Provisional lead for Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville after opening stages

by Pontus Lindroos
Hyundai

Hyundai Motorsport started their first day with a strong performance after the two opening stages of Rallye Monte-Carlo yesterday. Taking the provisional lead of the rally and beginning their long journey to defend their manufacturers’ title that they claimed last season.

It was not easy for the teams to start the rally with two night-time stages, the opening stage Malijal to Puimichel had dry conditions but leaves being picked up in the front of the car at the radiator grill, caused issues for the drivers and teams.

The second stage of Bayons-Bréziers was even worse as the drivers had for first time in the rally, tackle the black ice and mixed conditions on the longest stage of the rally. It was really challenging for them all to guide the car through the narrow bridges and twisty roads.

“So far, we have shown that the team has done a very good job in preparing the rally, but we have done only a small slice of the job that awaits us this weekend. Andrea Adamo, Team Principal said.

“The first two stages have shown the real face of Monte-Carlo with very difficult conditions. That has tested the time and tension of everyone to the limit.

“I would like to thank the hard work and good calls from the weather crews, the engineers and our meteorologist that allowed our crews to make the best tyre choices across two stages with varied and tricky conditions. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.”

Credit: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville wasted no time making his intentions clear as he moved into a 19.1-second overall lead following an emphatic win in SS2. Alongside his compatriot co-driver Gilsoul, the Belgian was impressively 25.5-seconds quicker than his nearest rival Sébastien Ogier.

We have started the new season with some very tricky conditions on these opening Monte stages. At the beginning of the first one the road was dirty, and I was a bit confused. Neuville said.

There were a lot of cuts I didn’t have in my notes. The second stage was much better; I felt comfortable. The conditions towards the end changed quite a lot compared to the information we had, but I just tried to analyse the situation, to keep calm and to read the road as best I could.

“I thought our tyre choice would be good for the second run; our car was set up quite soft and, in the end, we could set a good time.”

Credit: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak ended his first day of action in third overall, two places ahead of the nine-time World Rally Champion and teammate Sébastien Loeb in fifth place. It was a dramatic opening evening to the new season, which promises to be another exciting year of WRC competition for the Estonian.

“It’s good to get our first rally with Hyundai Motorsport underway, but we faced some tricky conditions on these first two stages, the second stage especially. Tänak said

We heard from the gravel crew that it was freezing with a lot of black ice but in between it seemed to freeze even more. It was challenging and my aim was just to get through without any issues, without pushing and to have a consistent run.

It’s never easy in a new car; there are always unknown things and the feeling is still a bit raw. I am trying to adapt myself as quickly as I can, and it will be nice to get some sleep to collect our thoughts for Friday.”

Sébastien Loeb
Credit: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Sébastien Loeb ended his first day in fifth overall, good pace even on unknown roads for the Frenchman who has started in the rally most times of all of the WRC drivers. He was not pleased with his pace but is hoping to have better luck on the Friday stages.

“I am not particularly pleased with the situation after this short but difficult day. I am a bit far off the leading drivers and we’ve lost some time. Loeb said.

In the first stage, there was some gravel and leaves; it was very slippery. In the second one, the tyre choice was correct to adapt to the conditions but being further down the road order the grip levels were less favourable as the earlier runners had cut corners. We will try to push tomorrow and see what we can do.”

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