After a difficult start to the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Hyundai Motorsport is ready to reassert its credentials as Championship contenders at Rally Mexico, the third event of this year’s campaign.

The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has already displayed rally-winning potential in the opening rounds of the season in Monte-Carlo and Sweden. In the two events to date, the team claimed thirteen stage wins in total, in addition to ten power stage points across all three of its crews.

The team will once again field a three-car entry into the rally with Hayden Paddon returning in the #4 car, Thierry Neuville, who claimed Hyundai Motorsport’s first-ever WRC podium at Rally Mexico in 2014, in the #5 and Dani Sordo, in the #6.

Heightened Challenges

Coming off the back of the coldest event on the WRC calendar, the crews will have to adapt quickly to the much warmer Mexican climate, in what is one of only three rallies to be held outside of Europe. In addition to the hotter temperatures, one of the largest challenges posed by the event is the altitude, with some stages being run at nearly 3,000m above sea level.

With testing prohibited outside of Europe, the team carried out a five-day test in the Granada region of Spain to prepare for Mexico. All three crews had time in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in conditions that replicate those expected next weekend. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC’s engine has been put through its paces on the dyno in a bid to minimise the impact of the lower oxygen levels on the higher stages, which can reduce engine power.

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “Mexico is without a doubt one of the toughest events on the schedule with the altitude and massively different climate to our last event in Sweden. These conditions will push the drivers and the cars to the limit, but we are happy with the work that we have done to prepare for this rally. Obviously the last couple of events have been difficult for us but we cannot dwell on that. We know what the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is capable of and we have seen our ability to challenge for the win. We are confident that we can come back strongly in Mexico, where we memorably scored our first ever WRC podium in 2014.”

Crew Notes: Paddon/Kennard (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Paddon and co-driver John Kennard will be hoping to compete for their first podium finish of the season on the Mexican gravel. They achieved a top-five finish in the event twelve months ago, scoring a Power Stage point at the rally’s conclusion. They will be hoping to pick up from there next weekend.

Paddon commented: “I’m looking forward to Rally Mexico. It feels like a long time since we’ve been on gravel and rallying outside of Europe. It’s an event with a nice atmosphere with passionate fans and enjoyable roads. The altitude is a key characteristic of this rally. We have to adjust the car and ourselves to the conditions. We have to make sure that we put in the extra effort so that we’re fully prepared. Maintaining hydration levels in the hotter conditions is obviously important too. We’re going to try everything that we can to put in a solid performance and to secure a positive result.”

Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Neuville and Belgian co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul want to bounce back after a harsh run of results so far this season. Having led for extended periods in Monte-Carlo and Sweden, the crew heads to Mexico hoping to build on the impressive pace that they have displayed in the opening two rounds.

Neuville commented: “Mexico is a unique event and one which brings back happy memories of the team’s first WRC podium back in 2014. It is the first hot event of the season, which combined with the fact that the event takes place at such a high altitude, makes it special. It’s an enjoyable rally; we can really push because of the knowledge and experience we have from the previous seasons. We are confident that we can perform well. The car has already demonstrated what it can do in Monte and Sweden, so we have to go out there and show what we know we are capable of. We’re determined to fight back!”

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

The Spanish pairing of Sordo and co-driver Marc Martí just missed out on a podium finish in Mexico last season, so will be aiming to rectify that this season. The duo enjoyed a solid run to fourth in Sweden but the gravel terrain and fiesta feel of Rally Mexico could allow them to go one better next weekend. 

Sordo said: “I am excited about Rally Mexico because it is the first gravel event of the year and for our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. Thanks to the additional power that is present in the new car, it should be an even more spectacular rally than normal, as usually we would expect the performance to drop slightly as a result of the altitude. Making the transition from wintry conditions in Sweden to the warmer climate of Mexico is all part of life in the WRC. We have spent time preparing for the change, with the most important process being adapting our bodies. I am confident we can put ourselves in the podium fight.”

Rally Mexico 2017 at a Glance

The season’s first non-European and gravel event, Rally Mexico will take place over 19 stages and a competitive distance of 393.8km. The service park remains in sun-drenched León, around 400km north of Mexico City, with some of the warmest temperatures facing the crews being encountered in this area.

The event will get underway with a Super Special Stage at Mexico City’s Zócalo main square – known for its appearance during the opening scene of the James Bond film Spectre – with more than 200,000 fans expected to attend. Friday’s itinerary see the crews take to the stunning scenery and thin air of the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains, before descending back down to the very depths for the Rally’s famous underground stage through former silver mine tunnels.

The rest of the weekend will see the action return to the León region, featuring new stages at Lajas de Oro on Saturday and La Calera on Sunday. Sunday’s live TV Power Stage at Derramadero will bring the event to a close.

Hyundai Motorsport has brought an action-packed Rally Mexico to a positive conclusion as all three Hyundai i20 WRC cars finished the gruelling 21-stage event, successfully tackling some of the season’s most demanding stages in the process. Dani Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC) battled through the pain barrier on Sunday to secure a satisfying fifth-place finish, scoring valuable Manufacturer points to help Hyundai Motorsport keep its second place in the standings. The Spaniard, who was forced to miss Rally Sweden after sustaining injuries in a pre-event training accident, returned to rally action for one of the season’s physically most demanding events. Alongside co-driver Marc Martí, Sordo put in a heroic performance, claiming a stage win in Saturday’s SS13 (El Brinco) and scoring his best result of the season to date.

Sordo quote: “I have really enjoyed this weekend and being back with the team. I have felt at ease with the car this weekend and the performance was competitive on most of the stages. We were able to set some good times, including a stage win on Saturday, but we also had a few issues to contend with along the way – which is quite normal in this tough rally. Physically, I have felt ok most of the time but I started to feel some pain after the long Guanajuatito stage this morning. To come away from this rally with a top-five result is very good, and great that we have been able to add some important points for the Manufacturers’ Championship. I look forward to building on this for Argentina.”

Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) and Hayden Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC) both made the most of their Saturday morning restart under Rally 2 conditions to complete the event with no further issues. Neuville, who was one of the fastest men on the opening day with two stage wins, fought back superbly from his Friday roll, to claim eighth place overall. He put in a particularly eye-catching performance in Sunday’s monster 55.82km Guanajuatito stage, the longest stage of the rally. He then took a stage win in the SS20 Derramadero stage before finishing third in the final El Brinco stage to take an important Power Stage point.

Neuville commented: “Our objective today was to push to the maximum in the final stages. The long Guanajuatito stage was perfect; we had to manage the brakes but I took the jump flat out at 190kph and we set a good time. We then took a great stage win and third in the Power Stage to finish in eighth overall, so I am happy. The car has been competitive this weekend so it is a shame that the roll we had on Friday prevented us from capitalising on that. Nonetheless, the team has done a good job this weekend so it has been important for us to salvage some points today. Our stage wins on Friday and today, and strong performances in other stages, show what our potential was this weekend. Still, it is good for us to have a three car finish and keep our second place in the Championship considering the demands of this rally.”

Hayden Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC) and co-driver John Kennard have been on the back foot ever since a small off during Friday’s El Chocolate stage forced them to retire and re-join under Rally 2. The Kiwi crew were then first on the road on Saturday, which hampered any progress, but they made a clear step forward on Sunday as they improved their feeling in the car on Mexico’s unique stages.

Paddon said: “It’s been an eventful rally for us but I think there are plenty of positive things for us to take away. The car has been good. Coming into today’s final stages, I watched the on-boards from my team-mates last night and I learned a few valuable things about my driving which I can now take forward to Argentina. The final stage today pretty much summed up the weekend for us after I was caught out under braking early on in the stage, but we have still got lots of mileage this weekend and built up a good bank of experience in these stages, which was the main target, so I’m reasonably happy.”

Hyundai Motorsport continues to hold second place in the Manufacturers’ Championship following a determined and professional performance in Rally Mexico. Four stage wins and a Power Stage point gives the team a lot of encouragement heading to the next event in Rally Argentina, but everyone is aware of the work still required to keep up the pace with the front-runners. Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “All in all, it has been a busy and gruelling rally but the team has worked exceptionally well to cope with the tough conditions we have faced in Mexico. The performance of the Hyundai i20 WRC cars met our expectations for this event, where the high altitude can really affect the car’s behaviour; I am satisfied that our hard work in this area paid off. Dani did a good job in his first rally back from injury and showed a real determination to perform at the highest level. Fifth place is a good result and, with Thierry in eighth, gives us more Manufacturer Points. Thierry set some strong stage times this weekend, and this was perfectly highlighted with third in the Power Stage. The puncture and subsequent roll on Friday stopped him from mounting a podium challenge this weekend. Hayden, too, was unfortunate on Friday and was hurt by an early road position on Saturday. He showed the usual professionalism and fight, making a breakthrough in today’s final stages. We have a lot to be happy with, a lot still to work on but we hope that Rally Argentina will show another improvement in our overall team performance against tough opposition.”

Overall Unofficial Final Classification

1.  S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 4:19:13.4
2.  M. Østberg / J. Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:18.8
3.  A. Mikkelsen / O. Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:25.1
4.  E. Evans / D. Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:40.2
5.  D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai i20 WRC) +5:01.8
6.  M. Prokop / J. Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:36.1
7.  N. Al-Attiyah / M. Baumel (Ford Fiesta RRC) +14:52.7
8.  T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +22:43.3
9.  N. Fuchs / F. Mussano (Ford Fiesta R5) +22:49.0
10. J. Ketomaa / K. Lindstrom (Ford Fiesta R5) +23:10.2

17. H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +54:20.5

2015 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings

S. Ogier 81 points / A. Mikkelsen 47 / T. Neuville 35 / M. Østberg 32 / E. Evans 26 / J.M. Latvala 19 / D. Sordo 18 / M. Prokop 14 / O. Tanak 12 / H. Paddon 10 / K. Meeke 10 / S. Loeb 6 / N. Al-Attyiah 6 / Y. Protasov 2 / N. Fuchs 2 / J. Ketomaa 1

2015 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings

Volkswagen Motorsport 99 points / Hyundai Motorsport 75 / M-Sport World Rally Team 48 / Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 42 / Jipocar Czech National Team 20 / Volkswagen Motorsport II 15 / Hyundai Motorsport N 3 / FWRT SRL 1

Hyundai Motorsport hopes to continue its recent fine run of form as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) moves overseas for the first time this season for Rally Mexico, the third round of the 2015 season.

Mexico brings back happy memories for Hyundai Motorsport, recalling the team’s debut WRC podium just under a year ago, when Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul memorably secured third place thanks to ingenious use of a bottle of Corona! Fast forwarding twelve months, the team heads to this year’s Rally Mexico holding second place in both Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ standings following a fantastic second place finish at a thrilling Rally Sweden earlier this month.

The arduous gravel stages of Mexico offer very unique challenges to WRC teams and drivers with altitudes reaching up to 2,700 metres above sea level and soaring temperatures. The dizzying heights, with thin air and lack of oxygen, punish WRC cars with particularly suffocating effects on engine power. Hyundai Motorsport has prepared the i20 WRCs for the tough conditions and the team will introduce a new engine upgrade for Mexico.

Recognising the work still required to improve its overall competitiveness in the WRC, Hyundai Motorsport carried out a pre-event test in the Extremadura region of Spain last week, with a focus on set-up and endurance, replicating some of the stage characteristics expected in Mexico. All three drivers took part in the test with Neuville testing one full day, the returning Dani Sordo one-and-a-half days and Hayden Paddon for two days.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “Mexico holds special memories for our young team as we celebrated our first ever WRC podium at the event last year. It was a great result for us, in our third event, and a memorable occasion. We got to this year’s rally on the back of a positive weekend in Sweden in which we scored a podium result with Thierry and Nicolas in second place, and a strong three-car finish. We cannot let ourselves be complacent, as we are still a young team and know there is a lot more work to be done. We are pleased to welcome back Dani to the team for Mexico, having been given the all clear after his recent injuries. Dani joined Thierry and Hayden at a pre-event test in Spain last week, in which we prepared for Mexico. The altitude will be one of the key factors in this rally so we have tested these conditions on the engine test bench. We also continued to test our paddle shift, which still needs some fine-tuning, but we are confident this will be ready for Argentina.”

Hyundai Shell World Rally Team driver Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) was one of the stars in Sweden and is currently second in the overall drivers’ classification. He tested for one day in Spain last week, one day fewer than originally planned, but the Belgian is still confident for Mexico, an event he loves.

Neuville commented: “Mexico has been one of my favourite rallies in recent years, and the scene of some great results. I have finished on the podium there in the past two years, including taking my first ever podium in 2013 and the first ever Hyundai WRC podium last year. It is a demanding event with the extreme altitude and high temperatures combining to make it a physically tough rally for us drivers, as well as very hard on the car. We had a day of testing in Spain to prepare for Mexico. The team is pushing hard to develop the Hyundai i20 WRC and there are more improvements coming soon. I will continue to push to the maximum and hope we can celebrate in Mexico like we did last year – with a podium!”

Dani Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC) returns to the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team having missed Rally Sweden through injury. The Spaniard has been given the green light to rally in Mexico, and he reacquainted himself with the #8 car with a day-and-a-half of testing in his home country last week.

Sordo said: “I am really pleased to be rejoining the team for Mexico. It was the right decision to sit out Sweden and to rest fully. The team got a great result at the last event and it was encouraging to see two cars in the top five, but obviously I prefer to be part of the action. I joined the team for a test in Spain last week to get myself ready for Mexico, which is an event I know quite well. I didn’t compete there in 2014 but I finished fourth in 2013, so I hope we can compete near the front. It will be a physically hard rally with some extremely long stages, which can be very satisfying to get right, and very punishing if you make a mistake. It is always a pleasure to have the support of the Spanish speaking fans and I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of the #8 car.”

Hayden Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC) got his 2015 season off to a flying start in Sweden, as he stood in for Sordo in the #8 car and finished fifth overall. Now back in his #20 car with the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team, the New Zealander will take part in his first ever Rally Mexico, continuing his adaptation to WRC life.

Paddon said: “Mexico will be another new event for me, although we did the recce with the team last year so it will have some familiarity. We had a good two day test in Spain last week in order to prepare for Mexico, with layouts similar to some of the stages in Mexico. It was certainly a contrast from the conditions we faced in Sweden. I was pleased to finish fifth in Sweden and to add Manufacturer points for the team, but I know there is more to come. These first events of the year will still require an element of learning for us and I am hoping that I can adapt to the conditions in Mexico as well as I did in Sweden. We want to be fighting near the front but we must acknowledge this is still relatively new territory so we’ll take each stage as it comes.”

Rally Mexico’s itinerary is one of the most jaw-dropping on the calendar with some truly gruelling stages. Drivers will have to tackle the 44km El Chocolate, the 43km Otates and Sunday’s monster 56km Guanajuatito stage. A total of 400 competitive kilometres make up 40% of the overall distance covered, making Mexico one of the most compact events of the year. The rally gets underway with a live street stage in Guanajuato followed by one Super Special. The action gets tougher on Friday around the area of the Léon Service Park and Rally HQ, building up through the weekend to a captivating conclusion – with the longest stage of the weekend and the El Brinco Power Stage.

Hyundai Motorsport Crews’ Info 

Hyundai i20 WRC #7 
Chassis number: 006

   
 

Thierry Neuville

Nicolas Gilsoul

DOB

16 June 1988

5 February 1982

First WRC event

2009, Rally Catalunya

2007, Rallye Monte-Carlo

WRC starts

48

43

WRC podiums

11

11

WRC wins

1

1

Rally Mexico starts

3

3

Rally Mexico previous results

2012: 13th (10th WRC), 2013: 3rd, 2014: 3rd

2012: 13th (10th WRC), 2013: 3rd, 2014: 3rd

Hyundai i20 WRC #8 
Chassis number: 008

   
 

Dani Sordo

Marc Martí

DOB

2 May 1983

1 October 1966

First WRC event

2003, Rallye Catalunya

1992, Rallye Catalunya

WRC starts

117

152

WRC podiums

37

43

WRC wins

1

3

Rally Mexico starts

5

5

Rally Mexico previous results

2006: 4th, 2007: 4th, 2008: 16th, 2010: 14th, 2013: 4th

2004: 3rd, 2006: 4th, 2007: 4th, 2008: 16th, 2010: 14th

Hyundai i20 WRC #20 
Chassis number: 007

   
 

Hayden Paddon

John Kennard

DOB

20 April 1987

11 February 1959

First WRC event

2007, Rally New Zealand

1985, Rally Finland

WRC starts

35

43

WRC podiums

-

-

WRC wins

-

-

Rally Mexico starts

0

0

Rally Mexico previous results

-

-