Hyundai Motorsport slips and slides to early lead in Rally Poland

Thierry Neuville leads the classification at the end of the first complete day of Rally Poland, round 8 of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), 1.3s ahead of Ott Tanak
All three Hyundai Motorsport crews have set competitive pace on Friday; four stage wins for Neuville and three second places between Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport has now led in seven out of the eight WRC events, and has totalled 52 stage wins so far this season.
Rally Poland Day One

30 June 2017

Mikolajki, Poland

June 30, 2017 – Hyundai Motorsport has enjoyed a positive start to this weekend’s Rally Poland, the eighth round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship, with all three crews showing competitive performances on a challenging opening day.

Thierry Neuville leads the rally by a slender 1.3s at the end of Friday’s stages with Hayden Paddon in fifth and Dani Sordo in sixth. The team is targeting a strong team result this weekend in a bid to strengthen its championship charge. To have all three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCs inside the top-six is an encouraging start to what promises to be a tough rally.

The cancellation of Thursday’s ceremonial start due to inclement weather conditions failed to deter the WRC crews. The rally got underway officially on Thursday evening with the first running of the 2.5km Mikolajki Arena Super Special. As the heavy rain continued, it made for demanding stage conditions throughout Friday’s itinerary with muddy, slippery and unpredictable terrain.

Half a century

Neuville got the day off to a strong start with a stage win in SS2 (Chmielewo) before adding another at the end of the morning loop, in SS5 (Stare Juchy). It represented Hyundai Motorsport’s 50th stage win of the championship so far – extending its highest ever tally in a single season.

The scheduled repeat of Chmielewo was cancelled, which shortened the afternoon loop to three stages – Wieliczki, Swietajno and Stare Juchy, followed by the evening’s Super Special. Neuville added two further stage wins with both Paddon and Sordo pushing hard to make it a double stage 1-2 for Hyundai Motorsport to end the loop, and ensure that all three Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crews will start Saturday from inside the top-six.

Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul are aiming to extend their unbroken run of podium finishes, which dates back to Rally Mexico in March. Neuville is looking to make headway on Sébastien Ogier in the Drivers’ Championship with a strong finish in Poland, and perhaps even a third win of 2017.

Neuville commented: “It’s been a good start to this rally for us, even if the conditions have been very demanding throughout the day. We started this morning with a very good stage win but the rain made it difficult to correctly read the grip levels. To take the team’s 50th stage win of the season in SS5 was a nice way to finish the morning loop. We added another two wins in the afternoon as the conditions improved. At the start of the loop there was a lot of standing water in the ruts and no driving line to follow. Overall, though, I am very happy and the car has performed excellently. The fight for the lead has been close and I don’t expect that to change over the next two days. We’re in a good position but there’s a lot more to come from everyone and more surprises I’m sure.”

Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Paddon and Marshall were disadvantaged by a later road position in the morning. As the stages got muddier and more unpredictable with each passing car, the duo persevered to lunchtime service. Positive changes to the car helped them make progress in the afternoon with two top-two stage times helping them to secure fifth place overall heading into Saturday.

Paddon said: “After the rain, we expected very tricky, muddy conditions this morning, and that’s exactly what we got. Given our later road position, we couldn’t manage much more than fifth by lunchtime service. The grip was changing from one corner to the next, and it felt like driving on ice at times. The team made some changes at lunch, which transformed the car; I had more confidence to push and a competitive feeling, which was shown by our improved stage times. When we’re on a level playing field, we can definitely be up there with the front-runners, so I’m hoping for better weather as the weekend continues, so we can enjoy these incredibly fast and fun stages. I’m definitely not here to settle for fifth!”

Crew Notes: Sordo/Martí (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Sordo and his co-driver Marc Martí struggled to find confidence in the morning loop but bounced back in the afternoon. The crew, who had a disappointing Sardinia, set the second best time in SS8 (Swietajno 2), to reassert their credentials in sixth place on the overall classification.

Sordo said: “If I am totally honest, I found this morning very difficult and not at all to my liking. The wet conditions made the stages changeable and erratic. I just could not get into a rhythm. We had to concentrate on completing the loop without any issues, which we did. Conditions improved on the afternoon loop and I had more control over the car. It just felt more ‘normal’ and there was a better feeling. We have lost some time as a result of the morning struggles, but there’s a long way to go in this rally and I hope we can have a more consistent Saturday.”

Polish treble

Hyundai Motorsport has finished on the podium in Poland twice previously, once in the team’s maiden season in 2014, and again last year. With a 40-point deficit to M-Sport in the Manufacturers’ Championship, the team hopes the strength in depth of its crew line-up will deliver a healthy collection of points this weekend.

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “Nobody has had an easy run today, so all in all we can be pretty satisfied to have all three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCs running strongly in the top-six, and Thierry leading the rally. The morning loop gave the earlier runners a bit of an advantage but even then the conditions were still muddy and slippery – far from what we are used to in this rally. We worked on finding improvements in the car performance at lunchtime service. As stage conditions improved, the crews’ confidence grew and we saw them perform closer to their best. Thierry and Nicolas are in a close fight for the lead, while Dani/Marc and Hayden/Seb have minimised the time loss from a tricky morning to run solidly in the top-six. It’s a good baseline from which we can continue working tomorrow. It’s too early to make predictions or get carried away, but it’s been a decent day in difficult conditions.”

Saturday at a glance

The middle day of the rally will see crews tackle nine more stages over a total competitive distance of 144.74km – the longest day of the event.

A loop of four stages – Baranowo (15.55km), Pozezdrze (21.24km), Goldap (14.75km) and Kruklanki (19.58km) – will be run twice with the itinerary ending with a third visit of the weekend to the Mikolajki Arena.

Overall Classification after Day One

1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) 56:21.2
2. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1.3
3. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +6.6
4. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +35.1
5. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +39.6
6. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +51.7
7. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:11.0
8. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:28.9
9. Stephane Lefebvre / Gabin Moreau (Citroen C3 WRC) +1:37.0
10. Mads Østberg / Ola Fløene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:42.7
11. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:02.3














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