After a tough event in Portugal, the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team is ready to tackle Rally Italia Sardegna this weekend with an entry of four cars – including a brand new i20 WRC car for Hayden Paddon, who is still in fourth place in the World Rally Championship (WRC).
The stunning island of Sardinia, which plays host to the sixth round of the 2016 FIA WRC this weekend, brings happy memories to the Hyundai team of their double podium finish last year with Paddon and Thierry Nieuville.
The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team said in a media release they carried out a pre-event test during the short break in anticipation of the hot and rough stages that they expect to tackle in Sardinia.
The Hyundai Motorsport workshop mechanics have also been working flat out to build a brand new car in just seven working days for Paddon and his co-driver, John Kennard, after their dramatic off in Portugal, which resulted in a burnt-out i20 WRC car and the end of the rally for the New Zealand racing crew.
“Best team in the world!” Paddon tweeted to his legion of fans. “Can’t thank our guys enough for an incredible job.”
Team principal Michel Nandan was equally impressed: “With just two weeks between the final day of Portugal and leaving for Sardinia, it has been hard work to build a New Generation i20 WRC, but a task that everyone has come together for to achieve. There has been time to debrief on the issues we encountered in Portugal, so we are now ready to move forward as a team.”
Rally Argentina winners Paddon and Kennard will want to put the experience of Portugal far behind them as they look to enjoy a trouble-free rally weekend in familiar territory.
“Sardinia was the venue of my first rally with Hyundai Motorsport back in 2014,” says Paddon, “and then twelve months later where we scored our debut WRC podium. You never forget your first podium and we’d love to get another one this year.”
Neuville and his co-driver, Nicolas Gilsoul, were on course for a top-five finish in Portugal, but have their sights set even higher for Sardinia. “Sardinia is a very special place for me,” says Thierry. “It was my first four-wheel-drive car rally some years ago and I have scored many points there. I have finished twice on the podium, second in 2013 and third place with Hyundai Motorsport last year.”
Dani Sordo and co-driver Marc Martí are the most experienced of Hyundai Motorsport’s crews on the Sardinian island, but they aren’t underestimating the challenges that this event can pose. “This rally is really narrow in places with many stones,” says Sordo, who ended in fourth position in Rally Portugal two weeks ago. “Road position will be an influencing factor because the first cars will in effect ‘clean’ the surface. The stages will be very slippery and tricky for those cars.”
“We hope to build on some of the rhythm from Portugal,” adds the team’s test driver Kevin Abbring, as he and Sebastian Marshall take part in their second WRC event of 2016. “I’ve competed in Sardinia twice before, but it’s really rough compared to Portugal. We’re here to build our confidence and advance our learning curve, so it’s important to take each stage as it comes.”
Sardinia is often a rally of attrition. Ruts and rocks create car-damaging hazards especially during the repeat of each stage.
The Ittiri Arena Show Super Special, located near the service park in Alghero, will open competition on Thursday evening. Eight tests follow on Friday in Logudoro and Anglona, including the all-new Tula stage. Some of the remaining stages are deemed classics, dating back to the island’s inclusion on the WRC calendar in 2004 as the new Italian venue.
Monte Actuo hosts day two in the eastern part of the north with six stages totalling a massive 177 km. The final day takes place just north of Alghero with the picturesque Cala Flumini coastal road and new Sassari-Argentiera stage, which forms the 6,96 km Power Stage.
2016 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings:
- Ogier 114 points / A. Mikkelsen 67 / M. Østberg 58 / H. Paddon 57 / D. Sordo 56 / J. M. Latvala 37 K. Meeke 26 / O. Tanak 24 / T. Neuville 23 / E. Camilli S. Lefebvre 10 / H. Solberg 8 / M. Prokop 6 / E. Evans 6 / M. Ligato 6 / C. Breen 4 / L. Bertelli 4 / T. Suninen 3 / E. Lappi 2 / A. Kremer 1 / / V. Gorban 1 / P. Tidemand 2 / N. Fuchs 2 / A. Kremer 1 / V. Gorban 1
2016 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings:
Volkswagen Motorsport 145 points / Hyundai Motorsport 96 / M-Sport World Rally Team 82 / Volkswagen Motorsport II 70 / Hyundai Motorsport N 51 / / DMACK World Rally Team 30 / Jipocar Czech National Team 12 / Yazeed Racing 4