The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team head Germany with Bryan Bouffier making his debut with the team in the World Rally Championship alongside regular drivers Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo.
Rallye Deutcschland marks the first rally of the season which can be considered a tarmac rally with the first half being dominated by gravel. The team is based only 225km away from the rally base in Trier and have been busy testing with all three drivers in July in preparation for the event.
The team introduced an upgraded cylinder block and connecting rods for Rally Finland and the team will use some chassis ‘jokers’ from Rallye Deutschland, with a focus on durability, for example strengthening the radiator supports and the wheel arches.
With the Hyundai i20 WRC cars still very much in development the team’s main objective for the rally is to gather as much feedback as possible for the remaining tarmac rounds of 2014.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “Rallye Deutschland represents another new challenge for the team as we will see the Hyundai i20 WRC in action for the first time on proper tarmac roads. I think we have a very strong line-up for this event with Thierry and Dani having solid records on this event and with Bryan having a lot of experience with our i20 WRC on compact surfaces.
“We will introduce some chassis ‘jokers’ in Germany related primarily to the radiator supports and wheel arches which have been strengthened in a bid for greater durability. We are always looking to bring all our cars to the finish of the rally and to continue the development of the car for the next rounds on asphalt but we will also be aiming to set some good stage times throughout the event.”
Neuville addedd: “Rallye Deutschland is like my home rally; there will be a lot of Belgian fans – including my family and friends – spectating out in the stages and I’m really looking forward to it as it will be the first time with the Hyundai i20 WRC on tarmac.
“I feel very comfortable on asphalt so I really want to do well in this event and help the team, as always, to make progress with the car. To succeed at Rallye Deutschland you need to be smooth and precise with your driving on the twisty roads. We have done some good testing ahead of the event where we worked hard on finding a good set-up for next week.”
Sordo, who won Rallye Deutschland in 2013 will be looking to build on his three previous outings for the team. “I really like the stages of Rallye Deutschland and I’ve been looking forward to driving the Hyundai i20 WRC on proper tarmac since the beginning of the season.
“I won the rally last year and it’s an event at which I feel very confident to drive although it can be a difficult one. There are several kinds of roads surface and the weather can play an important role too as it can often be unpredictable. I was back behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 WRC after a few months at our pre-event test and it was a nice feeling – I think we are well prepared for the rally and we have a good set-up to tackle these stages.”
Bouffier is looking to make the most of the opportunity that lays ahead of him as he makes his debut for the team. “It’s the first time I am competing in the WRC with an official team so it goes without saying that I’m really excited and very pleased to have this opportunity.
“I have never competed at Rallye Deutschland before but last year I was on gravel notes duty so I know what to expect from the stages. However, you can’t learn those stages by heart. Recce will be crucial and it will be very important to have good pace notes for this event. Since we won Rallye Antibes in May the Hyundai i20 WRC has improved a lot on tarmac – we could feel it at the pre-event test – and we will do our best to get a good result and help with the development of the car.”
Rallye Deutschland will get underway on Thursday 21 August with the traditional ceremonial start, but the real action will start on Friday 22 August with 18 stages split over three days and a total of 362km.