Mid-season review: Hyundai
Today’s half-term report looks over the progress Thierry Neuville has made and the varied fortunes his Hyundai Motorsport classmates have endured through the eight rallies so far.
Looking back 12 months could be a painful process for Neuville. This time last year he was 27 points in the lead and went into the mid-year break on the back of a magnificent final-stage Rally Italia Sardegna victory over Sébastien Ogier. It was his third win of the year.
This time he’s won twice, sits third in the table, seven points off the lead, and has endured one of the biggest crashes of his life when he overcooked a fast left-hander at Copec Rally Chile.
There is, however, no doubting Neuville’s speed. Only series leader Ott Tänak has more stage wins and back-to-back victories in France and Argentina were enough to carry him to the top of the table.
Neuville’s Sardinian outing was in marked contrast to 12 months ago. Diving into the Alghero harbour a celebrated hero last year, he endured a difficult and challenging rally last month. A succession of dodgy tyre choices allied to a rare mistake from co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul cost valuable time and places on the leaderboard. Sixth was the best he could manage.
The good news for Hyundai on the Italian island came from Dani Sordo, who celebrated a second career win, and a first on gravel. The likeable Spaniard was a hugely popular winner in his fifth outing of the season.
Sordo is sharing his i20 with nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb, who made his factory-level WRC debut in something other than a Citroën at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Loeb has made exceptional progress in learning a new car over the five lessons he’s attended. The highlight was a podium in Chile with third place, but his hopes of a maiden win for Hyundai were extinguished by fuel pressure problems in Portugal.
Andreas Mikkelsen will hope third place in Sardinia has ended an indifferent start to the year. The Norwegian retired twice from the first three rounds and was benched in favour of Loeb in Corsica.
He bounced back with second place in Argentina, only to slide to seventh with one of his most disappointing performances yet at the following round in Chile.
The good news for Hyundai is the strength of its lead at the top of the manufacturers’ table. The i20 heads into the second half 44 points up on its rivals.
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