Despite the majority of teams sticking with existing machinery and evolving for 2016 before the switch to the new specification rules in 2017, Hyundai Motosport head in to the 2016 with a brand new car, their New Generation i20 WRC which will get its first competitive outing this weekend at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
The team will be gunning for glory with Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo using the new generation i20 WRC while Hayden Paddon will drive the older model i20 WRC on his first ever Rallye Monte-Carlo, before switching to a new i20 for Rally Sweden.
“We are looking forward to the start of the 2016 WRC season, our third in this fantastic Championship,” said Team Principal Michel Nandan. “Rallye Monte-Carlo will be another important milestone for our team as we run our New Generation i20 WRC for the first time in rally conditions.
“The car has undergone an intensive development phase over the past year but Monte-Carlo will be the first opportunity we have to see how it compares to our rivals. For that reason, we will wait to see what happens in the opening stages before we set ourselves a specific target for this rally.
The team stick with an unchanged line-up in their lead cars while also giving Paddon the opportunity to take part in the opening rally of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship, “We are pleased to have Thierry, Dani and Hayden with us – the first time we have fielded three cars at Monte! Thierry and Dani will give the New Generation i20 WRC its rally debut, while Hayden, in his first ever Monte Carlo, will use an older spec Hyundai i20 WRC” added Nandan.
“Rallye Monte-Carlo is a unique event with tricky, changeable conditions, so we have to be well prepared and ready to react. We had a decent result last year with two cars in the top-six. Our aim is to do better than that this year and to get our 2016 season off to the best start possible.”
Neuville will be looking to put the 2015 season behind him and get back to doing what he does best, building on his 2015 result of fifth overall with two top-three stage times.
“Rallye Monte-Carlo is an exciting event and a pleasure to compete in, though it is not always kind to drivers” said Neuville. “We have spent the winter break busily testing the New Generation i20 WRC and we are very happy with how it has been performing. The car is a definite improvement in all areas and it certainly looks fit for the World Rally stages!
The new i20 WRC has undergone an extensive test programme heading in to the season and has already accumulated over 8,000km of testing during its development phase.
“I am looking forward to its competitive debut although we will have to wait a few stages before we can really appreciate where we stand against our seasoned rivals. Together with my refreshed approach to rallying this year, I hope we can put in a good performance over the four days. We will use all of our experience to fight for the podium and establish our intent for the season.” added Neuville.
Dani Sordo marks his eighth Rallye Monte-Carlo this year and is looking to improve on his sixth place in 2015, “I cannot wait to get started at Monte-Carlo, the first rally of a new season and the debut of our New Generation i20 WRC. It’s a challenging event to start the year, and it will not be easy that’s for sure.
“It’s a unique event and always unpredictable, which is what makes it so special. As an event, it is the best way to start the New Year because we have to be on top of our game at all times. The new car has been great to drive in testing so I’m looking forward to seeing how it handles on Monte’s legendary stages.
“I finished sixth last year so I am aiming to improve on that but we know anything can happen in Monte-Carlo!”
It’s a new chapter for Hayden Paddon in 2016 as he embarks on his first full WRC season with his Rallye Monte-Carlo debút, “I have obviously seen and heard a lot about Rallye Monte-Carlo and so I am pleased to finally be rallying there” said Paddon. “We will be using the old car for our Monte debut, which I think will be helpful for us to learn the stages. It is one of the most challenging events on the calendar, so the old car will help us adapt to the conditions.
“It’s is a rally of compromise with tyre selection one of the most critical aspects of each stage. You could be starting in the valley on dry tarmac, but climb over 1000m to the Col where it is full ice and snow. It’s in these circumstances where you have to make your strategy call. It’s almost like a game of chess, which will be enjoyable. I’m thrilled to be part of the Hyundai Motorsport line-up for 2016 and I’m very excited to see what, together, we can achieve as a team this season.”