Fresh from the mid-season break, Hyundai Motorsport heads to Rally Finland for round 8 of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with an extended lead in both championships following back-to-back wins in Portugal and Sardinia.
After an exciting victory in Sardinia – equalling the third closest finish in WRC history – the team has increased its advantage over M-Sport in the manufacturers’ championship to 28 points, with Thierry Neuville enjoying a 27-point gap at the top of the drivers’ standings.
Rally Finland is renowned for being the fastest event on the calendar, boasting the accolade of hosting 11 of the 12 fastest WRC rallies in history. The 23-stage rally flows past the scenic forests and lakes of central Finland as crews tackle high speeds and numerous jumps in the final of four consecutive gravel events. For 2018, much of the route has been revamped with more than half of the stages differing from last year’s event, and two stages being run in reverse. The event is one of the toughest for co-drivers, who need to ensure their pace notes are concise, precise, and delivered to perfection.
Hyundai Motorsport will be targeting its maiden podium in Jyväskylä with its crews of Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul and Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall competing in the i20 Coupe WRC cars
The team carried out a development test on the roads of Estonia in late June, while Paddon also took part in Rally Estonia. Although the focus was on development, the event will undoubtedly have served as a useful warm-up for the next WRC round.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We are looking forward to getting back into WRC action after the long summer break. We have had time to reflect on a positive first half of the year but know that there is a lot of hard work to come, starting in Finland. It has not been a rally to favour our team in previous years, but we will be doing all we can to turn that around. We don’t take our championship position for granted because our rivals will once again be pushing hard and fortunes can change quickly. We would obviously like to score our first Finland podium but more important is getting all three of our cars into strong points-scoring positions. ”
Mikkelsen and Jæger are looking for their second podium of the season
“Rally Finland is a really nice rally – it’s probably the event the drivers fear most, but also the one they really want to win! Because the grip is so low, you have to be very confident in the car to go fast on the stages. We were disappointed we couldn’t show our true potential in Sardinia, so hopefully we can find a good pace quickly and push hard to bring home a strong result”, Mikkelsen explained.
Neuville and Gilsoul face an additional challenge in Finland of being first on the road
Neuville said: “Sardinia was an incredible weekend, we couldn’t have hoped for a better result heading into the summer break! Now I’m ready to carry the momentum forward into the second half of the season. Finland is one of those rallies that everyone looks forward to. It’s going to be tricky this year coming into it after the extended break and jumping straight in the car. For the second event in a row, we’ll be first on the road and won’t have the advantage of the sweeping effect to begin with. It will be tough as the speed is very high – but I can’t wait for the challenge.”
Paddon is chasing first WRC podium of 2018 after showing flashes of promise in recent rallies
Paddon said: “For me, Finland is the most incredible rally of the year. Not only are the roads, the jumps, and the pure speed impressive but also the atmosphere is electric. It really makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. I’m really looking forward to getting back into the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We hope we can put the pieces together this year to bring home a strong result.”
Good morning from @RallyFinland! ?? We are ready for this weekend but before the action kicks off we have technical scrutineering on our #Hyundai i20 Coupe #WRC cars! ? #HMSGOfficial pic.twitter.com/kBR3zsHunL
— Hyundai Motorsport (@HMSGOfficial) July 25, 2018