The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team has been among the front runners during the opening stages of this weekends 50th RallyRACC Catalunya Costa Daurada, Rally de España.
October 24, 2014 The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team has shown encouraging pace on the opening day of this weekends Rally de España, the penultimate round of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
This weekends rally offers drivers and teams the unique challenge of tackling mixed surfaces with four full gravel stages today and two mixed surface stages combining gravel and asphalt. The event got underway on Thursday evening with a spectacular opening stage in Barcelona in front of over 20,000 spectators, and continued today with a repeat loop of three special stages over a total distance of 138.54km.
The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team has shown real intent after the first seven stages with its crews regularly among the quickest. The team claimed two stage wins today – and briefly led the rally this morning – but unfortunately the three crews have all experienced issues during the day which have affected their overall positions.
Dani Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver Marc Martí) has ended the first full day of his home rally in seventh place. It was a tough morning for the Spaniard but changes to the Hyundai i20 WRC at lunchtime service helped him find improved pace in the afternoon loop. He is still firmly on course for a solid result in front of his home fans.
Sordo said: It is fantastic to be taking part in this rally in front of so many supporters. The opening stage in Barcelona yesterday was very special. Today has been a long day and weve had to work hard. It wasnt so easy in this mornings loop. I didnt have enough traction and there was a lot of dust. The car seemed to lack grip and stability but the guys made some changes at lunchtime service and we had a better feeling in the afternoon. We have pushed hard this afternoon despite the conditions not being easy but I think we are heading in the right direction for tomorrow.
Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul) was one of the standout performers today and was challenging for the lead of the rally for much of the day. The Belgian briefly led the rally after SS3 (Pesells 1 26.59km) and set the quickest time in SS6 this afternoon but he was forced to change tyre during the long final stage (SS7 Terra Alta 2, 35.68km) which lost him two minutes of time and dropped him from second overall to eighth.
Neuville said: There are a lot of positive elements to take from todays stages. We have shown ourselves to be competitive in these difficult and variable conditions. We have also won a stage and been in a close battle for the lead. The visibility has been our biggest challenger this morning and it has been really difficult. In the final stage, I got distracted by the dust in the car and I ran wide, hitting something with the rear right of the car and had to stop to change tyre. That obviously cost us a lot of time so weve dropped down the classification. We have given everything today, pushed hard and I think weve shown were capable of. There will be more to come tomorrow.
Hayden Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver John Kennard) has returned to the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team for the first time since Rally Australia and has immediately found speed in his Hyundai i20 WRC in the opening stages. The Kiwi crew set the fastest time in SS3 to claim their first WRC stage win but unfortunately in the subsequent stage they suffered two punctures which required them to change tyres mid-stage, losing over five minutes of time. Returning to competitive form in the afternoon, Paddon embarked on a comeback mission to finish in 14th overall.
Paddon said: Its great to be back with the team for this rally. It hasnt been a bad day overall. We had to contend with a lot of dust today, which made life tricky, but weve set a solid pace all day. This morning went well and winning our first stage was nice. We werent expecting to do that but its nice to tick it off the list. We had a bit of a moment in the final morning stage which meant we had to change two tyres. That obviously cost us time but we were still able to keep going. The afternoon loop was not entirely straightforward and we lost some seconds on the final stage but weve made it to the end of the day, which is our priority and well continue to learn in tomorrows stages.
For this penultimate round of the 2014 WRC season, Hyundai Shell World Rally Teams maiden championship, the team has once again set a primary objective of getting all three Hyundai i20 WRCs to the finish of the event.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: It has been a mixed day for the team overall with some positive aspects and some difficulties. All in all, I think we have shown ourselves in a good light today. The three crews have all kept a good pace and are all still running at the end of the day, which is always our top objective. The drivers have all pushed a bit more today, and in tricky conditions, so its been good to see two stage wins and to have Thierry close to the lead for most of the day. Unfortunately, all three cars are a bit lower down the classification than they should be but this is not our main target. We have learned a lot today, the performance of the Hyundai i20 WRC has been encouraging so we will see what more we can achieve in the coming two days.