Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville would undoubtedly love to repeat last year's Rallye Deutschland as this year's event gets underway in Trier, even though the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team duo will start as underdogs this time around.
Twelve months ago, the pair – then driving Citroen and Ford machinery respectively - battled over victory into the final stage of the event, and would love to confirm Hyundai's rising potential by being in a similar position.
Germany provides the first all-tarmac test of the 2014 season, the WRC field having spent most of the first half of the season on gravel. With Hyundai Motorsport's headquarters in Alzenau only 225km away from the rally base in Trier, the event will also be considered as the team's home rally, adding a little extra spice to the occasion.
The team carried out a comprehensive test with all three of its drivers – with Bryan Bouffier making his Hyundai WRC debut alongside Sordo and Neuville next weekend - back in July, with the i20 WRC being put through its paces over roads in the Mosel vineyards and Baumholder military area that make Rallye Deutschland so unique. The team will also call on its experience on tarmac from Rallye Antibes - which Bouffier won back in May - to prepare the cars for Germany.
Having come out on top of his battle with Neuville a year ago, Sordo returns to the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC for his fourth outing with Hyundai determined to show his pace on the German tarmac stages.
“I really like the stages of Rallye Deutschland and I've been looking forward to driving the Hyundai i20 WRC on proper tarmac since the beginning of the season,” the Spaniard commented, “I won the rally last year and it's an event at which I feel very confident to drive, although it can be a difficult one.
“There are several kinds of roads surface and the weather can play an important role too as it can often be unpredictable. I was back behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 WRC after a few months at our pre-event test and it was a nice feeling – I think we are well prepared for the rally and we have a good set-up to tackle these stages.”
Neuville, meanwhile, can also consider the event as something of a homecoming, having been born just 85km away from Trier.
“There will be a lot of Belgian fans – including my family and friends - spectating out on the stages and I'm really looking forward to it,” he admitted, “[Although] it will be the first time with the Hyundai i20 WRC on tarmac, I feel very comfortable on asphalt and really want to do well in this event and help the team, as always, to make progress with the car.”
Having introduced an upgraded cylinder block and connecting rods at Rally Finland, the team will use some chassis 'jokers' from Rallye Deutschland, with a focus on durability, for example strengthening the radiator supports and the wheel arches.
“We are always looking to bring all our cars to the finish of the rally and to continue the development of the car for the next rounds on asphalt, but we will also be aiming to set some good stage times throughout the event,” team principal Michel Nandan said.
“Rallye Deutschland represents another new challenge for the team as we will see the Hyundai i20 WRC in action for the first time on proper tarmac roads, but I think we have a very strong line-up for this event with Thierry and Dani having solid records [in Germany] and with Bryan having a lot of experience with our i20 WRC on compact surfaces.”