Hyundai Motorsport suffers challenging start to Rally Finland

Hyundai Motorsport is facing an uphill battle as Rally Finland, round nine of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship, reaches the end of its first full day
Championship challenger Thierry Neuville holds eighth place with Dani Sordo running in 11th after a demanding and disappointing start to the rally
Hayden Paddon was fighting near the front of a tightly packed field, but was forced to retire with suspension damage after hitting a stone in SS4 (Jukojärvi).

Rally Finland Day One

28 July 2017

Jyväskylä, Finland

July 28, 2017 – Rally Finland lived up to its reputation as one of the fastest and fiercest events on the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar, after a tough start for the three Hyundai Motorsport crews on Friday.

Following an impressive 1-2 on the equally speedy gravel roads of Rally Poland earlier this month, Hyundai Motorsport approached Finland with the target of scoring a maiden podium on the event.

A high-speed schedule

The opening 13 stages of this year’s event have offered little hope of turning around the team’s Finnish fortunes, with Hayden Paddon forced to retire from day one, Thierry Neuville in eighth overall and Dani Sordo back in 11th.

Friday’s schedule is the busiest of the entire weekend with seven unique stages and a total distance of 145.71km. The morning saw crews complete an initial loop of three stages – Halinen (7.65km), Urria (12.75km) and Jukojärvi (21.31km) run twice.

Lunchtime service gave teams the chance to make set-up adjustments to tackle two runs of Äänekoski-Valtra (7.39km) and Laukaa (11.76km), a single attempt at Lankamaa (21.68km), and a final short run through Harju (2.31km), which also opened the rally on Thursday evening.

High speeds, precise pace notes and committed jumps are the hallmarks of Rally Finland, but for the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crews, it wasn’t the high flying start they were hoping for.

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

Three-times rally winners in 2017, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were out to reduce the gap to the Championship leader. Sébastien Ogier’s retirement from day one has offered the Belgians a chance to do just that, but they have work to do on Saturday to seize the opportunity fully. A stage win in Friday’s final test, SS13 Harju, sets a more positive scene for Saturday.

Neuville said: “It has not been an easy day. We have been struggling to find the required rhythm for these incredibly fast stages. Following Ogier’s issue in the morning, we knew we had inherited an opportunity to close the gap in the Championship even further, but so far we haven’t made as much progress as we’d have liked. We have been first on the road for much of the day, which is of course part of the game, but we have been losing a bit to the other guys. The Toyotas are, as expected, much faster, but my focus now is on moving up the classification to the top-five, where a solid points haul will aid our Championship ambitions. This rally is not over yet, even if we are now on the back foot after a difficult Friday. There is plenty to play for.”

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

For the Spanish crew of Sordo and Marc Martí, it has also been an unusual day off the pace. They will be hoping for an improvement in performance on Saturday with the battle for the top-ten positions still closely contested.

Sordo said: “There is not a lot to say, at least nothing really positive. We have not found the confidence in the car to tackle the rally with full attack. In Finland, more than anywhere else, you need to have full commitment inside the car; the smallest of lifts can make a huge difference on the timesheets. We have been trying all we can to get the right feeling but the others just have more. We will look at the information we have with the engineers this evening to see what we can do to improve for the rest of the rally.”

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

Paddon and Marshall enjoyed a spirited start to the rally, aiming to follow up their first podium of the season – second place in Rally Poland – with another top three push. Unfortunately, while just 1.1 seconds off the lead of the rally, in SS4, the crew ran wide and hit a rock. The resulting rear-right suspension damage forced them to end the day early, but they will return under Rally 2 on Saturday.

Paddon said: “There is no margin for error in Finland, and so that has proven today. We started well and showed some encouraging pace on the opening stages. Then, in SS4, we ran slightly wide on the same corner several other drivers did. Unfortunately, a rock hit back and we broke our suspension. It wasn’t a huge amount of damage but enough to end our day prematurely. Still, the speed of the car is good and we were competitive; when you go just a tiny bit too fast here in Finland, there can be a heavy price to pay. We’ll be back under Rally 2 on Saturday.”

Reset and recover

Having won three WRC events so far this season, Hyundai Motorsport was expecting better from the opening day of Rally Finland. Despite having never finished on the podium in Finland, the team has shown in previous gravel rallies that the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has better performance than has been shown today.

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “There are not many positives to take away from Friday in Finland. It’s a bit of a reality check after the highs of Poland. Hayden and Seb showed initial signs of encouragement this morning, but they sustained suspension damage after hitting a rock in SS4. The mechanics will repair the car to get them back into the rally on Saturday. That leaves us with two cars at the lower end of the top-ten, which is not where we have been accustomed to being this season. We will analyse closely where we are lacking performance in an effort to do better tomorrow. The championship is delicately poised, so we have to grab any opportunities we can to reduce the gap.”

Saturday’s itinerary at a glance

Saturday will see a total of eight stages run over a distance of 132.34km.

Crews will tackle four separate stages, each repeated in the afternoon but run in a different order from one pass to the next.

The itinerary includes: Pihlajakoski (14.90km), Päijäla (22.68km), the classic Ouninpohja (24.38km) and the short 4.21km run through Saalahti.

Classification after Day One

1 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC 1:11:36.4
2 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +4.4
3 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +19.0
4 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +33.0
5 J. Hänninen K. Lindström Toyota Yaris WRC +39.1
6 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Ford Fiesta WRC +45.0
7 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +45.1
8 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +58.0
9 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +1:07.6
10 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Ford Fiesta WRC +1:50.2
11 D. Sordo M. Martí Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:52.5













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