Strong start for Hyundai Motorsport as Mikkelsen dominates down under

Hyundai Motorsport is chasing its fourth win of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with Andreas Mikkelsen leading Rally Australia by 21 seconds at the end of the opening day
The Norwegian took five stage wins on a dominant day with his team-mate Thierry Neuville also claiming three fastest times on his way to second overall, making it a 1-2 for the team
Mikkelsen and Neuville scored two stage 1-2s on Friday to establish Hyundai Motorsport as the team to beat in this weekend’s season finale ‘down under’.

Rally Australia Day One
17 November 2017

Coffs Harbour

November 17, 2017 – Hyundai Motorsport has been on impressive form throughout the opening day of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season finale in Australia, claiming a clean sweep of stage wins.

Andreas Mikkelsen leads the rally by over 20 seconds after eight of the weekend’s 21 stages with his Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team colleague Thierry Neuville chasing in second overall. Hayden Paddon, in the third of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars holds seventh at the end of Friday.

Road position has been a factor on the famously dusty Australian gravel roads with Neuville, second in the Championship, one of the first to tackle the stages. Friday’s itinerary has covered a repeated loop of three tests – Pilbara (9.71km), Eastbank (19.05km) and Sherwood (26.68km) – as well as two runs through the 1.27km Destination NSW Super Special Stage in the early evening.

Despite some of the stages offering new challenges to the crews, Hyundai Motorsport has enjoyed a positive and trouble-free start to its final campaign of the season, emerging as an early contender for victory.

Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Winners of Rally Australia twelve months ago, the Norwegian crew of Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger immediately picked up where they left off in 2016. Setting the pace from the opening stage (Pilbara 1), the duo totaled five stage wins on Friday to build up a decent advantage in their third event with the Hyundai Motorsport team.

Mikkelsen said: “It has been a very good start to the rally, bringing back memories from our win last season. I have had a clean drive throughout the day with no mistakes and with an incredibly positive feeling from inside the car. It really felt like home! I have focused on increasing the lead wherever possible and 20 seconds is a nice gap. Our challengers will be closer to us on the road tomorrow, so we have had to make the most of our advantage today. Things really couldn’t have gone any better. The weather forecast suggests we might have some rain this weekend, and there are some long stages on the itinerary for tomorrow. For now, though, I am happy with how things have started.”

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

Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul are chasing their second consecutive Rally Australia podium, having finished third last season. The Belgians are hoping to mount a fight for victory this weekend, building on the second place they scored in Wales Rally GB last time out – and adding to their three wins from earlier in the year (Corsica, Argentina and Poland).

Neuville said: “We have had a promising first day. The conditions on the stages were quite tricky with lots of loose gravel, which meant a bit of cleaning for those earlier on the roads. All of the stages went pretty well from my point of view and I am generally satisfied with our position. We struggled a bit with the soft tyre in the longer afternoon stage (Sherwood II), which prevented us from pushing as much as we’d like, but we were still able to set decent pace. It’s a very close battle for second with Kris, while Andreas is looking very strong out in front. For sure, we want to aim for victory ourselves this weekend. We are in a more favourable road position tomorrow so I am definitely up for the fight.”

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

Paddon and co-driver Seb Marshall have endured a trickier start to the final rally of the season, battling to seventh overall but with plenty of promise. Fourth place in SS5 (Eastbank 2) showed some signs of encouragement for the duo with 13 stages still to run this weekend.

Paddon said: “It’s not been the start that we had wanted to this final event of the season. So far, things haven’t quite clicked. There is no apparent reason; we just haven’t been able to get into the all-important rhythm. We will look through the data this evening to see if there’s anything we can find to improve for tomorrow’s stages. This is an event where I feel very comfortable usually, so we will keep pushing. It is fantastic to have such support from the crowds. There are plenty of Kiwis here and it makes for a great atmosphere. There’s a lot more to come, I’m sure.”

Familiar territory

Hyundai Motorsport has led at the end of the opening day in six rallies this season, so the team is well aware that nothing is decided on a Friday evening. However, with eight stage wins, two stage 1-2s, holding 1-2 overall at the end of Friday and a lot of potential demonstrated by the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCs, there is plenty of cause for optimism.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “Our objective for this weekend’s rally has been to show our performance, and really to end the season with a representative result. We have certainly achieved that on the first day of action with Andreas on dominant form, backed up with some encouraging times from Thierry. We’ve been in similar positions before, where we’ve led at the end of Friday, so we know we cannot get complacent. Hopefully, we can put in place all the lessons we have learned over the season and push for our first-ever Australian victory – and perhaps even a double podium. There are some long and complicated stages yet to tackle this weekend, so it will be a fight to the very finish.”

Saturday’s itinerary

Eight stages make up Saturday’s itinerary with the monster 48.89km Nambucca17 getting things underway at 7.18am – a proper wake up call for all crews!

The morning loop continues onto the 20.87km Newry17 and 1.37km Raceway Super Special. Stages are rejigged in the afternoon with Welshs Creek (33.49km) and Argents Hill (12.24km) followed by the repeat of Newry17.

The action concludes, as it did on Friday, with two runs of the 1.27km Destination NSW Super Special – a full-on day covering 140.27km of stage distance.

Classification after Day One

1-A. Mikkelsen-A.Jæger-Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 57:51.9
2-T. Neuville-N. Gilsoul-Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +20.1
3-K. Meeke-P. Nagle-Citroën C3 WRC +20.8
4-J. M. Latvala-M. Anttila-Toyota Yaris WRC +29.9
5-C. Breen-S. Martin-Citroën C3 WRC +30.8
6-O. Tänak-M. Järveoja-Ford Fiesta WRC +33.0
7-H. Paddon-S. Marshall -Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +38.2
8-S. Ogier-J. Ingrassia-Ford Fiesta WRC +47.9
9-S. Lefebvre-G. Moreau-Citroën C3 WRC +57.3
10-E. Evans-D. Barritt-Ford Fiesta WRC +1:13.8






















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