Hyundai heads back to gravel in Rally de Portugal with podium finish in sight

Following a strong showing from Hyundai Motorsport in Croatia, the team is heading to Rally de Portugal for the fifth round of the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) from 9 to 12 May, with another podium finish in its sights.The 2024 season remains very close, with Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe leading the drivers’ and co-drivers’ standings with a small margin of six points. After a nail-biting weekend in Croatia, where the Belgians led for the majority of the event before finishing third overall, the crew would like to get back to winning ways at a rally where Neuville was victorious in 2018.The 2019 winners, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja, have enjoyed solid performances so far this season as they have built confidence in the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid. The Estonians departed Croatia as the second-highest scoring crew and hope to capitalise on this momentum on their return to gravel, as they seek to make gains in the championship standings.Portugal also marks the return of Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crew Dani Sordo and Cándido Carrera. The Spaniards have claimed two back-to-back podiums in Portugal, with Sordo boasting seven top-three finishes at the event. The gravel specialists will be focused on improving the team’s position in the manufacturers’ standings, where the gap to first is just seven points.The ever-evolving gravel and sizeable jumps of Portugal present unpredictable challenges for crews. With the profile changing on each pass, deep ruts can become rally-ending risks if not navigated precisely. Rain is one of the biggest threats to a clean weekend at the Matosinhos-based rally: adding water to the extremely dusty surface creates a muddy threat for the Rally1 cars. The fan favourite Fafe stage (11,18 km) returns once again on the final day of the weekend, with the iconic jump posing a unique test to close the rally.Hyundai Motorsport president and team principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “We enter the fifth round of the season with a lot of positive momentum. Despite Croatia not going exactly as planned, we can still gather plenty of positives from across the weekend – including a podium finish. We are happy to welcome Dani and Cándido back and we know how well they perform in Portugal. Having them in the car means we have plenty to anticipate this weekend. “Thierry and Martijn would like to extend their lead in the championship, so they will be going for a clean drive and maximum points. In Ott and Martin, we know they are looking forward to getting back to gravel and they can push the car here to score as many points as possible.”Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn WydaegheNeuville said: “Success in Portugal comes down to the same factors as always. We need consistency, a good setup and confidence in the car. Road conditions and position will also make a huge difference to how we perform: whenever it rains, we will be fast, when it’s dry, we will struggle more because everyone knows the stages well.“I was happy with the car in the pre-event test, and we focussed on a setup that would bring me the necessary confidence to push in very slippery conditions. This more precise car is needed for all the corner combinations, but I still need some of the traction we focussed on in Kenya. My goals are to optimise our performance on Friday and Saturday before pushing on Sunday for maximum points, I would love to finish on the top step of the podium.”Crew Notes: Ott Tänak/Martin JärveojaTänak said: “After Croatia, it’s great to go back to a rougher surface. Portugal is really enjoyable – it’s an event I am looking forward to. It’s a fast rally with high speeds and usually smooth on the first run and very rough on the second. During this part of the season it starts to get warmer, and Portugal is one of the first rallies where it can get quite challenging for the car and the tyres. The contrast from the first to the second loop is noticeable because of how the soft roads can become so rutted.”Crew Notes: Dani Sordo/Cándido CarreraSordo said: “I’m really excited to be back in the car, especially in Portugal. It’s always a special rally for everyone – both drivers and spectators. It is a unique challenge for the car because of the temperatures and profile of the stages, so getting the right setup is key to doing well in Portugal. We worked a lot on the pre-event test to try and perfect this so we can push hard next weekend. It will be interesting with a lot of the part-time field being so competitive this season, and with road position being another important factor in going well on this kind of gravel, there will be a huge push across a cleaner line at the back of the order. The ultimate goal in my mind is to win, but I am hoping to claim as many points as possible from the weekend for the team.”Weekend at a glanceRally de Portugal begins on Thursday morning with Shakedown, followed by SS1 Figueira da Foz (2,94 km) in the evening. Friday’s challenges are presented in eight stages across 126,90 km.Saturday is the longest day of the weekend in terms of distance, with nine stages covering 145,02 km. The weekend’s tests end on Sunday with four final stages, including the Power Stage of Fafe 2 (11,18 km).
LogoDeon  Sonnekus
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