31 March 2014
Rally Portugal: Hyundai to go three-wide
Buoyed up by its maiden podium in Mexico, Hyundai Motorsport is to add a third car to its line-up driven by Dani Sordo for next week's Rally de Portugal.
Hyundai Motorsport is setting its sights high for the Rally Portugal as it gets ready to run as a three-man squad for the first time since its World Rally Championship return.
Thierry Neuville will be back behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 WRC #7 and Juho Hänninen will be driving the Hyundai i20 WRC #8 under the usual Hyundai Motorsport WRC banner, but they will now also be joined by Dani Sordo in the #20 car operated by the recently-formed 'Hyundai Motorport N' entry which is considered separate in terms of eligibility for WRC points.
For team principal Michel Nandan, it's an important leap forward in the team's ongoing research and development programme for their participation in the sport, with more cars and drivers meaning more data being gathered and at a higher rate.
"We will have three Hyundai i20 WRC cars entered for the first time, which represents a good opportunity to get more feedback from the drivers and to add more mileage," he said. "We have a good combination of drivers in Portugal with Thierry, Juho and Dani; each will bring their own skills and experience to help us in the continued development of the Hyundai i20 WRC.
"The team has worked hard and done a great job once again to prepare for this rally," he explained. "It was important for us to get this car built for Portugal because otherwise we would have had to wait until Italy, when we are next back in Europe, which would have lost valuable time."
WRC veteran Dani Sordo was delighted to be able to join the other Hyundai drivers for the rally, which gets underway in the Algarve on Thursday, April 3. "I'm happy to be able to compete at Rally de Portugal," said the Spanish star. "It's an event I like a lot and where I have had some good results in the past.
"It's also a very important event for the team as there will be three Hyundai i20 WRC cars for the first time," he noted. "We tested for two days before the event but we also the opportunity to do the Fafe Rally Sprint this weekend which [gave] me some more time in the car on loose surface."
Sodro and his co-driver Marc Martí finished in third place for Hyundai in the sprint event, which was won by Sebatien Ogier in his Volkswagen Polo R, which should give the 30-year-old from Torrelavega a boost of confident heading into next weekend's full event.
Sordo competed for the team in the Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo in January, but the Hyundai i20 WRC developed an electrical fault on the road section and ground to a halt before SS5 which had left him unable to continue.
However, Thierry Neuville's triumphant podium position in the same model car in Mexico had proved that the team has addressed its early teething problems, and is now targeting getting all three cars to the finish - and maybe one or more of them on the podium at the same time while they're at it.
Hyundai Motorsport will return to two cars for the next round of the 2014 WRC season, the Rally Argentina in May where Neuville will once again drive the Hyundai i20 WRC #7. The team also confirmed that Hänninen will be back behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 WRC #8 again at the Villa Carlos Paz-based event.
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