Nandan: Portugal biggest rally for Hyundai in terms of car and team...

Nandan: Portugal biggest rally for Hyundai in terms of car and team operations

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Hyundai Motorsport fields a four-car entry into Rally de Portugal, the sixth round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), and second in a run of four consecutive gravel rallies. Currently leading the manufacturers’ championship with a 15-point advantage over M-Sport Ford, the team will be aiming to continue its competitive start to the season with another fight for the podium positions.

Hayden Paddon returns for his first WRC event since finishing fifth in Rally Sweden back in February, joining Andreas Mikkelsen, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

All four crews have had the opportunity to test prior to the rally.

In accordance with WRC regulations, only three crews will be eligible for championship points for the Hyundai Motorsport team, with the two highest finishers per team scoring. The team has already named Mikkelsen, Neuville and Paddon, with Sordo taking control of the fourth car.

In addition to its four WRC cars, Hyundai Motorsport will also have WRC2 representation from its HMDP crew Jari Huttunen and Antti Linnaketo. The Finnish duo will be taking part in their third event of the season after Rally Sweden and Rally Mexico, in which they showed encouraging pace and performance. They have carried out testing in Portugal to acclimatise to the conditions and the car, so they can hit the ground running.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Michel Nandan
photo: Fabien Dufour
/ Hyundai Motorsport

“Portugal is set to be our busiest rally of the season in terms of car and team operations. Running four Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCs will require us to be extra focused and diligent. There is no room for error, as we target another strong all-around team performance. We welcome Hayden and Seb [Marshall] back into the team and are confident that they will make their presence felt on the standings from the outset. All four crews have tested ahead of the event in order to be as prepared as we can for another close battle”, Team Principal Michel Nandan commented.

Mikkelsen has a best finish in Rally de Portugal of second place in 2016

The Norwegian is fourth in drivers’ championship after the fifth-place finish in Argentina.

“We head back to Europe following a pretty positive weekend for the team in Argentina. I didn’t take part [in Portugal] last season so I am looking forward to putting my i20 Coupe WRC through its paces on the gravel stages. It can be quite rough with high grip in places. It’s an event I enjoy and we’ll be looking to put our recent gravel experiences to good use”, Mikkelsen said.

Hyundai, pit, box, garage
photo: Helena El Mokni
/ Hyundai Motorsport

Neuville was second in Argentina and closed the gap to Sebastien Ogier in the drivers’ championship

He finished runner-up in last year’s Rally de Portugal.

“This rally will be a big weekend for all of us at Hyundai Motorsport. Not only are we entering four cars, but we are also determined to continue the form we showed in Argentina. Portugal is a great event with a lot of supportive fans and some nice stages. It offers us some unique challenges with varying grip levels on the stages. We saw at the last rally that our rivals are very strong but this gives us added motivation to improve ourselves and do all we can to fight at the front”, Neuville explained.

Paddon spent the time after Rally Sweden doing some rallies in New Zealand and training

Portugal will be the first of three consecutive gravel events for him.

“It will be challenging having not driven the WRC car for three months but Seb and myself are ready to give it our best shot. The Portuguese stages require a lot of commitment and the grip levels can be quite changeable, depending on the weather. As everyone knows the rally quite well, only with perfect preparation and pace notes will we be competitive”, Paddon commented.

Rally Portugal is a special event for Danny Sordo as it is very close to Spain

He got another podium in Argentina (second top 3 classification in a gravel event of the season) while in 2017 the Spaniard was third in Portugal.

“Many supporters make the short trip to show their support, and it makes for a fantastic atmosphere. Of course, the Fafe jump is a highlight of the weekend. But there are many other enjoyable stages to tackle over the weekend. We have four cars for this event, which will make our service area very busy. But it will be fun to drive alongside the other crews”, Sordo said.

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