After mixed fortunes at Rally Finland earlier in August, the Hyundai Motorsport team returns to the scene of an historic first and second place in 2014 as it tackles Rallye Deutschland, round nine of the 2015 World Rally Championship (WRC).
- Hyundai Motorsport team returns to scene of first WRC victory
- Hayden Paddon will drive for the Hyundai Shell WRT at Rally Australia
As the home rally for the Alzenau-based squad, the event will mark the team’s first tarmac event with four cars. Thierry Neuville (no. 7 Hyundai i20 WRC) and Dani Sordo (no. 8 Hyundai i20 WRC), first and second last year, will again represent the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team.
In the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team Hayden Paddon (no. 20 Hyundai i20 WRC) will be joined for the second time by Dutchman Kevin Abbring (no. 10 Hyundai i20 WRC). Paddon, who has in the meanwhile been appointed as the second Hyundai Motorsport driver next to Neuville for Rally Australia, will start with the same specification car in Germany as teammates Neuville and Sordo, while Abbring will have the benefit of paddle-shift on the #10 car.
The unpredictable weather in Germany will make tyre choice an important factor to the Hyundai Motorsport team, placing a premium on up-to-date information from weather and gravel crews. Accurate pace notes are essential, particularly with the huge car-breaking kerbstones known as “hinkelstein” presenting an additional challenge on the military ranges.
Team principal Michel Nandan commented: “Germany is our home rally, as our Alzenau base is not so far from Trier. There are good memories here for us, because last year we had a good result – our first 1-2 finish. For the second time this year we will have four Hyundai i20 WRC cars, although this is the first time on a tarmac event.
“All four drivers have been testing in the Trier area in the build-up to the event, and we are all quite pleased with the setup. Our fourth driver is Kevin Abbring and along with Thierry and Dani, we have three drivers who feel at home on the tarmac so we can hope for a good result to add to our points’ total.”
Belgian Neuville, alongside co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul, topped the podium last year in Germany for the first time, breaking a long history of Citroën wins at the event. After a difficult start to Rally Finland with a crash in shakedown, the Belgian regained his confidence with a solid drive to fourth, so he will be aiming to quickly get into his rhythm on what is also his “home” event.
Neuville said: “We have really good memories from Rallye Deutschland last year – it was our first victory for the team, which was a very big result to have done in a very short time. This rally is very close to my native town of Sankt-Vith, and a lot of relatives and friends are coming down to support us throughout the weekend. My brother is competing as well, so it’s going to be a big event for our family.”
Spanish driver Sordo is also a fan of the German event with a string of solid results, claiming second spot behind Neuville, with co-driver Marc Marti in 2014 and winning in 2013 before he joined the Hyundai Motorsport team. He will be bringing his experience to Trier and, after some determined performances this season, is ready to deliver a strong result.
Sordo said: “The rally in Germany is very special to me. It is very narrow in the vineyards and the military area, with a lot of hairpins, so it is exciting to drive with the Hyundai i20 WRC. The sensations you feel when driving through those vineyard stages are special – narrow and short, with several corners.”
Despite having far less experience on tarmac, Paddon enjoys the rally and is looking for a solid finish. The Kiwi, with co-driver John Kennard, hopes to gain a greater understanding of this tough event’s nuances, while also learning from his teammates.
Paddon commented: “The tarmac is going to be a big change for us – it’s a surface that we don’t have much experience with. We’ve done the rally a couple of times before and I really enjoy this one – the character of the roads, the way that they wind in and out of the vineyards.”
Hyundai Motorsport test driver Abbring, alongside co-driver Sebastian Marshall, will return to competition following runs for the team in Sweden and Poland earlier this season. The young Dutchman will be looking to familiarise himself further with both the Hyundai i20 WRC and the demanding German terrain.
Rallye Deutschland will again be based around Trier, starting and finishing in front of the ancient Porta Nigra, scene for the team’s celebrations last year. The German rally is widely recognised as the most difficult tarmac event of the WRC calendar, with the twisty Mosel vineyard roads and Baumholder military tracks providing drivers with a unique series of technical challenges.
- The Hyundai Motorsport team has also revealed that Paddon will drive alongside Neuville in the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team at Rally Australia, round 10 of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
The team is in a close battle for second place in the manufacturers championship where every point counts, and with Paddon’s recent experience of the unique event and his strong run of form on gravel, it is felt that this driver combination offers the highest probability of good points. Paddon, with co-driver Kennard, will take over the no. 8 Hyundai i20 WRC for what is almost a home rally for the pairing. Sordo will swap to the no. 20 Hyundai i20 WRC for this rally before returning to the no. 8 car for the Tour de Corse in October.
Team principal Nandan said: “We are in a tight fight for second in the manufacturers’ championship with just a few points separating us from Citroën. After careful consideration we have agreed that adapting momentarily our line-up offers us the best chance to secure the points we need on this unique and challenging event. Hayden is very familiar with the rally and after his recent strong performances on gravel he is more than capable of supporting us in this battle.”
Paddon said: “I’m very pleased that the team has faith in me, but at the end of the day it is just a car number change for me. I will have the same approach to the rally as always, but this time I shall be happy to challenge for points that can help the team in the Manufacturer standings.”
Sordo said: “We spoke about it together as a team after Rally Finland and I know we all need to push in the same direction to secure a good result at end of the season in the manufacturers’ championship. I look forward to discovering the stages around Coffs Harbour and to getting a feeling for this unique event.”