Hyundai Motorsport aims to resume its competitive form with a three-car entry when the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) returns from a short summer break at Rally Finland this weekend.
The eighth round of the season in Finland will pick up where Rally Poland left off with high speeds requiring precision and commitment from the drivers. Coupled with Finland’s famous jumps, the rally is one of the most highly anticipated of the year for teams, drivers and fans alike.
Hyundai Motorsport returns to a three-car entry in Finland following a strong performance last time out in which all four of the entered Hyundai i20 WRC cars completed the event with two cars securing top-six results.
The team is chasing second place in the Manufacturers’ Championship and will be racing for a good points haul in Finland.
Thierry Neuville, in the no. 7 Hyundai i20 WRC, and Dani Sordo (no. 8 Hyundai i20 WRC) will again represent the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team, while Hayden Paddon, in the no. 20 Hyundai i20 WRC, will be the sole entrant for the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team in Finland.
Rally Finland is flat out from start to finish in an event where 20 stages on smooth gravel roads await the drivers alongside picturesque forests and lakes. Like Poland earlier this month, the fast nature of the rally will require pinpoint accuracy from the navigators in their pace notes.
Michel Nandan, team principal of the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team, said: “Rally Finland is another fast rally with a lot of surprises and some very technical stages. There are some similarities between Rally Poland and Finland – both are contested at high speed. The only difference is that we will have more jumps in Finland, which makes a much stronger impression upon the drivers and the spectators.
“We had a good run in Poland but there were some real positives to our performance level. Hayden will be confident in his driving after his recent successes, as well as Thierry. Dani hopes to return to form after some difficulties. Poland was our first ever rally with four cars and, with all of them finishing, we are confident for Finland.”
Neuville has found a good rhythm in recent rallies with a third place in Sardinia, followed by a battling top-six result in Poland. Alongside co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul, the Belgian will be aiming for more points in Finland.
Neuville commented: “There are so many things that make Finland a special event for me. I would say, first of all, because it’s so fast! The average speed is one of the highest in all the rallies of the year. It is also one of the most enjoyable events because there are so many jumps. The car seems to spend as much time in the air as it does on the ground. It is definitely one of the highlights of the season for me.”
Spanish crew Sordo and co-driver Marc Marti have shown competitive pace in recent rallies but have been hampered by misfortunate – something they hope will change next weekend.
Sordo said: “Finland is a great event and it’s incredibly fast. You need to have a lot of confidence in your pace notes because you have a lot of hidden crests through the corners and you must hit them all at the right speed. I hope our luck changes and we can get back to scoring some good results.”
Paddon, one of the standout performers in the last two WRC rounds, is very familiar with the Finnish terrain, while for his compatriot co-driver John Kennard it will be something of a home event. Rally Finland will also be Kennard’s 50th WRC start and it will mark the 30th anniversary of his co-driving career which began at this event back in 1985.
Paddon said: “Rally Finland is one of my favourite events of the year. It is quite a lot like New Zealand in places – there are lots of very fast sections and a lot of jumps, while the atmosphere is second to none. It’s also probably the event for which we have the most experience. This will be my sixth time driving at Rally Finland and I’ve had some good results in the past. Finland is an important event for my co-driver John – he did his first WRC rally there before I was even born! Now, he lives there with his wife so it’s a special place.”
The hub of Rally Finland will this year be the university town of Jyva?skyla?, with Paviljonki hosting the service park. The route will remain largely unchanged since its 2014 iteration but a new Harju street stage will get things started on Thursday evening.
Friday will feature almost half of the rally’s competitive distance – no lunchtime service means that there will be no room for error. It will also see the return of the 34-km-long Ouninpohja stage, widely regarded as the ultimate test of bravery and commitment. Saturday’s schedule takes in classic Finnish tests such as Mökkipera? and Jukoja?rvi stages, while the Sunday leg will feature two 14,4 km passes over the fast and demanding roads of Myhinpa?a?, the final run of which will be the Power Stage.