultimate day of Rally Finland. We began the morning knowing that conditions would not be ideal given our earlier starting positions on the road. Both drivers reported slippery conditions, as we expected, but they adopted a sensible approach and delivered what we needed. We made some slight set-up adjustments at lunchtime service which helped them both improve in the afternoon and it is good to see Hayden in sixth and Juho resurgent in seventh place overall. Were focussed on getting both cars to the end of this rally but we are also hoping to make further improvements to the performance of the Hyundai i20 WRC and to learn all we can from this demanding event.