- Hyundai Motorsport will begin its third season in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) next week with a three-car entry into Rallye Monte-Carlo
- The season opener will mark the first official appearance of the New Generation i20 WRC car, which was unveiled formally at the team’s Alzenau factory just last month
- Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo will put the New Generation i20 WRC through its paces while Hayden Paddon will drive the older model Hyundai i20 WRC in his first ever Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Hyundai Motorsport will debut its New Generation i20 WRC for the first time in competitive rally conditions at the 2016 season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo, which takes place next week.
The debut event in this season’s 14-round FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) will see Hyundai Motorsport field three cars - for the first time in Monte-Carlo - as the team looks to build on a successful 2015 campaign, in which it challenged for second place in the Manufacturers’ Championship.
For the first rally of 2016, the team will field two New Generation i20 WRCs, which will be driven by the Belgian pairing of Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul and the Spanish duo of Dani Sordo/Marc Martí, rallying under the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team name.
The Kiwi crew of Hayden Paddon/John Kennard will drive a 2015-specification i20 WRC for the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team as they tackle Monte-Carlo’s stages for the first time, before taking the wheel of a third New Generation i20 WRC car at Rally Sweden and beyond.
The New Generation i20 WRC accumulated over 8,000km of testing in its development phase but the unforgiving stages of Rallye Monte-Carlo will offer the new car its sternest test yet. WRC’s oldest event, Rallye Monte-Carlo was first run over 100 years ago, in 1911.
Stages incorporate iconic scenery within the Hautes Alpes and Isère regions, as well as the breathtaking Col de Turini. Changes for the 2016 event include a new stage on each of the three days of rallying and Thursday’s 20.23km Barles-Seyne stage run in reverse direction.
Changeable mountain weather conditions require crews to anticipate rapid changes between snow, ice and dry asphalt, often within a single stage. This feature of the rally makes tyre choice and pace note maintenance vital in maximising performance throughout the event. Cars will be fitted with asphalt suspensions and may employ unusual combinations of studded and dry weather tyres due to these complex weather patterns.
Hyundai Motorsport has carried out tests on all terrains and weather conditions with the New Generation i20 WRC in order to best prepare for the car’s debut rally. The team will also draw on two full seasons of competition and its previous attempts at Rallye Monte-Carlo to improve on last year’s top-six results.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We are looking forward to the start of the 2016 WRC season, our third in this fantastic Championship. Rallye Monte-Carlo will be another important milestone for our team as we run our New Generation i20 WRC for the first time in rally conditions. The car has undergone an intensive development phase over the past year but Monte-Carlo will be the first opportunity we have to see how it compares to our rivals. For that reason, we will wait to see what happens in the opening stages before we set ourselves a specific target for this rally. We are pleased to have Thierry, Dani and Hayden with us - the first time we have fielded three cars at Monte! Thierry and Dani will give the New Generation i20 WRC its rally debut, while Hayden, in his first ever Monte Carlo, will use an older spec Hyundai i20 WRC. Rallye Monte-Carlo is a unique event with tricky, changeable conditions, so we have to be well prepared and ready to react. We had a decent result last year with two cars in the top-six. Our aim is to do better than that this year and to get our 2016 season off to the best start possible.”
Neuville (#3 New Generation i20 WRC) claimed two top-three stage times in last year’s Rallye Monte-Carlo on the way to taking fifth position overall. The Belgian is refreshed as he comes into his third season with Hyundai Motorsport and is ready to do battle on Monte’s demanding stages
Neuville commented: “Rallye Monte-Carlo is an exciting event and a pleasure to compete in, though it is not always kind to drivers. We have spent the winter break busily testing the New Generation i20 WRC and we are very happy with how it has been performing. The car is a definite improvement in all areas and it certainly looks fit for the World Rally stages! I am looking forward to its competitive debut although we will have to wait a few stages before we can really appreciate where we stand against our seasoned rivals. Together with my refreshed approach to rallying this year, I hope we can put in a good performance over the four days. We will use all of our experience to fight for the podium and establish our intent for the season.”
At the start of his third season as a Hyundai Motorsport driver, Sordo (#4 New Generation i20 WRC) returns to Monte-Carlo for the eighth time and is keen to improve upon last year’s sixth place result.
Sordo said: “I cannot wait to get started at Monte-Carlo, the first rally of a new season and the debut of our New Generation i20 WRC. It’s a challenging event to start the year, and it will not be easy that’s for sure. It’s a unique event and always unpredictable, which is what makes it so special. As an event, it is the best way to start the New Year because we have to be on top of our game at all times. The new car has been great to drive in testing so I’m looking forward to seeing how it handles on Monte’s legendary stages. I finished sixth last year so I am aiming to improve on that but we know anything can happen in Monte-Carlo!”
Paddon (#10 Hyundai i20 WRC) starts his first complete season in WRC with his personal debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo. The Kiwi has shown a great aptitude in learning new events and stages, and will have the proven performance of the old specification i20 WRC to help him get acquainted.
Paddon said: “I have obviously seen and heard a lot about Rallye Monte-Carlo and so I am pleased to finally be rallying there. We will be using the old car for our Monte debut, which I think will be helpful for us to learn the stages. It is one of the most challenging events on the calendar, so the old car will help us adapt to the conditions. It’s is a rally of compromise with tyre selection one of the most critical aspects of each stage. You could be starting in the valley on dry tarmac, but climb over 1,000m to the Col where it is full ice and snow. It’s in these circumstances where you have to make your strategy call. It’s almost like a game of chess, which will be enjoyable. I’m thrilled to be part of the Hyundai Motorsport line-up for 2016 and I’m very excited to see what, together, we can achieve as a team this season.”
The 84th edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo will cover over 377km over 16 stages, kicking off with Thursday evening’s ceremonial start at Monaco’s Casino Square. This will be followed instantly by two night stages near Digne-les-Bains as drivers head towards Gap, the Service Park location. On Friday, drivers will enter the Hautes Alpes and Isère regions with the Corps - La Salle en Beaumont (14.65km), Aspres les Corps - Chauffayer (25.78km) and Les Costes - Chaillol (17.82km) stages run twice.
Saturday features two passes of the formidable Lardier et Valenca - Faye stage (51.55km), as well as the classic Sisteron - Thoard (36.60km) stretch as drivers return to Monaco for the last day of rallying. The Sunday itinerary will see the rally’s final three stages with La Bollene Vesubie - Peira Cava (21.36km)’s famous summit finish attracting huge audiences and Col de l’Orme - St Laurent (12.07km) run twice, once as the rally-concluding Power Stage.