Hyundai Motorsport enjoyed a good start to the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship as both cars finished in the top 6 in Monte Carlo. The team came into the event aiming for a top ten finish for both cars and they achieved this. Drivers Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo brought their i20s home in fifth and sixth place after a close fight.
Neuville, who is co-driven by Nicolas Gilsoul, came into Rallye Monte-Carlo looking to finish the event for the first time having not made it to the end of day 1 on his previous attempts. With the conditions treacherous on the opening day Neuville kept a steady pace and by the end of stage two held eight overall.
Sordo’s rally didn’t start as well as the Spaniard slid off the road on the opening stage and got stuck. Co-driver Marc Martí had to push the stranded I20 back onto the stage resulting in a time loss of half a minute. Sixth fastest on the second test left Sordo 12 overall heading into day 2.
Friday’s six stages proved a big challenge for drivers as they had to come to terms with the worsening conditions. Neuville’s lack of experience in Monte Carlo hindered his progress and the Belgian dropped to 9th on stage three. With spectators and the leading crews putting snow onto the stages it made conditions very difficult but Neville controlled his pace and finished the day 7th overall. Sordo’s pace quickened as the day progressed and fourth fastest on the 25.81 km Apres-Les-Corps stage saw his confidence grow. He finished the day 8th behind his teammate.
The battle between Sordo and Neuville started in earnest on Saturday with Sordo overtaking Neuville in the overall classification on stage 10. This moved the Spaniard up to sixth as M Sport’s Ott Tanak hit trouble. 6th place became 5th on stage 12, when Elfyn Evans also had problems. Neville finished the day in 6th just 4.7 seconds off Sordo setting up a titanic fight on the final leg of the rally.
Sunday’s three remaining stages started with the first run through Col Saint Jean – Saint Laurent and first blood went to Sordo as the Spaniard set the third fastest time to increase the gap to his teammate to 6.7 seconds. Neville struck back on the penultimate stage going 6.5 seconds faster than Sordo to narrow the gap to just 0.2 seconds heading into the power stage. The Belgian managed to beat his teammate by 1 second to beat Sordo by 0.8 seconds and take 5th place.
The result is a good start to the team’s second season in the sport and they’ll be hoping for more improvement in Sweeden.
“I am very pleased to register a two car finish in this year’s Rallye Monte-Carlo and with both cars fighting for the top five.” said Team Principle Michael Nandan.
“It has been a fantastic effort from Thierry and Dani. The team has performed at a high level throughout the weekend, and we have approached the rally with the correct mentality. The tricky conditions have meant difficult – and often late – strategy calls, particularly with the tyres, and we’ve coped well with these.