For the second rally in a row Hyundai went from dominating event to salvaging a podium as Toyota capitalised on the Korean marque’s misfortune to score a one-two in Sardinia.
Hyundai once again showed the impressive speed of i20 winning the first nine stages of the rally, as Tanak opened up a commanding 40s lead over team-mate Dani Sordo.
However, in a similar situation to Rally Portugal, Tanak was forced out of the rally, surrendering a lead, with left rear suspension failure, this time caused by hitting a rock on Stage 12 on Saturday.
Worse was to follow for Hyundai as Sordo clipped a culvert on Stage 15 which rolled his car while ripping a rear wheel from the i20 Coupe. The incident was a rare driver error from the two-time Sardinia winner.
Neuville was the only Hyundai WRC entry to survive the brutal event, finishing third of only four WRC cars that completed the distance. Having also experienced surrendering lead in Portugal two weeks ago through damaged suspension after an error, he admits the i20 is more fragile in rougher conditions compared to the Toyota.
However, he believes the rock Tanak hit in Sardinia would have caused terminal damage to any of the WRC field.
“After looking back at what happened on Saturday, if you see the size of the stone he hit I don’t think that any of those cars would have resisted,” said Neuville when asked by Autosport if he was concerned by the fragility of the Hyundai cars and if reliability could be improved.
“It is true that we maybe struggle a bit more than the Toyota in the rougher sections as we have seen in the past rallies and also last year here in Sardinia and other rallies.
“Maybe it is something to work on, but I think the focus is more on the new car now and we know what we have to solve to be stronger for next year with the new car.”
After witnessing two shots at victory evaporate, Tanak agrees that the i20’s reliability does need improving and is confident the team can make progress.
Podium: Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport
The Estonian is fourth in the championship standings after salvaging four points from Sardinia, following a second fastest time on the final Power Stage. However, he is a sizeable 57 points adrift of championship leader Ogier.
“For sure, the Hyundai team have done a great job to get me on this level in this car. The car is really fast now, so there is nothing stopping us, just the small things,” said Tanak.
“It’s a fast car, and we just need to make it reliable. I am sure we can do it.”
While devastated by the turn of events in Sardinia, Hyundai boss Andrea Adamo is determined his team can make up the lost ground in the title race.
“We are not happy with the result, but we know that if we go ahead as we are, working together, we can catch up,” said Adamo.
“We aren’t scared, we will work hard as we always have done.”