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wrc – Hyundai Motorsport continues to lead Rally Australia as Neuville takes over

Hyundai Motorsport has moved a step closer to securing its maiden Rally Australia victory with Thierry Neuville leading the event by over 20 seconds at the conclusion of the penultimate day of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season.

On a dramatic Saturday, with uncharacteristically inclement weather conditions, Neuville stormed to four more stage wins, taking the team’s total for the weekend to an impressive twelve. His Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team colleague Andreas Mikkelsen, who led commandingly on Friday, was forced to retire with a double puncture on SS10 (Newry17).

Hayden Paddon, meanwhile, made progress during Saturday, gaining two positions to hold fifth overall heading into the final day.

Saturday’s schedule saw crews tackle seven stages in total, including the mighty 48.89km Nambucca which kick-started the day’s activities. A run through the 20.87km Newry test was followed by the short 1.37km Raceway Super Special to complete the morning loop.

Nambucca was split into two separate tests for the afternoon – Welshs Creek and Argents Hill. The repeat of Newry17 was cancelled due to a damaged bridge, leaving just two runs through the Destination NSW Super Special to complete the day.

Intermittent rain afforded a range of tyre strategies with stages often containing a challenging combination of wet, muddy and completely dry sections. The weather could yet play a factor on the final day as Hyundai Motorsport looks to end its fourth season in WRC with a fourth victory of the year.

Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Having started the day in second overall, Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul took over the lead of Rally Australia on SS10 (Newry17). The Belgian crew added four stage wins to their tally on Saturday to extend their advantage to 20.1-seconds with five stages left to contest on Sunday.

Neuville said: “It’s a good feeling to be leading the rally heading into the final day. Of course, the event is far from over but I have been very pleased with our approach to today’s tricky stages. Our pace has been good overall, and we’ve added more stage wins. At the same time, there is a sense of disappointment that we weren’t able to have more of a fight with Andreas following his retirement this morning. It has not been a completely trouble-free day for us either. We made a mistake in the Newry stage, going straight on at a junction, but thankfully we didn’t lose too much time. Something broke in the gearbox, as a result of us rectifying the error, which required a fix at lunchtime service. The afternoon then went more to plan and we could build up a reasonably good gap. There is no such thing as a comfortable lead, though, and with the weather still looking like it could play a part, we will have a challenge on our hands on the final morning.”  

Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Paddon and co-driver Seb Marshall had a more representative day despite the mixed weather conditions, moving up to fifth overall. The crew focused on finding a better feeling from inside their Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC with small improvements made in the afternoon loop.

Paddon said: “The Australian weather has thrown us a real curveball this year. Some stages were like two totally different rallies with some parts wet and others completely dry. It made for a complicated tyre choice with neither compound perfectly suiting the conditions. Nambucca was a case in point; the first 10 or 15km was wet and muddy but then 100% dry; it caught us out a little bit. We have been trying a few different things today to try and improve our feeling in the car. We found some improvement on the diff mapping for the afternoon, which helped give more confidence and made the driving more natural. We need to continue in this direction tomorrow and secure our top-five position.”

Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

The Norwegian crew of Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger were cruelly denied the chance to compete for a maiden victory with Hyundai Motorsport after a double puncture in the Newry stage. Having defended their lead over team-mates Neuville and Gilsoul in the long Nambucca test, it was an unfortunate blow for the pair, who will re-join under Rally 2 on Sunday.

Mikkelsen said: “I am very disappointed. It would have been really fantastic to end the season with a victory but that chance has now gone because of a mistake on my part. About two kilometres after the start of the Newry stage, on a right-hander over a crest, I went wide and touched the bank quite hard. I thought I had only a rear puncture but it became quickly apparent that we had one at the front too. With only one spare in the car, it was game over. Nine times out of ten we would have been OK, but luck was not on our side today. Still, it is great to see Thierry take over the rally lead and we will be keeping our fingers crossed for him as he carries the honours for the team.”

One final push

Hyundai Motorsport has now amassed 89 stage wins this season, almost double the number it secured in 2016. As the team enters the final day of the 2017 WRC season, all efforts will be focused on ending the year with a fourth victory – to add to its success from Corsica, Argentina and Poland.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “A bittersweet day, really. It is fantastic still to be leading rally after another competitive day for our team. Thierry and Nicolas have taken command of the event, as they have done on many occasions this season, with a series of strong stage runs. Unfortunately, after such an impressive start to the event, Andreas and Anders were forced to stop in SS10 with a double puncture. They had no option but to retire from the lead, but they will re-start under Rally 2 on Sunday. Hayden and Seb improved their feeling in the car so they are targeting a good finish to this final rally of the season. We are hopeful that we can end the year with victory but, as we have been reminded today, there are often surprises in store in Australia.”

Sunday’s itinerary

The final day includes 64km of competitive action across five stages north of Coffs Harbour. The 9.93km Pilbara Reverse and 6.44km Wedding Bells stages will each be run twice, the latter being run as the rally-concluding Power Stage. In addition, crews will negotiate the 31.90km Bucca16 stage, which remains unchanged from last season.   Classification after Day Two

1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:05:11.6
2 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +20.1
3 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Ford Fiesta WRC +40.6
4 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +1:05.2
5 H. Paddon S. Marshall Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:21.1
6 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +1:48.2
7 S. Lefebvre G. Moreau Citroën C3 WRC +3:00.2
8 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +3:25.3
9 E. Lappi J. Fern Toyota Yaris WRC +4:20.3

Press release Hyundai Motorsport


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