Hyundai Motorsport has taken its second victory in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) on a thrilling final day in Carlos Paz, Argentina, round four of the 2016 season.
Brian Joss – The Kiwi crew of Hayden Paddon and John Kennard, who were among the quickest crews all weekend, produced a sensational Power Stage performance to eclipse hard-pushing Sébastien Ogier and claim outright victory by 14,3 seconds on Sunday, 24 April.
The result not only marks Paddon’s debut WRC win, but also the maiden victory for Hyundai Motorsport’s New Generation i20 WRC in only its fourth outing. It also continues the team’s most competitive start to a WRC season in its short history, adding a third podium and cementing Hyundai Motorsport’s second place in the Manufacturers’ Championship.
Paddon, in the number 20 New Generation i20 WRC, saw his 29.8 sec lead from Saturday night reduced to just 2.6s after a tough Special Stage 16 (El Condor – Copina) and SS17 (Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare). The foggy conditions in the opening stage forced drivers to take a cautious approach, but, despite the mounting pressure, the Kiwi crew dug deep to produce the stage performance of the weekend in the repeat of El Condor. Maximum points for the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team also sees Paddon move into second place in the Drivers’ Championship.
“I can’t believe it! I really didn’t think we were going to be able to hang on. It all came down to the Power Stage and we pushed really hard. It was particularly special to pull out that performance on El Condor. We’ve worked a lot on that stage because I’ve not been particularly strong on the tight and twisty stages,” said Paddon.
“We drove the wheels off the car. It’s a lot to take in at the moment. It’s a fantastic result for me, John and the whole team. A huge amount of work has gone into the New Generation i20 WRC. I knew from the first test that we could win with it. I just didn’t quite expect it to be so soon. Everyone in the team, at the rallies and at Alzenau, thoroughly deserves this result.”
Sordo, in the number 4 New Generation i20 WRC, and co-driver Marc Martí scored an excellent second place in the Power Stage on Sunday to cement fourth place overall. Scoring points for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team and two Power Stage points for themselves is a great result, especially after throttle problems on Friday hindered their podium push.
Sordo said: “It is a great day for our team with a special win for Hayden and all three of our New Generation i20 WRC cars finishing inside the top-six. We got the maximum out of the car this weekend and can be pleased with our performance. The issues we had with the stuck throttle pedal on Friday lost us around 20 seconds. Without that, I am sure we would have been able to take a podium. The car has improved a lot and this rally will give us more impetus to continue our strong start to 2016 in Portugal.”
The objective for Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul, in the no. 3 New Generation i20 WRC, on Sunday was to continue regaining positions on the classification after their technical difficulties on Friday. The Belgian duo made it safely through the final three stages to complete Rally Argentina in sixth place overall. Neuville commented: “First of all, congratulations to Hayden, John and everyone in the team on a great victory. It is important for all of us to know what the New Generation i20 WRC can achieve – and I think myself and Nicolas also had some promising stages this weekend. The electrical issues we had on Friday meant we were on a mission to regain lost positions yesterday. We started this morning knowing that the top-six was reachable but the conditions in the first stage were very difficult. We took things carefully to make sure we achieved our target and we’ve scored some good points for the Championship. I now look forward to building on this for Rally de Portugal.”
The victory continues Hyundai Motorsport’s impressive start to the 2016 WRC season after podium positions in Monte-Carlo and Sweden, and fourth in Mexico. It is the team’s first win since Rallye Deutschland in 2014.
Team principal Michel Nandan said: “This is a rally weekend that we will never forget! Hayden has put in the performance of his career to take one of the most popular victories we’ve seen in WRC in recent times. His pace and commitment in the Power Stage was impressive; he and John both deserve this win. It’s fantastic for all of us at Hyundai Motorsport. It is our second win in WRC but the first with our New Generation i20 WRC in only its fourth event. We have never had a one-two in the Power Stage before, so that was just the icing on the cake.”
The fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Rally de Portugal, takes place from May 19 to May 22.