FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP (WRC 2015): HYUNDAI SHELL WORLD RALLY TEAM – KEVIN ABBRING IMPRESSES FOR HYUNDAI MOTORSPORT ON TRICKY OPENING DAY IN CORSICA
WRC A FULL 2015
Kevin Abbring impresses for Hyundai Motorsport on tricky opening day in Corsica.
Heavy rain has disrupted the opening day for this weekend’s Tour de Corse, round 11 of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with just two of the three scheduled stages run
Kevin Abbring has ended the day as the top Hyundai Motorsport driver in second overall after a strong run for the Dutchman in only his fourth WRC event of the season
Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo both completed a challenging Friday in their respective Hyundai i20 WRCS while Thierry Neuville’s day ended early after an incident on SS1.
2 October 2015
October 2, 2015 – The return of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) to Corsica has been met with torrential weather as heavy rain hampered running on the opening day of this year’s Tour de Corse.
Just two of the day’s three scheduled stages were able to run with treacherous roads forcing the cancellation of SS2 (43.69km Casamozza – Ponte Leccia) and making life difficult for drivers in the two other stages.
In the first WRC Tour de Corse since 2008, the tricky tarmac conditions resulted in mixed results for the Hyundai i20 WRCs. Kevin Abbring ended the day as the top Hyundai Motorsport driver in second place overall, just 18.7s off the rally lead, after two trouble-free stages for the Dutchman.
Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon completed both stages, although not without incident, and finished Friday in 11th and 14th overall, while Thierry Neuville clipped a bridge just 1.2km into the first stage and was forced to retire.
Abbring (#10 Hyundai i20 WRC), taking part in the third of a four-rally programme with Hyundai Motorsport, took a measured approach on the opening day of Tour de Corse in which he finished third overall in last year’s ERC. Securing an impressive second in SS3 (36.43km Francardo – Sermano), he moved into second overall on the standings.
Abbring commented: “We took it steady on today’s stages. We didn’t really know what to expect on the opening stage and as the 15th car on the road the conditions were quite dirty. There were a few parts where the pace notes worked really well and my performance was good. We made some changes to the car at service and things went well in the afternoon. I knew I was on good pace in the opening 10km but it wasn’t so clear in the latter part, so I had to be careful. This is our second tarmac rally and I’m just focused on trusting the pace notes fully. Considering the circumstances today, I am very happy with how it is working so far. We’ll continue to work in this way tomorrow and see what more improvements we can make.”
Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC) does not have much experience on damp tarmac conditions so adopted a careful approach to the start of his first Tour de Corse. Despite a big moment in the second stage (SS3), the Kiwi fared well to finish eighth in stage, just outside the top ten overall.
Paddon said: “It’s been a very demanding day for our first day in Corsica. It was very slippery this morning and I don’t have much experience driving in conditions like that, so I didn’t have any confidence. I just adapted my driving accordingly to get the car to the end of the stage. That stage gave us a base on which to build. The afternoon stage, after the cancellation of SS2, started well but after one kilometre we hit a rock and damaged a wheel. We had a bad vibration after that and were very lucky later on when we were close to a sheer drop. It was a heart in the mouth moment, so I was just pleased to make it to the end of the day. We have more to learn here and, conditions prevailing, we will look to make improvements tomorrow.”
Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC) showed competitive form in both stages but a broken wheel after hitting a stone in the opening split of SS3 lost him two minutes of time, dropping him down the order. It was particularly frustrating for the Spaniard after his split times in the rest of that stage were on par with the rally leader.
Sordo said: “It was a day of mixed results for me, but overall there are some positives. The first stage was not too bad at all. The conditions were a bit damp and a lot of corners were muddy and slippery in places. We had some understeer towards the end of the stage but overall it was a good start. In the afternoon, all of our time loss in SS3 was caused in the first split when we went tight into a corner and caught a rock on the inside, which broke the rim. We lost two minutes as a result, a very frustrating situation because I was on good pace after that. We’ll regroup and see what conditions are like tomorrow. For sure, we’ll try to reclaim some positions.”
For Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC), his Friday was brought to an early end after making contact with a bridge just 1.2km into the opening stage (29.12km Plage du Liamone – Sarrola- Carcopino), which caused irreparable damage to his car. The Belgian will re-join the rally tomorrow where he will aim to recover positions.
Neuville said: “I started out a high rhythm and tried to push because I like the slippery conditions. Unfortunately, I was a bit early turning into a very tight left-hander early on in the stage. The speed was OK but because I was a bit early I had to open and turn again. I used the handbrake and I slightly hit a wall, damaging the rear suspension. Two bolts were broken and we could not replace them so it was an early retirement for us. We’ll be back tomorrow but obviously we’ve incurred a big time penalty. Anything can happen here as we have seen throughout the two stages. Tomorrow will be a new start to the rally for us and our objective will be to catch up and, ultimately, look for some points in the manufacturers.”
It’s been a tough start to Hyundai Motorsport’s debut at Tour de Corse, although there have been signs of encouragement. Following today’s difficult weather conditions, there are likely to be more challenges to face on Saturday, so the team will be ready to capitalise on any opportunities.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “The heavy rain has made it a complicated day for everyone, and we’ve seen how easy it is to run into trouble. In that regard, it is very pleasing to see Kevin running second at the end of a tough opening day, in which we’ve had a cancelled stage and slippery, demanding conditions in the other two stages. All crews have faced difficulties but Thierry, unfortunately, was forced to stop after picking up rear suspension damage after hitting a bridge early in the first stage. Dani and Hayden made it through but a broken rim for Dani and a close call for Hayden prevented them from being further up the classification. Still, it’s early days and we have three very long stages tomorrow, which will require a steady approach if these conditions continue. It’s a valuable learning experience for Hyundai Motorsport in our first Tour de Corse.”
Three stages make up Saturday’s Tour de Corse itinerary, starting in the morning with 43.69km Casamozza-Ponte Leccia – the stage that was cancelled today – as well as a repeat of this afternoon’s Francardo-Sermano (36.43km) and the 48.46km Muracciole-Col de Sorba stage – the longest of the rally.
Overall Classification after Day One
1- E. Evans / D. Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 46:48.5
2- K. Abbring / S. Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +18.7
3- J.M Latvala / M. Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +22.9
4- M. Østberg / J. Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +38.8
5- R. Kubica / M. Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +40.3
6- S. Sarrazin / J. J. Renucci (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +43.1
7- A. Mikkelsen / O. Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +44.5
8- K. Meeke / P. Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +47.0
9- B. Bouffier / T. De La Haye (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:04.8
10- S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:13.2
11- H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:14.9
12- O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:15.9
13- S. Lefebvre / S. Prévot (Citroën DS3 WRC) 1:39.9
14- D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:56.6
Nicoletta Russo / Thomas Villette
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