- Hyundai Motorsport has scored one of its best-combined team results with two New Generation i20 WRCs on the podium in Spain and three inside the top-four
- Dani Sordo took second place, his second podium of the season, with Thierry Neuville claiming third for his fifth top-three finish of 2016
- Hayden Paddon took fourth place, while Kevin Abbring scored his best WRC result to date in seventh - ensuring all four entered cars finished in the top-seven
Hyundai Motorsport has today claimed its second double podium result and its tenth individual podium of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), scoring well-earned second and third positions in Rally de España.
Home hero Dani Sordo started Sunday with a 5.8s deficit to rally leader Sébastien Ogier but he was forced to settle for second place overall after the final four stages. Second place for the Spanish crew equals their best result of the season, set in Rallye Deutschland back in August, and improves on their third place finish in Spain last year.
Thierry Neuville finished in third place, which was not only his fifth top-three result of 2016, but also his third consecutive podium this year which moves him up to second in the drivers’ championship - equal on points with Andreas Mikkelsen. Hayden Paddon took fourth place with Kevin Abbring, driving a 2015-spec i20 WRC, taking his best ever WRC finish in seventh.
Sunday’s final four asphalt stages - a repeat loop of the 19.30km Pratdip and 12.10km Duesaigües stages - started early in dark conditions. All crews were looking to make improvements after a strong showing on the opening two days.
Sordo and co-driver Marc Martí (#4 New Generation i20 WRC) gave their maximum in a bid to chase Ogier for the rally win. Unfortunately, the Spaniards couldn’t mount a stronger challenge but were still content to finish on the podium in front of their home fans. They also picked up an extra championship point for taking third in the rally-concluding Power Stage.
Sordo said: “It’s been an incredible weekend and I cannot thank the fans enough for all the support. I can honestly say we did our best today but we just couldn’t do anything to stop Sébastien. I have to extend my congratulations to him. We wanted so much to take the win for the team and the fans but he was too strong. Still, to finish in second place after such a competitive event is something to be proud of. It’s our second podium of the season and we worked really hard for it. I have been generally very happy with the feeling we’ve had in the car, both on gravel and asphalt. The team has done a fantastic job to prepare a competitive car, and it’s very encouraging that the overall result has been so positive for everyone at Hyundai Motorsport.”
Neuville (#3 New Generation i20 WRC) and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul adopted a cautious approach to the final stages in order to pick up important points for the Championship. The momentum from the Belgian's third consecutive podium sees him move up to second on the drivers’ classification, equal on points with Andreas Mikkelsen.
Neuville said: “It’s been a good weekend. I don’t think we could have got anything more out of the car in this rally. I took things carefully this morning. We did a good job to get into the podium positions so we didn’t want to waste that effort. We were focused on the 15 championship points, so accepted that we’d have to compromise our stage times to do that. We had to take it cautiously in some sections, but I was mostly able to drive my usual rhythm. As a team, we’ve had a competitive weekend with three cars in the top-four, so we can use this momentum for the final events of the season in GB and Australia. There are a few more competitive performances to come from us this year, I’m sure!”
Paddon (#20 New Generation i20 WRC) and co-driver John Kennard have made steady progress during the entire rally weekend. The Kiwi crew picked up a couple of top-two stage times on Sunday morning to cement their fourth place overall, which is their best ever WRC result on tarmac.
Paddon said: “It’s been a good final day for us and a positive event for the entire team. We have continued with our learning curve and kept the pressure on. Even if we weren’t able to finish on the podium, I’m happy with what we’ve achieved over the three days. Ever since we changed some things on the car yesterday lunchtime, it’s been an improvement. I’ve enjoyed the stages today. I liked the first stage (Pratdip) but I was surprised by our pace in the second one (Duesaigües) because I’ve always struggled on that one. There’s nothing more frustrating for me than standing still so I’m pleased we’ve started to move in the right direction. Now let’s bring on the gravel!”
For Abbring (#10 Hyundai i20 WRC) and co-driver Seb Marshall, Rally de España has delivered a WRC career-best seventh position. Making improvements to their car on each day, the crew has more than achieved their pre-event objectives of a points-scoring position.
Abbring said: “It’s brilliant to register our best ever WRC result here in Spain. It’s been a very valuable learning weekend for us, and I’d say it is “mission accomplished” as far as the result is concerned. We probably hoped to benefit more from our road position on Friday, but with the wet conditions it didn’t play into our hands. We didn’t expect to be winning stages but we’ve made important steps on this mixed surface rally, and I’m delighted with seventh place. I’d like to say thanks to the team for the opportunity and for their support to us in this event.”
Hyundai Motorsport now has a total of ten podiums to its name this season after a competitive outing in Spain. The team has amassed three stage wins, two 1-2s and a total of nine second-places this weekend with all four crews enjoying standout moments.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We wanted to fight for the win today but it just wasn’t to be on this occasion, however we have to be happy with this double podium. Dani has had a fantastic weekend in front of his home crowd and thoroughly deserves this result. To have two crews on the podium, with Thierry taking his fifth podium of the season and now being in close contention for second place in the drivers’ championship, is a satisfying achievement. It’s even more pleasing when we see Hayden taking his best ever tarmac result in fourth and Kevin taking his WRC career best. There are many positive lessons we can take away from this rally to make improvements for the future. Now, our focus shifts back to gravel for Wales Rally GB and Australia - we want to finish the season on a high.”
The FIA World Rally Championship now moves onto Wales Rally GB, the penultimate round of the season, which takes place from 27-30 October.
Overall Final Classification
1. S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:13:03.6
2. D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +15.6
3. T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +1:15.0
4. H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +1:27.8
5. M. Østberg / O. Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:24.4