Alzenau, GermanyHyundai Motorsport have a four-car entry into Wales Rally GB, the penultimate event in the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), and the final round in Europe. After a chain of disappointing events, the focus is on securing a strong team finish on the Welsh gravel roads with its most inclusive line-up of the season.
Slippery when wetThe challenges offered by the Welsh stages of the Rally will be multiplied by the likelihood of wet autumnal conditions, which can leave stages treacherous despite being one of the shortest overall distances of the season.
Hyundai Motorsport’s crews are testing the latest specification Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on the Welsh roads in preparation. The team is determined to put in exemplary performances in the final rounds of the season – to end 2017 with a positive underpinning for next year.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We head to Wales focused on securing a good all-round team result in this penultimate round of the season. Entering four cars gives us a chance to perform at our highest level, but at the same time we recognise the challenges that this rally poses. We can never be sure of the weather conditions, and if it rains the stages can become incredibly slippery and tricky to tackle. We have been gradually improving our results in Wales each season. We finished on the podium there twelve months ago with Thierry, which gives us a positive feeling for this year. With Hayden, Andreas and Dani also showing good form in Wales in the past, I hope we can enjoy a more trouble-free weekend and pick up a better result for our team compared to recent rallies.”
Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Paddon is looking to end the 2017 season in competitive form, returning to WRC action on his favoured gravel surface. Having taken top-five finishes in Wales in the past two seasons, he is aiming for his second podium of 2017 after finishing second in Poland in July.
Paddon said: “Wales Rally GB is an iconic rally with plenty of driving challenges. The event has always been run late in the season, so we can expect some rain and potentially foggy conditions. In many ways, it is like being back home in New Zealand. There are some very nice, fast stages, and it is a rally I enjoy. Hopefully we can put together a good result and build up to a positive conclusion to what has been a tough season.”
Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Neuville is still in the Drivers’ Championship hunt, along with compatriot Belgian co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul, he will be putting in a big effort in Wales. Having taken the Welsh podium in 2016, all eyes will be on another top-three result in this year’s round.
Neuville said: “We were dealt something of a harsh blow in Spain, but we are ready to fight back in Wales. It is a unique event on the calendar, a rally where weather conditions can really dictate performance and confidence levels. If it’s raining, windy and muddy, the stages become incredibly slippery. It is without doubt a tough event, but one that I relish. I have finished on the podium a couple of times, and get a buzz from the fantastic atmosphere. Driving at high-speed through the forest stages, sometimes in the dark, is just incredible. I intend to keep pushing right to the end of the Championship.”
Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
A positive impression was made in their first WRC event with Hyundai Motorsport for Mikkelsen and co-driver Anders Jæger. It was a steep learning curve for the Norwegian duo as they lead the rally at the end of the opening day. Their adaptation to the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC will continue on the all-gravel stages in Wales.
Mikkelsen said: “It is great to have a rally under my belt with the Hyundai Motorsport team and with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. It was a really valuable learning experience in Spain. Wales Rally GB has always been a special event for me, personally, as it was where I had my first-ever WRC event as a 17-year-old. I know the rally very well so I have an appreciation for its difficulties. It is a fair assumption to expect rain at some point, which creates a very slippery surface, but overall it is highly rewarding and enjoyable. I’m looking forward to it, and hopefully to challenge near the front.”
Crew Notes: Sordo/Martí (#16 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
A promising home rally in Spain turned to frustration for Sordo and co-driver Marc Martí, as the only crew to have taken maximum Power Stage points in consecutive rallies this season, they will be hoping to target a less turbulent event in Wales Rally GB.
Sordo said: “Wales Rally GB is an event that most crews anticipate and enjoy. The combination of gravel stages, inclement weather conditions, and high speeds makes for a thrilling rally. Of course, when it is muddy, it gets slippery, so you need to have the confidence inside the cockpit to tackle the stages aggressively. The forest setting and narrow sections make it difficult but highly enjoyable. I am determined to end the year with a positive result. We missed out in Spain, where I know we could have finished on the podium, so that’s something I want to rectify in Wales.”
Wales Rally GB at a glance