Double disaster for Hyundai Motorsport as Rally de España bites back

Thierry Neuville is the highest-placed Hyundai Motorsport driver at the end of the penultimate day of Rally de España after a day of misfortune for the team
The Belgian holds fifth place, 53 seconds from the lead, after experiencing hydraulic problems towards the end of the morning loop.
Dani Sordo fought valiantly for second place but stopped in SS12 (Savalla) after hitting a rock. Andreas Mikkelsen, who led at the end of Friday, endured the same abrupt end to his day.

Rally de España Day Two
7 October 2017

Salou, Spain

October 7, 2017 – Hyundai Motorsport has suffered appalling misfortune on the penultimate day of Rally de España, the eleventh round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with all three of its crews running into difficulties.

Saturday’s itinerary saw a repeat loop of the 24.40km El Montmell, 21.29km El Pont d’Armentera and 14.12km Savalla tarmac stages, followed by a short evening test at Salou. Times continued to be incredibly close with all three Hyundai Motorsport crews looking to make gains after a solid start on Friday.

The Belgian crew of Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul hold fifth place at the end of Saturday’s seven stages, having lost 40 seconds of time through a hydraulics problem in the morning loop. Home heroes Dani Sordo and Marc Martí had been in a strong second position for much of the day, but hit a rock in the last-but-one stage, which caused terminal damage to their Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.

Friday’s rally leaders Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger hit exactly the same rock in one of the corners, with precisely the same end result – an early retirement from the day’s action. Both crews will re-join under Rally 2 on Sunday morning.

It will be an uphill struggle for the team on the final day, but with six stages left to contest and no mid-leg service on Sunday, there could yet be more Spanish surprises to come.

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

Neuville and Gilsoul scored a stage win on SS10 (El Montmell 2), leading a Hyundai Motorsport 1-2, but hydraulic problems at the end of SS8 (El Pont d’Armentera 1) saw them check-in three minutes late to the subsequent stage (SS9, Savalla 1), incurring a thirty-second penalty. It was a cruel blow for the Belgians, as they had made important gains on the tarmac tests.

Neuville said: “I honestly think we deserved far better than we got today. We experienced hydraulic problems at the end of SS8, which we worked on at stage-end to keep the car going. Suddenly, the car wouldn’t start, and when we finally got going we had to move quickly to get to the next stage. Without hydraulics under braking we spun the car, which caused some rear damage. We checked into SS9 three minutes late, so we were given a time penalty. The team did an incredible job to get the car repaired at service in time for the repeat loop, where we were able to show good pace again. The rally is not over but it was another frustrating day and not representative of what we know we can achieve. We set some of the quickest times in the afternoon stages, and were much happier and confident with the car. It’s hard to keep up the fight when you lose so much time, but others can have problems, especially with a longer than usual Sunday with six stages. We won’t give up.”

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

Spaniards Sordo and Martí were well positioned at the sharp end for much of Saturday as they set a string of competitive stage times. Fighting for second place overall, just 14-seconds behind rally leader Kris Meeke, they sustained irreparable damage after hitting a rock midway through Savalla 2 (SS12).

Sordo said: “To say this has been a disappointing day would be a massive understatement. We had been driving well and setting ourselves up nicely for a podium push this weekend. Having moved into second place, we felt quick and confident in the car. Then, in SS12, we hit a rock through one of the corners, which ended our day. It was a total surprise and was a big enough impact to damage the wheel and suspension. We will try to get back into a rhythm tomorrow but we know we could have scored a really good result here this weekend.”

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

From an impressive debut on Friday, in which they took an early lead in Rally de España, Mikkelsen and Jæger had a tougher day on tarmac. Despite losing ground on the classification, the Norwegians battled hard but saw their efforts spoiled after hitting the same rock as their teammate Sordo in SS12.

Mikkelsen said: “Today has been a much steeper learning curve for us, but it certainly wasn’t the way we wanted to end the day. The morning loop was tough. I was hoping to get a good rhythm but from the very outset we struggled with understeer. Tarmac requires a very precise approach and I am not familiar enough yet with the i20 Coupe WRC to get everything out of it. To be just a few seconds behind the leaders in our first tarmac stages with the car is definitely encouraging. We were trying to make some improvements in the afternoon but in SS12 we hit the same rock as Dani, which caused damage to the car that forced us to stop. Tomorrow will be another useful learning day for us.”

Rock and a hard place

For Hyundai Motorsport, Rally de España has often been a happy hunting ground with three individual podiums scored in the past two seasons. However, with two cars restarting on Sunday under Rally 2, and Neuville down in fifth, the team will require a change of luck if it is to add to those results tomorrow afternoon.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “A very bad day, what more can we say? Luck is definitely not on our side. The trouble started on Thierry’s car in the morning loop and then finished in SS12 with Dani and Andreas retiring for the day. Dani was showing good form in second place until the incident, while Andreas was using the day as a valuable learning experience. It seems they both hit the same rock or concrete post that was hidden behind a bush in a cut on one of the corners. Thierry’s problem was caused by a broken hydraulic pressure pipe that left him with no paddleshift or centre diff. In fact, he didn’t lose so much time in the stage itself; it was a result of a late check-in to the stage after they first experienced the issue. The team did a great job at lunchtime service to change all hydraulic systems and to repair the rear damage, which allowed him to get back out in the afternoon. The problem has hampered his charge today, but we know that anything can happen on the final day, especially with no service. We have to keep the pressure on.”

Sunday’s itinerary

With only a remote refuel separating a repeat loop of three stages, Sunday’s Spanish schedule is a gruelling one.

Comprising 74.26km of special stages, the loop includes the 6.28km L’Albiol, 16.35km Riudecanyes and 14.50km Santa Marina tarmac tests.

An early 7am start makes for a short night’s sleep, as teams build up to the all-important Power Stage, where up to five extra Drivers’ Championship points will be up for grabs.

Classification after Day Two

1 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC 2:16:21.1
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +13.0
3 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Ford Fiesta WRC +14.5
4 J. Hänninen K. Lindström Toyota Yaris WRC +34.0
5 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +53.2
6 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +1:22.1
7 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Ford Fiesta WRC +1:39.8
8 S. Lefebvre G. Moreau Citroën C3 WRC +2:00.7
9 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +3:15.1
10 E. Camilli B. Veillas Ford Fiesta R5 +5:40.8













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