Hyundai Motorsport has struggled to find an optimum rhythm on the tricky stages of Rally Sweden, the second round of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with all three crews experiencing difficulties on the first complete day of running.
Friday’s action saw crews cover a repeat loop of three stages – Hof-Finnskog 21.26km, Svullrya 24.88km and Röjden 18.47km – including tests across the border into Norway. The day was concluded with a run through the shorter, but no less challenging, 9.56km Torsby stage, taking Friday’s total stage distance to almost 140km.
In stark contrast to the fresh snowfall from twelve months ago, warmer temperatures have created slushier and less consistently ice-packed stages for this year’s rally. Crews have had to manage their studded tyres to cope with unpredictable conditions that have created dramas throughout the day.
Norwegians Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Anders Jæger-Amland enjoyed plenty of home support as they took their #89 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC into their home country. On an encouraging day, the crew holds third place overall, a provisional podium position, 17.8-seconds from the rally lead.
In just their second event with Hyundai Motorsport, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena got off to a slow start, but finished the day in sixth overall. Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul, meanwhile, had a far from ideal Friday. After claiming a stage win on Thursday evening’s Karlstad super special, the Belgians hit a snowbank in SS5 Hof-Finnskog, picking up front-end damage that hampered their afternoon loop. All three crews will be aiming to pick up the pace on Saturday, which features the legendary Colin’s Crest jump.
Crew Notes: Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger-Amland (#89 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Norwegians took the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC across the border for some home support
- Crew finished Friday’s itinerary with a provisional podium in third overall
Mikkelsen said: “We have finished a tough opening day in third overall, which is a pretty satisfactory position to find ourselves all things considered. It has been hard to feel comfortable to push in these conditions. We were managing our tyres so we could go for a good final stage of the day, but we still lost a lot of studs. This morning we were making changes between every stage to find a better rhythm and make the most of our road position. As always, it was great to drive in Norway and to experience the fantastic home support. Tomorrow is a new day and we’ll focus on chasing down a podium finish.”
Crew Notes: Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (#19 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Two top-three stage times in crew’s first visit to Rally Sweden since 2013
- Complicated morning loop but with improvements during the day
Loeb said: “It has been a day focused on finding improvements. I couldn’t get into a good rhythm this morning. These cars are very fast on these stages and you have to be completely confident. You need to trust the grip from the car to get the ideal entry speed for each corner, and to commit fully. We improved with each stage as our confidence was building inside the car. We have tried to regain some of the lost time, while also driving sensibly to make sure we don’t make any mistakes. Tomorrow, we will try to pick up our pace even more.”
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (#11 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Stage win in SS1 on Thursday evening
- Belgians picked up front car damage after hitting a snowbank in SS5, hampering progress
Neuville said: “We felt we were a bit too cautious this morning as one of the first cars on the road, and some of the guys behind us were able to go really fast. We made some good adjustments at lunchtime service but the afternoon did not get off to the start we had hoped. The conditions were more like a gravel rally than a snow one. Unfortunately, we hit a snowbank and spun the car, causing damage that then affected the rest of our day. Missing aero at the front of the car, we had to just drive gently and fluidly. We will aim for a more representative performance tomorrow and see what we can do to make up ground.”
Team Director Andrea Adamo: “It has been a bit of a disappointing start to the rally for us. Our crews struggled in the challenging and changing conditions today. Andreas has had a reasonable rally so far with no mistakes and clean stages, which has helped him to move into the provisional podium positions. Sébastien couldn’t find the right rhythm this morning but enjoyed a much stronger afternoon loop, while Thierry’s spin and car damage jeopardised his performance. We know we can make improvements, and we are fully concentrated on doing that when we resume on Saturday morning.”
Saturday at a glance
- Eight stages are on the agenda for Saturday at Rally Sweden, with two passes of Rämmen, Hagfors and Vargåsen, the latter featuring the infamous Colin’s Crest.
- The day will end with a solitary run of the Karlstad Super Special and the Torsby Sprint.
- A shorter stage distance than Friday will see crews tackle 126.55km of timed routes.
Classification after Day One
|1||T. Suninen||M. Salminen||Ford Fiesta WRC||1:11:05.3|
|2||O. Tänak||M. Järveoja||Toyota Yaris WRC||+2.0|
|3||A. Mikkelsen||A. Jæger-Amland||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+17.8|
|4||E. Evans||S. Martin||Ford Fiesta WRC||+28.6|
|5||E. Lappi||J. Ferm||Citroën C3 WRC||+42.0|
|6||S. Loeb||D. Elena||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+48.8|
|7||T. Neuville||N. Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+52.7|
|8||K. Meeke||S. Marshall||Toyota Yaris WRC||+53.1|
|9||P. Tidemand||O. Fløene||Ford Fiesta WRC||+1:24.4|
Press release Hyundai Motorsport