Hyundai Motorsport claimed its second double podium result and its tenth individual podium of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). The team scored second and third positions in Rally de Espana.
Home hero Dani Sordo started the last day with a 5.8s deficit to rally leader Sebastien Ogier. 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.
Thierry Neuville finished in third place. That was not only his fifth top-three result of 2016, but also his third consecutive podium this year. It moved 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.
Sordo and co-driver Marc Marti gave their maximum in a bid to chase Ogier
Unfortunately, the Spaniards couldn’t mount a stronger challenge. They 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 but we just couldn’t do anything to stop Sebastien. 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 and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul adopted a cautious approach to the final stages
The momentum from the Belgian’s third consecutive podium sees him move up to second on the drivers’ classification.
Neuville said: “It’s been a good weekend. I don’t think we could have got anything more out of the car. We did a good job to get into the podium positions so we didn’t want to waste that effort. The focus was 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 and co-driver John Kennard made steady progress during the entire rally
The Kiwi crew picked up a couple of top-two stage times on the last day. The fourth place overall 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!”
Hyundai Motorsport now has a total of ten podiums this season
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We wanted to fight for the win 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 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.