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WRC – Hyundai Motorsport is firmly in the hunt for a third victory

Hyundai Motorsport is involved in a tantalisingly close battle for victory in Rally Italia Sardegna as Thierry Neuville reduced the gap to leader Sébastien Ogier to just 3.9-seconds at the end of Saturday’s itinerary.

There are intense battles for position throughout the top-five with all crews pushing hard to gain an advantage over their closest rivals on the classification. Hayden Paddon moved up to fourth overall after evening drama for Jari-Matti Latvala, and holds a small 2.1-second lead over Mads Østberg.

It wasn’t only the on-stage action that got hotter on the penultimate day of the rally, the weather conditions returned to the more typical Sardinian sunshine after damp conditions made for tricky running on Friday.

The day got underway with the 14.95km Coiluna-Loelle stage before moving onto the longer tests of Monti di Ala (28.52km) and Monte Lerno (29.11km), including the spectacular Micky’s Jump. The trio of stages was repeated in the afternoon with tyre choice once again playing a key role on the rough routes.

Neuville added three more stage wins in SS12 (Monte Lerno 1), SS15 (Monte di Ala 2) and SS16 (Monte Lerno 2) and taking the team’s total for the weekend so far to seven.

Andreas Mikkelsen registered two of those on Friday before mechanical issues forced his retirement in the afternoon. He returned to the event under Rally 2 regulations on Saturday morning and was back on the pace setting top-three stage times.  A spin in SS12 and a puncture in the repeat of Monte Lerno were the downsides to an otherwise decent Saturday.

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

  • Three stage wins on Saturday, including both Monte Lerno runs
  • Close battle for victory with championship challenger Sébastien Ogier

Neuville said: “We have had a good day and have really set up a great fight between Sébastien and me for the final morning. With just 3.9 seconds between us, it will be full attack for the win on Sunday. Generally, we’ve had a strong performance with three more stage wins and a good feeling inside the car. The mechanics did an amazing job to repair the small damage we picked up on Friday afternoon, and we could really feel immediately back ‘at home’ on the morning loop. We have taken fewer risks than we did yesterday but still been able to push and feel comfortable in the car. The afternoon wasn’t as smooth but we have kept out of trouble and can now look forward to an exciting end to the rally.”

Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Improved performance on Saturday’s stages
  • Moved up to fourth overall on Saturday evening

Paddon said: “We have definitely enjoyed the conditions today more than we did on Friday. There has been a little bit of sweeping required, but nothing too detrimental. The grip was good on the morning loop and we recovered some of the positive feeling we had in shakedown. Rally Italia Sardegna certainly throws up a fair few surprises, as we’ve seen again today, so we played it smart and concentrated on clean runs. We tried to keep the pressure on Mads throughout the day, and it’s going to be a close-run final morning. There are important manufacturer points up for grabs, so we won’t be doing anything foolish but fourth is there for the taking, so we’ll do our best to defend it.”

Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Returned under Rally 2 on Saturday morning after Friday retirement
  • Top-three stage times in SS11, SS13 and SS14

Mikkelsen said: “We knew that there wasn’t going to be much to challenge for today, as we restarted under Rally 2. Of course it is a shame we weren’t able to push for a good result, especially after taking an early lead. Instead, we just wanted to find a good feeling from inside the car on today’s stages and carry out some learning for next year. There’s not much more we could have done in the circumstances. We still wanted to show our pace, which I felt we did in many of the stages. We had a spin in the first run through Monte Lerno and a puncture in the repeat stage, but otherwise it was a decent day for us. Let’s see if we can push for some Power Stage points tomorrow.”

Marvellous mechanics

  • Seven stage wins for the team so far this weekend
  • Mechanics carried out impressive work to replace Neuville’s fuel tank over lunchtime service

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “Overall, we’ve had a solid day had a solid day and we are in for a spectacular show on Sunday morning. There are close battles throughout the top-six with Thierry and Sébastien setting the scene nicely at the top of the classification. It’s been good to have some of the more typical Sardinian weather back today – and we’re expecting it to be even hotter tomorrow. While the drivers have delivered on the stages, our mechanics have also worked incredibly hard this weekend. The engineers noticed a fuel pressure issue on Thierry’s car at the end of today’s morning loop. We could see this was likely to be an internal issue, so we took the decision to change the complete fuel tank. The mechanics did this in the space of ten minutes during lunchtime service – an impressive feat that has allowed us to remain in the hunt for victory this weekend.”

Sunday at a glance

  • The final day of Rally Italia Sardegna consists of two stages – Cala Flumini (14.06km) and Sassari-Argentiera (6.96km) – each run twice.
  • The final test of the rally acts as the Power Stage where extra driver points are available to the top-five finishers.
  • A total stage distance of 42.04km will bring the seventh round of the 2018 WRC season to a thrilling conclusion.

Classification after Day Two

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3:02:16.9
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3.9
3 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +54.2
4 H. Paddon S. Marshall Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:01.8
5 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +2:03.9
6 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +3:13.6

Press release Hyundai Motorsport

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