Sep 05, 2020
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) has roared back into action on the fast and furious gravel roads of Rally Estonia, round four of a revised 2020 season calendar
Hyundai Motorsport has returned to FIA World Rally Championship action in style as the team flies high in Rally Estonia – round four of the revised 2020 calendar – with a 1-2 at the end of Saturday’s itinerary.
A repeated loop of five stages was held on the fast gravel roads giving crews their first full day of WRC competition since Rally Mexico back in March. A short run through Tartu on Friday evening offered a small taste of Rally Estonia but today’s schedule covered a mighty 146km of tough, challenging and fast routes which heralded a spectacular re-start for the championship after its enforced six-month break.
The day began with the event’s longest individual stage, Prangli (20.23km) and the slightly shorter but no less demanding Kanepi (16.89km). The loop was completed by Otepää (9.6km), Mäeküla (14.76km) and Elva (11.72km). All three Hyundai Motorsport crews registered stage wins on Saturday – six in total – as the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC demonstrated raw pace and encouraging potential.
Estonian crew Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja were quick to stamp their authority on home ground, securing three stage wins (SS3/SS4 and SS8) and building an 11.7-second advantage over their team-mates Craig Breen and Paul Nagle, who turned heads in second place at the end of the opening day.
The Irish crew also picked up two stage wins (SS9/SS10) on their return to the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, as well as three second-fastest times, to put themselves firmly in podium contention. Sadly, having been part of an impressive Hyundai 1-2-3 in the overall standings at lunchtime service, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul were forced to retire following the opening stage of the afternoon loop (SS7 – Prangli), having sustained rear suspension damage after being sent offline in the rutted conditions. The pair will resume on Sunday in a bid to secure Power Stage points.
Crew Notes: Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (#8 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Tänak said: “We have definitely returned to WRC action properly today, and it’s very special to be competing on our home roads. It has been a challenging and demanding day with a lot of new stages – high-speed and rough – with some surprises in places. I feel like I’ve done a whole rally already! We have had to be sensible and drive with caution to get through the day, especially in the middle of this afternoon’s loop where conditions were quite rough. But I also pushed at times to build a gap at the front. The car has been performing well and the feeling has definitely been there, but we can’t risk anything.”
Crew Notes: Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (#42 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Breen said: “I am really happy to be in the fight here in Estonia. I find it hard to express just how much I have been enjoying driving the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on these stages. It’s been amazing. We felt it was important to get through the morning loop in a good position, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly everything came together from the opening kilometres. We got really into the groove in the afternoon, taking two stage wins which was an incredible feeling. The car was doing everything I asked of it; it was absolutely joyous to drive and what we strive for – perfection! When I see the work that has been done by the team in recent weeks and months, this is really a reward for all their efforts. We have to keep this rhythm tomorrow – a podium would be very, very nice indeed!”
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (#11 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Neuville said: “A tough and challenging day, which unfortunately ended early for us, as we were kicked off the line in very fast and quite rutted left-hander in SS7. I tried to recover the car but unfortunately there was something on the outside that broke the lower rear suspension arm and the wheel. It was not possible to fix the car, so we had no choice but to retire. We were finding our rhythm in the morning and the times were coming. We had a stage win in SS6 and a Hyundai 1-2-3 overall at the end of the first loop. We have to keep our heads high; there are some good events still to come and we are capable of taking important points, starting with the Power Stage tomorrow. We have seen that our car has improved a lot, which is very positive. The team has done an incredible job, it’s just unfortunate we missed our chance this weekend. It’s not over until it’s over, so we will keep pushing.”
Team Principal Andrea Adamo: “So far, it appears that the hard work that we have put in during recent months is paying off. We have seen good performances from all three of our crews today. Sadly, for Thierry, he will have to re-start tomorrow but that is part of rallying; he was third at the moment of his retirement, which also shows the improvement of the car. Ott and Craig have both had an amazing day, managing everything well. We have seen it was tricky for everybody out there, so we can be happy to be where we are this evening. Tomorrow will be just as difficult, so we must keep focused and keep pushing.”
Sunday at a glance
Classification after Day One
|1||O. Tänak||M. Järveoja||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||1:15:08.4|
|2||C. Breen||P. Nagle||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+11.7|
|3||S. Ogier||J. Ingrassia||Toyota Yaris WRC||+28.7|
|3||K. Rovanperä||J. Halttunen||Toyota Yaris WRC||+34.9|
|5||E. Evans||S. Martin||Toyota Yaris WRC||+36.8|
|6||T. Katsuta||D. Barritt||Toyota Yaris WRC||+1:01.9|
|7||E. Lappi||J. Ferm||Ford Fiesta WRC||+1:41.7|
|8||T. Suninen||J. Lehtinen||Ford Fiesta WRC||+1:50.9|
|9||P.L. Loubet||V. Landais||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+2:15.2|
|10||G. Greensmith||E. Edmondson||Ford Fiesta WRC||+3:03.1|
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