Positive start for Hyundai Motorsport in Spain as Mikkelsen leads on debut

Hyundai Motorsport heads a closely-fought field at the end of the opening day of Rally de España, round 11 of the 13-event 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
On his debut rally with the team, Andreas Mikkelsen has topped the timesheets, just 1.4-seconds ahead of Sébastien Ogier
Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville are both in the fight for the front-running positions with less than 13 seconds separating the top-seven.

6 Oct 2017

Salou, Spain

October 6, 2017 – Hyundai Motorsport’s newest recruit Andreas Mikkelsen has made an auspicious debut with the team, as he leads Rally de España at the end of the opening day of action.

The Norwegian heads up a tantalising battle for victory honours in the 11th round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with just three seconds separating the podium positions and less than 13 seconds between the top-seven.

Drivers’ Championship contender Thierry Neuville and fellow Shell Mobis Hyundai World Rally Team driver Dani Sordo are both firmly involved in that close battle. Sordo holds sixth place with Neuville in seventh after the rally’s six opening stages.

The Championship’s only mixed surface event, Rally de España got underway in gravel conditions on Friday with a repeat loop of three stages. The full gravel tests of Caseres (12.50km) and Bot (6.50km) were followed by the combined gravel/tarmac challenge of the mighty 38.95km Terra Alta.

Mikkelsen claimed his first stage win as a Hyundai Motorsport driver in the first run through Terra Alta (SS3) on Friday morning to take the lead of the rally. It means that Hyundai Motorsport has now taken stage wins and a rally lead with four separate crews throughout the 2017 season – underscoring the versatile performance of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.

The car, which features aerodynamic upgrades for this round of the Championship, will be transformed to tarmac specification during Friday evening’s 75-minute service ahead of Saturday and Sunday’s all-asphalt stages.

Crew Notes: Mikkelsen / Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Mikkelsen and his fellow Norwegian co-driver Anders Jæger got quickly up-to-speed in their Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC through the opening loop. Making differential changes after the first two gravel stages, the pair enjoyed a spirited run through Terra Alta to claim Hyundai Motorsport’s 68th stage win of the season and to lead the rally by lunchtime, a position in which they would end the day.

Mikkelsen said: “We could not have asked for a better start to our Hyundai Motorsport career. It has been a good day and I have been pleased with our approach. We started this morning carefully, to understand the car’s behaviour and generally just finding our feet. A few changes to the settings allowed us to gain some time through the first Terra Alta run. The car felt very stable and there were no surprises. In the afternoon, we became more and more confident in the car. The final stage wasn’t ideal; we thought we had a puncture so took it a bit easier. We made it to the end safely and it’s nice to be fighting at the very top. It’s really close but it has definitely been a positive start for Anders and myself.”

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

In their home event, Sordo and recent birthday boy Marc Martí found a competitive rhythm early on. Having taken podiums in Spain for Hyundai Motorsport in the past two seasons, the Spanish crew have their focus set on a hat trick as the stages move from gravel to tarmac for the final two days.

Sordo said: “It is great being back rallying at home, and I am so thrilled with the support of the fantastic spectators. We had a solid start today. The morning loop was tough for tyre selection, as the softs were a bit too soft, and the hard compounds were a bit too hard. However, we found a good compromise and it was a very close fight at the front. The grip levels were better in the opening afternoon stages, and I was pretty happy with the car. The repeat of Terra Alta was more slippery with not much traction, but we made it through the opening day in a respectable position – and with only ten seconds to the lead, I think it will be an exciting battle this weekend.”

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

Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul have their hopes set on overturning a deficit to Sébastien Ogier in the Drivers’ Championship this weekend. It wasn’t the smoothest start for the Belgian crew after opting for soft tyres in the opening loop lost them some time compared to their rivals. However, there is all to play for over the next two days on tarmac.

Neuville said: “We know what we need to do this weekend, and our sights are firmly set on achieving that. It wasn’t the easiest of starts after we opted for soft tyres on the opening loop. The temperatures were higher than we expected compared to our data from testing. We started to lose grip quite early in the long Terra Alta stage. It was a real pity because we had a good feeling in the car and we were pushing hard. In the afternoon, we were carrying six tyres, which slowed us a bit too much, particularly in the repeat of the long stage. It is very close on the timesheets, so although we are not in the position we would want to be, we are definitely in striking distance.”

Positivity, pace and potential

After two frustrating rallies, Hyundai Motorsport is pleased to be back in the thick of the action with all three of its Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars showing front-running potential on the opening day of Rally de España.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “It is good to be back rallying after the long summer break, and to get back into a positive rhythm. We can’t hide from the fact that we have had a run of disappointing results, so we are determined to bounce back this weekend. Andreas and Anders have been impressive today. To take the lead on their debut with our team is really encouraging, and I am pleased to hear their positive feedback about our car. They have settled into the team really quickly. Dani and Thierry are not far away on the classification, so tomorrow promises to be another exciting day of competition. First, our team of mechanics will change the three cars from gravel to tarmac specification during this evening’s 75-minute service, which is always a fascinating, if busy, part of the Spanish weekend. We want to be on the pace from the very start on Saturday morning!”

Saturday’s itinerary

Seven stages make up Saturday’s itinerary, a repeat loop of three stages followed by a short 2.24km test at Salou.

Starting with the 24.40km El Montmell, crews will move onto the 21.29km El Pont d’Armentura and shorter 14.12km Savalla stages.

The full-tarmac day will cover 121.86km of stages, the longest day of the weekend, with a lunchtime service at PortAventura splitting the two loops.

Classification after Day One

1-A. Mikkelsen-A. Jaeger Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:11:56.3
2-S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +1.4
3-K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +3.0
4-O. Tänak M. Järveoja Ford Fiesta WRC +6.3
5-M. Østberg T. Eriksen Ford Fiesta WRC +7.1
6-D. Sordo M. Martí Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +10.8
7-T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +12.8
8-J. Hänninen K. Lindström Toyota Yaris WRC +33.6
9-S. Lefebvre G. Moreau Citroën C3 WRC +1:02.2
10-E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +1:05.5

















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