Hyundai Motorsport concluded a tough Rallye Monte Carlo with one of its crews inside the top-five overall and some strong results during the event.
With Dani Sordo forced to retire after an off-stage excursion on Saturday, and no opportunity to make use of Rally 2, the Hyundai team was left with two cars remaining for the final day. Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen were both aiming to finish the rally in a positive manner after experiencing their own issues during the course of the Monte Carlo weekend.
Neuville added a further two stages wins to his tally on Sunday, setting consecutive fastest times in SS15 and SS16. The results brought the team’s total to six for the weekend. He then pushed hard to finish second in the Power Stage to take four important drivers’ championship points.
The Belgian, along with co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul, had already fought back to seventh overall by Saturday evening. But his performances on Sunday morning saw him embroiled in a close battle with Citroen’s Kris Meeke and M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans. Just 8.4-seconds split the trio heading into the Power Stage. Neuville moved ahead of Evans by 1.0s. It was ultimately misfortune for Esapekka Lappi that helped move the #5 crew into fifth behind Power Stage winner Meeke.
Mikkelsen had already re-started under Rally 2 on Saturday and had his sights set on a strong Power Stage performance. The Norwegian opted for five soft tyres for the final four stages, with no mid-morning service or tyre-fitting zone. His pace was compromised on the icy run up to Col de Turini. But he ran strongly in SS15 to support a Hyundai Motorsport 1-2 in stage and then third in the Power Stage itself.
“We can only really look back on this weekend as a rally of disappointment”, Hyundai team principal Nandan commented
For Hyundai Motorsport, the overall result represents a less than satisfactory end to the first round of 2018. Still, the potential of the i20 Coupe WRC against an impressively competitive field gives the team optimism for the season ahead.
“We have had some improved stage results and a strong Power Stage run from Thierry and Andreas. But we can only really look back on this weekend as a rally of disappointment”, team principal Michel Nandan commented.
“We wanted to come out fighting in this year’s championship by taking a good haul of points in Monte Carlo. But for various reasons, we have to settle for less. The season is long, of course, but we know from last year how punishing it can be when we miss opportunities. This is especially true when our rivals are so strong. Monte has never been a particularly kind rally to us, and again we leave here with little to show for our efforts. We have to regroup, put this one behind us and start our 2018 season properly in Sweden.”
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— Hyundai Motorsport (@HMSGOfficial) January 28, 2018