HYUNDAI MOTORSPORT i20 COUPE WRC
Hayden Paddon/john Kennard: withdrawn Thierry Neuville/nicolas Gilsoul:15th Dani Sordo/marc Marti:4th Monte fastest times:7 (Neuville 6, Sordo 1)
The ace in the pack from round one. The key here is not to be distracted by Sordo. The Spaniard was first on the scene of team-mate Hayden Paddon’s horrible shunt in SS1 and that would undoubtedly have played on the Spaniard’s mind. Sordo is also far from comfortable in changeable conditions – he’s a confidence and comfort driver of the same sort as Didier Auriol.
Instead, focus on Neuville’s speed. The Belgian really was the class of the field. He and the team deserved that win and would have had it if Neuville had been one or two mph slower through one left-hander.
Hyundai’s i20 Coupe WRC is the car with the most carry-over of all the 2017 cars, and we saw last season just how competent the Koreans had become at creating World Rally Cars. One of the primary issues from 2016 was a lack of grip and consistency from the rear, and the Alzenau-based squad looks to have nailed that this time. Sweden and the rest of the season provide a very different prospect from the snow, ice and racy tar of round one, but what does Neuville think: can they win from round two onwards? “Yes, of course…”
Who are we to argue? Hyundai was the pre-season favourite for the manufacturers’ title and that doesn’t change. Paddon taking a rally or two to return to his usual speed would be entirely understandable.