Rally de Portugal Preview
11 May 2018

Hyundai Motorsport Preview: Portugal

Hyundai Motorsport returns to Europe with a four-car entry into Rally de Portugal, round six of the 13-event 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)

Hayden Paddon returns to the line-up alongside Andreas Mikkelsen, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo as the team aims to retain its lead in the manufacturers’ standings

Hyundai Motorsport’s Driver development Program (HMDP) crew also competes in Portugal, with Jari Huttunen taking part in his third WRC2 event of the season.

Alzenau, Germany

May 11, 2018 – Hyundai Motorsport will field a four-car entry into next weekend’s Rally de Portugal, the sixth round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), and second in a run of four consecutive gravel rallies.

Currently leading the manufacturers’ championship with a 15-point advantage over M-Sport Ford, the team will be aiming to continue its competitive start to the season with another fight for the podium positions.

Hayden Paddon returns for his first WRC event since finishing fifth in Rally Sweden back in February, joining Andreas Mikkelsen, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. All four crews have had the opportunity to test prior to the rally, which promises to be another closely fought battle among the WRC manufacturer teams.

In accordance with WRC regulations, only three crews will be eligible for championship points for the Hyundai Motorsport team, with the two highest finishers per team scoring. The team has already named Mikkelsen, Neuville and Paddon, with Sordo taking control of the fourth car.

Rally de Portugal consists of 20 special stages over four days of action, a total distance of 358km, following an itinerary almost identical to last year, when Hyundai Motorsport secured a double podium finish. The schedule builds towards an exhilarating Power Stage on Sunday morning, the famous Fafe test that offers an electric atmosphere and a thrilling finale to a tricky rally.

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “Portugal is set to be our busiest rally of the season in terms of car and team operations. Running four Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCs will require us to be extra focused and diligent. There is no room for error, as we target another strong all-round team performance. We welcome Hayden and Seb back into the team, and are confident that they will make their presence felt on the standings from the outset. All four crews have tested ahead of the event in order to be as prepared as we can for another close battle.”

In addition to its four WRC cars, Hyundai Motorsport will also have WRC2 representation from its HMDP crew Jari Huttunen and Antti Linnaketo. The Finnish duo will be taking part in their third event of the season after Rally Sweden and Rally Mexico, in which they showed encouraging pace and performance. They have carried out testing in Portugal to acclimatise to the conditions and the car, so they can hit the ground running next week.

Michel Nandan added: “We have been satisfied with how Jari and Antti approached their first two rallies of the year in Sweden and Mexico. They were two very contrasting events and Portugal will offer a new learning experience for the pair. The first objective is for them to finish the rally, and to gain a full experience of the Portuguese round of the Championship in their Hyundai i20 R5, but then to show some speed against the more established names in WRC2. They are well used to gravel rallies, so we have high hopes for them.”

WRC Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Best finish in Rally de Portugal second in 2016
Fourth in drivers’ championship after fifth place finish in Argentina

Mikkelsen said: “We head back to Europe following a pretty positive weekend for the team in Argentina. I have good experience at Rally de Portugal with a best result of second place a couple of years ago. I didn’t take part last season so I am looking forward to putting my i20 Coupe WRC through its paces on the gravel stages. It can be quite rough with high grip in places. It’s an event I enjoy and we’ll be looking to put our recent gravel experiences to good use.”

WRC Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Second in Argentina closed gap to Ogier in drivers’ championship
Finished runner-up in last year’s Rally de Portugal

Neuville said: “This rally will be a big weekend for all of us at Hyundai Motorsport. Not only are we entering four cars, but we are also determined to continue the form we showed in Argentina. Portugal is a great event with a lot of supportive fans and some nice stages. It offers us some unique challenges with varying grip levels on the stages. We saw at the last rally that our rivals are very strong but this gives us added motivation to improve ourselves and do all we can to fight at the front.”

WRC Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Second WRC event of 2018 season after Sweden
Starts run of three consecutive gravel events in #6 car

Paddon said: “I have spent the time since our last WRC event doing some rallies in New Zealand and training hard. It will be challenging having not driven the WRC car for three months but Seb and myself are ready to give it our best shot. The Portuguese stages require a lot of commitment and the grip levels can be quite changeable, depending on the weather. As everyone knows the rally quite well, only with perfect preparation and pace notes will we be competitive.”

WRC Crew Notes: Sordo/Del Barrio (#16 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Podium in Argentina marked second gravel top-three of season
Finished third in Rally de Portugal in 2017

Sordo said: “Rally de Portugal is a special event for me, being situated so close to Spain. Many supporters make the short trip to show their support, and it makes for a fantastic atmosphere. Of course, the Fafe jump is a highlight of the weekend but there are many other enjoyable stages to tackle over the weekend. We have four cars for this event, which will make our service area very busy, but it will be fun to drive alongside the other crews.”

HMDP Crew Notes: Huttunen/Linnaketo (#35 Hyundai i20 R5)
Two sixth-placed finishes in Sweden and Mexico
First participation in Rally de Portugal for WRC2

Huttunen said: “I have rallied in the country before in the Azores rally but this will be my first time at Rally de Portugal in WRC2. We have used the time since Mexico wisely, to prepare ourselves for our third event of the season, and we have recently carried out testing to get ready. The experiences in Sweden and Mexico were valuable but I know we can get more out of ourselves and the i20 R5. We will take each stage as it comes, as our immediate objective is to complete the rally, but we also want to take the fight to the leading guys and show our pace.”

Bite-size Portugal
20 special gravel stages contested over a 358.19km competitive distance.
Event gets underway on Thursday evening with a super special at the Lousada rallycross circuit
A full day of action on Friday ends with new-look street stages in Porto
Saturday, the longest day of the rally with 154km of stages, consists of a repeat loop of the 17.50km Vieira do Minho, 22.22km Cabeceiras de Basto and 37.60km Amarante tests, the latter being the longest individual stage of the rally
Sunday’s schedule revolves around the legendary Fafe jump, with a spectacular Power Stage in front of thousands of fans.















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