Hyundai Motorsport show promising pace with three stage wins in Australia

Three stage wins for the Hyundai Motorsport team have helped ensure that all three cars are in the top seven standings at the end of the opening day at FIA World Rally Championship Rally Australia.

Dani Sordo lead the team’s efforts in the #20 Hyundai i20 WRC to take a trio of fastest stage times on Utungen 1, Bakers Creek and Northbank. Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville also featured in the top-three during the morning.

Depsite dropping down to fifth (Sordo), sixth (Paddon) and seventh (Neuville), the team manage to get through the day with no major issues.

“I am very pleased with how this first day has gone” said Sordo. “This is my first time on this version of Rally Australia because I did not compete last year but many of the stages today were new for everybody. The car has been perfect for most of the day and the team has been working well.

“The only issue we had was at the end of the morning loop, in SS4 (Newry Long 1 – 29.51km), when I experienced a downshift problem and stalled the engine at a hairpin, which cost us time. The afternoon was a bit trickier and there was a lot of dust in the final stage so we couldn’t take too many risks. Overall, to be in the top-five is a good position heading into Saturday.”

Paddon was unable to maintain the pace that saw him finish in the top-three during the morning loop but managed to keep in touch with the frontrunners, rounding the day out in sixth place.

Hayden Paddon showed promise in the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC
Hayden Paddon showed promise in the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC

“It’s been a day of two halves really” commented Paddon. “Our morning went well and we had a little advantage from those road-sweeping ahead of us. However, because of that the roads were wearing the tyres a lot more, so we had to manage them and drive quite carefully. In the afternoon, the balance of the car felt more inconsistent, almost as if we had a puncture.

“We’ll be looking at that this evening because something felt strange, even if there was nothing obviously wrong. The stages today have been new so everyone’s had some learning. Tomorrow, we’re back on familiar stages so we’ll be looking to push a bit more.”

Neuville finished the day in seventh place after claiming a top-three finish during the morning run through SS3.

“I have been quite pleased with my driving today” said Neuville. “We had a generally strong morning loop although we struggled a bit with the car settings on the long SS4 stage. We made a few changes over lunchtime service on the settings and on our pace notes, and I felt better in the afternoon.

“There was a lot of dust on the final stage and the visibility was just a couple of metres in some places. We made it through, so now our focus has to be on making more progress tomorrow. Not a bad first day, really.”

Thierry Neuville managed a top-three stage time in the #7 Hyundai i20 WRC
Thierry Neuville managed a top-three stage time in the #7 Hyundai i20 WRC

Team Principal Michel Nandan was happy with the performance from all three of his drivers and will be looking for the team to make further gains on day two, “There are some positives to take away from this first day of rallying in Australia” he said. “Many of the stages today are new to the event so everyone has had to get acquainted with them. This has made for an interesting day and it was very pleasing to see Dani take three stage wins this morning.

“We started the day in a spirited manner and, although we benefited from road position, the performance of the Hyundai i20 WRC cars has been good all day. It’s not all been perfect but we have shown their potential and we will now analyse everything from today to see how we can improve for tomorrow. There is a good atmosphere in the team so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve in the remaining two days.”