Hyundai Motorsport is aiming to extend its lead in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) as the season moves onto the penultimate round, Rally de España, this weekend.
The manufacturers’ title chase has heated up in recent events, as the 2019 season approaches its thrilling conclusion. Second place at Wales Rally GB represented Hyundai Motorsport’s 11th podium of the season and allowed the team to retain an eight-point advantage over its nearest rivals with two rounds of the championship remaining.
Three Hyundai crews will contest the 17-stage mixed surface rally, which begins with predominantly gravel roads on Friday before turning into a pure tarmac event on the final two days. Teams will have a unique 75-minute flexi service at the end of Friday’s six stages to transform the set-up of the cars to cope with the change of terrain.
Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul will be joined by Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio and Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars for the 13th round of the season. All crews tested in the Tarragona region last week. Loeb and Sordo completed half a day apiece on gravel with all three crews completing a full day each on tarmac in preparation for the rally.
Hyundai Motorsport has taken three podium results from Spain in previous seasons, twice for Sordo, once in 2016 and again as part of a double top-three alongside Neuville in 2017. Loeb, meanwhile, will begin this year’s rally, his first WRC event since Portugal in June, as defending Rally de España winner.
Team Director Andrea Adamo said: “We have one objective from Rally de España, and that is to extend our lead in the manufacturers’ championship. Of course, we know it is far from straightforward with the level of competition that we have seen in the WRC this season, but we will give it everything we have. There are just two events remaining and there can be no missed opportunities. I am confident in our crew line up, with Thierry determined to keep his drivers’ title hopes alive, alongside Dani and Sébastien, who are both strong contenders on the mixed surfaces in Spain. We want to be in control of our own destiny.”
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (#11 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Third in the drivers’ championship, 41 points adrift of the lead
- Six podiums scored in 2019 so far, including two victories
Neuville said: “We are approaching a critical part of the season, where the championship really intensifies. Our aim is clear: to fight for victory and to outscore our rivals. At the same time, we know that Rally de España is a unique event due to the fact that we are running one day on gravel and two days on tarmac. It has very specific characteristics and it is truly the only one like this on the calendar. It poses challenges to which we all look forward. We have shown that we are strong contenders on both surfaces this year and we will keep pushing as hard as we can for the championship.”
Crew Notes: Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Spaniards return for first WRC event since Turkey
- Home heroes looking to emulate rally winning performance from Sardinia
Sordo said: “I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in Spain, my home rally. This is always a very special event as we compete on both gravel and tarmac in the same weekend. It’s nice to start on gravel. With our advantageous position, starting later on the road, we can hopefully gain some time. Then there’s a big fight on tarmac as there are fast crews in every team, so it promises to be an exciting event. As it is in Spain, it is also double motivation for me. The spectators come to see everybody but I think they support the Spanish drivers a little bit more than the others normally!”
Crew Notes: Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (#19 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Nine-time world champions taking part in first WRC event since Portugal
- Returning to Spain as reigning winners of Rally de España
Loeb said: “For me, Rally de España is a rally I’ve always enjoyed. I have won it a lot of times but what I like the most is the location: it’s a nice place close to the sea. The mixed surface is something I always enjoyed in the past and it’s the only event we completely change the set-up of the car in the middle of the rally. We are confident we can be on the pace and support the team to extend the lead in the manufacturers’ battle.”
Weekend at a glance
- 17 stages run over a competitive distance of 325.56km
- Ceremonial start takes place in Salou on Thursday before stages get underway on Friday
- Six stages run across two loops – the all-gravel Gandesa (7km) and Horta-Bot (19km), as well as the mixed gravel-tarmac timed test of La Fatarella-Vilalba (38.85km)
- A 75-minute service on Friday evening sees mechanics transform the car spec from gravel to tarmac ahead of Saturday’s seven stages: a repeat loop of Savalla (14.08km), Querol (21.26km) and El Montmell (24.40km), as well as a shorter 2.24km run at Salou
- Sunday takes in four stages with Riudecanyes (16.35km) and La Mussara (20.72km) run twice, the latter as the Power Stage