Fresh from scoring its maiden podium last month at Rally Mexico, the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team is gearing up for the fourth round of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship calendar, Rally de Portugal, which takes place this weekend.
As the championship returns to Europe following a detour to Central America, Hyundai Motorsport will now run three Hyundai i20 WRC cars for the first time in a WRC event with the aim of accelerating its steep learning curve in the series.
Thierry Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul, who secured the podium spot in Mexico, will lead the three-car squad with the Hyundai i20 WRC #7, while Finnish duo Juho Hänninen and Tomi Tuominen will return to the wheel of the #8 car for the first time since Rally Sweden. Both crews will be eligible to score points for the Hyundai Motorsport entry.
They will be joined by Spaniard Dani Sordo and his co-driver Marc Martí who will be entered under the recently announced ‘Hyundai Motorsport N’ team, driving the Hyundai i20 WRC #20. The team will also participate with Sordo in the Fafe Rally Sprint this weekend, the spectacular appetiser to the rally, held in the Fafe-Lameirinha stage near Porto.
Based in the Algarve region in the south of the country, Rally de Portugal is considered the first traditional loose surface event of the season with its abrasive stages which combine fast and wide roads with more twisty, narrower sections and a frequent change of grip.
These conditions require accurate preparation to approach the event in the best possible shape. In order to achieve this, Neuville, Hänninen, Sordo and the team took part in two separate pre-event test sessions in the region.
Despite the significant boost in confidence to the entire team following the Mexican podium, the objectives for Rally Portugal remain the same as the previous three WRC events: to continue development of the Hyundai i20 WRC and to acquire more experience in the competitive WRC environment.
After three rounds (Monte Carlo, Sweden, Mexico), VW’s Sebastien Ogier leads the drivers’ standings ahead of teammate Jari-Matti Latvala. In the teams’ chart, defending champs VW lead Citroen 115 to 60.