Hyundai Motorsport’s longest serving driver Thierry Neuville says the first gravel rally of the season is a very exciting event to compete at with the stages being enjoyable yet challenging and they will be as the Rally de Portugal event will mark the gravel debut for the new Rally1 hybrid cars.
The Belgian, who is joined by his fellow compariot Martijn Wydaeghe in the co-driver seat for this season in the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 claimed a second consecutive podium finish last time out in Rally Croatia, the duo almost binned it on the final stage of the rally when the car slid in to a bank and almost made a 180 degrees swing but despite that they managed to recover back to keep the third place finish.
The Belgian crew is now aiming to take the maiden win for Hyundai in the new era of the top class. So far they are the only team that haven’t stood on the top step yet this season.
“Rally de Portugal is very exciting event for us competitors; there are always huge crowds of fans and a great atmosphere. The stages are enjoyable yet challenging.” Neuville said.
“This is mainly due to the high temperatures, so tyre wear is important here as well, and it can be quite rough on the second pass of the stage. It’s going to be our first gravel event with the new hybrid cars; we saw in Sweden on the gravel set-up in the snow that the car was fast and we hope that we are going to be strong on this surface.”
Ott Tänak – “You need good reliability as well as speed here to be successful“
Teammate Ott Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja in the second Hyundai i20 N Rally1 is also looking to challenge for the win at Portugal.
The Estonian crew was on en route to make a first victory for Hyundai in Rally Croatia last time out but lost the lead to Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä on the power stage due to not taking any risks and Rovanperä just had better pace out there.
Tänak admits he enjoys the Rally de Portugal round but he knows what a challenging rally it will be and what it takes to win the rally.
“Portugal is a very fun rally to drive, and one that I really enjoy. It’s the first time this year we are competing on gravel, so this will be our first indicator of how competitive we are.” Tänak said.
“Portugal is fast with a rather soft surface, and the second loop of the stages can be tough and demanding after the first pass. You need good reliability as well as speed here to be successful. Martin and I know what it takes to win in Portugal; we hope that the momentum from our podium last time out in Croatia will continue with a good result next weekend.”
Dani Sordo – “I’m hoping to have a good rhythm with the car“
The Spanish crew of Dani Sordo and co-driver Cándido Carrera will make their Rally1 debut at Rally de Portugal this weekend as they are replacing the Swede Oliver Solberg in the third Hyundai i20 N Rally1 car.
Sordo who is running a part-time program this season as well, will be doing his first competitive outing in the new car, however the crew has accumulated plenty of kilometres in the car during testing and is aiming for a strong outting in the rally where they finished as runner-up last year.
Sordo says he is happy that this will be his first rally of the year and hopes the feeling for the car will come quickly.
“Portugal is always really nice, so I am very happy that this will be my first event of the season, as I’ve scored a podium here twice in the past with Hyundai. There are normally a lot of spectators who travel from my home of Spain and the crowds have always been fantastic.” Sordo said.
“I’m excited to drive the car on gravel for the first time. I’m hoping to have a good rhythm with the car and adapt myself quickly to this new challenge. It won’t be easy as the other drivers have done three rallies already so I hope the feeling for the car comes quickly.”