We can’t lose our hopes despite what’s happened, Neuville says

We can’t lose our hopes despite what’s happened, Neuville says

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Hyundai Motorsport’s championship hopes took a knock on the opening day of Rally Australia, the final round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship, with Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen both experiencing dramas. Hayden Paddon leads the Hyundai charge in fourth place overall, just 12.5-seconds from rally leader Mads Østberg following a competitive opening start for the New Zealander.

Neuville ended the day in tenth place, having lost significant time after a tyre came off its rim on landing after a jump in SS6 (Sherwood II)

The Belgian, who holds a three-point deficit to Sébastien Ogier in the drivers’ title chase, had claimed the upper hand by winning the preceding stage (SS5 Coldwater II) but ended Friday over 30 seconds behind his title rival.

“We can’t lose our hopes despite what’s happened. It’s still only the first day and although our championship chances are now reduced, we don’t know what’s going to happen over the next two days. It had been going quite well. Even from second on the road this morning, the cleaning was huge and our aim was just to stay in front of Sébastien, which we were able to do. A stage win in the afternoon was nice but then, in SS6, we were on a long right-hander with a few bumps, and on the landing of a jump we took the tyre from the rim, which lost us a lot of time. We will continue to drive and see where we end up on Sunday”, Neuville said.

Mikkelsen’s day was over before the end of the morning loop following an unusual situation in which he had to take evasive action to avoid a tractor after a chicane during SS3 (Sherwood I)

The distraction caused the Norwegian to go off the road, causing a terminal water leak in his i20 Coupe WRC. The crew will re-join under Rally 2 on Saturday.

“What happened today pretty much sums up my season, to be honest. We approached a crest and saw a marshal waving us down. Anders told me to stop so I slowed right down and saw a tractor driving out of the chicane. We kept going but my head was in a different place rather than the pace-notes that were coming up and we went off. I am disappointed and angry. This situation has destroyed a really important rally for us, and it should never have happened. It’s a shame because we were feeling comfortable and doing well up to that point. We will be back on Saturday but there’s not much we can do now”, Mikkelsen explained.

Paddon commented that he had a nice and clean day

“We find ourselves involved in a close fight at the front. The feeling inside the car has been pretty good on all stages. I have spent Friday just trying to get the natural rhythm back, learning to push in the car and gaining confidence. Our approach was right. We had an issue midway through the afternoon when a tyre came off the rim; we were forced to use a worn soft tyre for the second run through Sherwood. I was surprised not to lose more time than we did. We can definitely go faster, and we have to keep pushing for the team. There’s no other option”, he added.

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