Hyundai Motorsport Preview: Round 3 - Rally México

Hyundai Motorsport ready to renew close manufacturer battles as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) heads overseas for Rally México
The third round of the 14-event season represents the first full gravel rally of the 2019 WRC, in far hotter conditions than were faced at Monte-Carlo and Sweden
Dani Sordo re-joins the team alongside Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen as the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team trio aims high in Mexico

Car racing

4 March 2019 - Hyundai Motorsport heads overseas for the third round of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally México, aiming to continue its competitive start to the season.

Consecutive podium results in the opening two rounds have seen the team outline its ambition and potential in a tantalising battle between the four manufacturer teams. Rally México will present the first true gravel event of the season in climatic conditions that offer a stark contrast to those faced in Rallye Monte-Carlo and Rally Sweden.

Hyundai Motorsport will once again field a three-crew line-up with Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio joining Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger-Amland. The Spaniards, who will line up in the #6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, will begin their first WRC outing of 2019 on the back of victory with the Hyundai i20 R5 in Rali Serras de Fafe last weekend.

Siesta resistance
It will be precisely the motivation needed for all crews in their fight for victory in Mexico, a rally that brings the unique challenges of high altitude, intense heat and punishing gravel stages. From the colourful street stage in Guanajuato, the event ascends into stunning surroundings of the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains. Against a picturesque backdrop, crews will tackle a series of gruelling tests that will put drivers, co-drivers and cars to the ultimate test.

Notable stages include the daunting El Chocolate, reaching the highest altitude of the season in excess of 2,700m, and El Brinco, which features a brand new exhilarating jump for 2019. Testing is prohibited outside of Europe but all three crews have had the opportunity to prepare for Rally México with gravel testing in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in the south of Spain.

Hyundai Motorsport has taken numerous podium results in Mexico over the years, including its first-ever WRC top-three result in 2014 and its best finish to date in the rally, second place, secured by Sordo twelve months ago. The aim is to target one better than that in this year’s event.

Team Director Andrea Adamo said: “From ice and snow, we move onto the hot and equally tricky conditions of Rally México, where we want to assert our rally-winning credentials for this WRC season. The first two rallies of 2019 have delivered an exciting spectacle and we have been able to feature strongly in the battle. However, against extremely tough opposition, we have to re-double our efforts and push that bit harder for the results we know we are capable of scoring. For Dani and Carlos, this is their first WRC event of the season but they have already begun the year with a winning mentality, having taken victory in Portugal with our i20 R5. We hope this will have a positive impact on all three of our WRC crews in Mexico.”

Car racing

Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#11 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Second in drivers’ championship after two podium results in a row
Three-time podium scorer in Mexico, including twice with Hyundai Motorsport (2014/2017)

Neuville said: “We have got the 2019 season off to a solid start with two satisfying podium results. It’s early days in the championship but we have shown our pace and potential, as well as identifying areas of improvement. Mexico, as always, will be a different challenge. It’s the first rally of the year with hot temperatures, a real contrast to Monte-Carlo and Sweden, as well as being high up in the mountains. The reduction of oxygen at altitude will mean less horsepower for the engine, while the heat makes life more demanding in the cockpit for the driver and co-driver. It’s a rally where we’ve fought for podiums in the past, so we know what we have to do to be successful.”

Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger-Amland (#89 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Fourth place in Sweden represented Norwegians best result since Mexico 2018
Mikkelsen finished on Mexican podium in 2015

Mikkelsen said: “The difference in conditions from Sweden to Mexico could not be greater! It is one of the warmest rallies of the season, at high altitude and with some long, hard gravel stages. The combination of heat and height makes it a gruelling rally for crews and cars. The altitude reduces the engine power output, which means we are constantly looking for something more from the car. The start of the season has brought some positives for us as a crew, and for the team. We were fighting for second place in Sweden, so we’ll be hoping to feature near the front in Mexico too.”

Crew Notes: Sordo/Del Barrio (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

First WRC event of the season, a rally where they finished second in 2018
Recent victory in Hyundai i20 R5 in Rali Serras de Fafe, as preparation for Mexico

Sordo said: “I am happy to be starting my first WRC event of the season, having followed the opening rallies very closely. The other crews have already warmed themselves up at Monte-Carlo and Sweden, even in the cold conditions. Now it’s time to begin our own season! Carlos and I used Rali Serras de Fafe as a way of preparing ourselves for Mexico, and we had a successful weekend in the Hyundai i20 R5. We will use this experience, as well as Thursday’s shakedown, to get quickly up to speed, as we aim to fight for the podium. Mexico is a tough event but one I enjoy and with incredible support from the fans.”

Car in Mexican town

Rally México begins on Thursday, 7 March with shakedown and a short street stage at Guanajuato. Friday, the first full day of action offers a varied itinerary including the 31.57km El Chocolate stage and shorter stages in León. Saturday incorporates longer tests Guanajuatito (25.90km), Otates (32.27km) and the fan-favourite El Brinco (8.13km) before returning to León in the evening. Sunday’s schedule covers 60km and three stages with the Las Minas Power Stage bringing the 21-stage event to its conclusion in style.