Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo showed Strong pace in the Hyundai i20 WRC cars against an experienced field of competitors in the teams’ WRC debut.
January 16, 2014-The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team has suffered a disappointingly early end to its debut rally in the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) after both Hyundai i20 WRC cars retired from Rallye Monte-Carlo today. The team, however, remains positive about its first competitive stages on the World Rally stage following some encouraging performances and stage times in the extremely challenging and unpredictable conditions.
Thierry Neuville and his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul saw their Monte-Carlo rally finish less than seven kilometres into the opening stage (SS1 Orpierre – St. Andre de Rosans) after unexpected and treacherous icy conditions caught them out at a tight right-hand corner while they were on Michelin super-soft tyres. The conditions took many drivers by surprise and resulted in a dramatic opening stage. Unfortunately for Neuville and the team, who were showing impressive early pace, the damage sustained to the #7 Hyundai i20 WRC was too substantial to restart.
Neuville said: It was a difficult start for us with our new team and our new car. On the first stage this morning, we were too fast into a tight right-hand corner, the car understeered and we hit a pole with the rear. Unfortunately, we couldn’t continue and that was the end of Rallye Monte-Carlo for us, he said. We had the information from our weather crews that rain was coming and the stage would have been wet but it was snowing and the conditions were really bad in there. I really want to move on from this and focus on Rally Sweden, where we want to come back strongly, concluded the Belgian.
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti, piloting the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC car, made a promising start in the opening loop as they ended in third place overall. The team strategy paid dividends in the final stage of the opening loop (SS3 Montauban Sur L’Ouveze. Laborel) as Sordo finished just eight seconds off the stage leader.
After the lunchtime service, Sordo embarked on the repeat loop of three stages with renewed vigour and claimed the second fastest stage time, but as he made his way to SS5 (Rosans – Ste Marie – La Charce 2) a technical issue stopped him on the roadside. The team tried to help him find the fault with the car but there was no immediate fix possible and the Spaniards were forced to retire from the rally from third place overall.
Sordo said: Obviously we are really upset that our rally has ended so early and particularly when we were showing such good performance. We were in the top three for most of the day so it is a real shame that we couldnt continue. We had a good morning loop and the Hyundai i20 WRC was working well. We made the right tyre choice and set good times. Conditions in the first stage were really bad and it was easy to make a mistake. SS2 was better with more grip and by the end of the loop we had good times without taking any risks. After lunch, we had a good run in SS4 with the second fastest time but on the way to the next stage we stopped to check tyre pressures and when we went to restart the car, it wouldnt start. We tried to find the problem, which seemed to be electrical, but there was nothing we could do. We need to investigate more deeply to understand what happened but it was a sudden and frustrating end to a promising start to our first WRC rally.
Team Principal Michel Nandan draws positive conclusions from Hyundai Motorsports debut WRC event: Of course, this is a disappointing end for us in our debut rally but this is rally and these things can happen, so we must remain positive. Today was a proud moment for our young team as we made our first steps in the competitive World Rally Championship. We showed a good performance level and we worked very well as a team to set a good strategy, so in that regard its been positive, he said.
We have experienced some very challenging and tricky conditions with many drivers going off in the first stage. It was bad luck for Thierry that he went off and was forced to retire, but thats rallying; these things can happen. We need to investigate the issue on Danis car. We made the right tyre choice for the loop, as we could see compared to others with the same tyre choice. The car was quick in the conditions and Dani set the second fastest time in SS4, which was encouraging. Then, on his way to SS5, the car seemed to suffer a loss of electrical power. We asked him to do some checks but we couldnt find the problem. We will now look into the problem to understand why it happened, he added.
Hyundai Motorsport has only been in existence for one year. We have completed 8,000km with the Hyundai i20 WRCs in testing but Rallye Monte-Carlo was our first proper test and we are here to learn. Monte Carlo is a special rally so its not easy to draw comparisons but generally speaking we showed that Hyundai is here to compete seriously. We will learn from this experience and move onto Sweden in a positive manner.