Hyundai Motorsport Preview: Wales Rally GB

Hyundai Motorsport ready to fight for first-ever win in Wales Rally GB after gradual improvements year-on-year
Three crew line-up will aim to get the team back on top of the manufacturers’ championship after dropping to second after a challenging Rally Turkey
Drivers’ title leader Thierry Neuville will start first on the gravel roads on Friday with Ott Tanak and Sébastien Ogier hunting him down in the championship

1 October 2018 - Hyundai Motorsport heads to Wales Rally GB, the 11th round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) looking to bounce back from a disappointing Rally Turkey, at which the team was forced to relinquish the lead of the manufacturers’ championship.

Despite a strong run to third for Hayden Paddon, who took his maiden podium of the 2018 season, Hyundai Motorsport saw two of its crews forced to retire from the lead of the event. Consequently, the manufacturers’ championship battle has intensified with just five points separating the top-two teams and three rallies remaining.

Wales Rally GB will offer a very different challenge to the rough and punishing stages in Turkey. Inclement autumn weather can often play a key role with the fast tree-lined routes into the Welsh forest made treacherous and muddy in wet conditions.

The rally is being held three weeks earlier than last season with some changes to the itinerary offering crews fresh demands. From Thursday evening’s super special at the Tir Prince Raceway to Friday’s two tests at Slate Mountain, located at the Llechwedd slate quarry, Wales Rally GB will have plenty of action for the fans.

Closure of public roads allows organisers for this year’s event to link traditional gravel tracks with short asphalt sections to create lengthier stages, including the longest of the event, a 29.13km test on Friday, which merges Brenig and Alwen.

Contrary to the usual rally schedule, the Power Stage will be run early on Sunday morning to accommodate the all-asphalt Great Orme Llandudno test that brings the 23-stage itinerary to its conclusion.

Hyundai Motorsport will field the same three-car line-up as in Turkey with Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul and Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall. All crews have had one day of testing in mid-Wales with the Hyundai i20 WRC Coupe.

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “Turkey was a missed opportunity for us to assert our authority on the manufacturers’ championship. Instead, we find ourselves in a very intense battle with Toyota, and of course with M-Sport Ford also not far behind. We have to approach Wales Rally GB with a strong mentality and utmost determination, to show what we are capable of. We have made steady gains in this rally from one season to the next, with fourth places in 2014 and 2015, third in 2016 and second place last year. Our aim for this year is clear: to fight for the victory. Words are not going to achieve that; we have to demonstrate our intention by giving our crews the best car to do the job.”  

WRC Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 
Demonstrated rally leading performance in Turkey before technical trouble
Returns to scene of second ever WRC event with Hyundai Motorsport

Mikkelsen said: “Although Turkey was ultimately a frustrating result, having led the rally by 40 seconds, it is important to take away the positives. Everything was a bit more relaxed and we had a good feeling inside the car. That’s what we take with us onto Wales Rally GB, an event I enjoy greatly. It is where I started my career, so it is always good to go back. It was my second event with Hyundai Motorsport last season and we came away with a solid fourth place, fighting near the front. I hope we can do that again this year and recreate the level of competitiveness we showed for most of Rally Turkey.”

WRC Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 
Leads the drivers’ championship with a reduced advantage of 13 points over Tanak
Twice finished on the Wales Rally GB podium with Hyundai Motorsport

Neuville said: “Wales Rally GB is really enjoyable and has different characteristics to the other gravel rallies on the calendar. The past few editions of the event have been run in wet, rainy conditions but we are there a bit earlier this year so let’s see if the weather is kinder. Whatever happens, it will be a tricky rally, particularly on the second pass. The schedule is also tough with very early starts and late finishes; it’s an extra physical challenge. I have had two podiums in a row in Wales, so it would be nice to continue that streak. After the disappointment of Turkey, the championship fight is definitely on!”

WRC Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 
Scored first podium of season in Turkey with intelligent drive to third
Wales Rally GB marks home event for British co-driver Seb Marshall

Paddon said: “After our podium in Turkey, we are looking forward to Wales Rally GB, which is Seb’s home event. There is often rain, mud and fog to contend with in this event, which adds character to a very enjoyable, but taxing rally. The characteristics of the roads match our style, and I think they will also be suited to our i20 Coupe WRC. Although I have had a couple of top-five finishes in the past few seasons, we’ve never really achieved our full potential in Wales. I’m going to set out to correct that this time around.” 

Bite-size Wales   
Thursday’s super special at Tir Prince kick starts a 23-stage itinerary that covers 318.34km
Friday includes a new stage at Slate Mountain and new configurations of established stages
At 150km, Saturday is the longest individual day of the event and features well-known stages Myherin, Sweet Lamb Hafren, Dyfi, Gartheiniog and Dyfnant. With no lunchtime service, it promises to be a decisive day of action
Five stages on Sunday means there will be plenty left to play for, with the Power Stage unusually taking place as the second test of the final morning
The all-asphalt stage of Great Orme Llandudno brings the rally to a finale in style