From Hyundai Press [ 23/09/2002 ].
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Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team crew Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets made good use of the final day of Rallye Sanremo to make further improvements to the dramatic performance of their Accent WRC³ after the team’s most competitive run yet on tarmac. Continuing the work that the pair had carried out in pre-event testing, they sought to fine-tune engine and suspension improvements that had promised a tremendous result but was frustratingly ended after a small error on leg two of the event prevented a competitive final result in the rally.
Although the Belgian pair were not seeking to try to recover their previous eighth position on leg three, they still managed to challenge the times of their Ford, Mitsubishi and Skoda competitors as they had been doing easily before their accident on leg two. But as Sanremo was the final asphalt event of the year, they focused on taking advantage of the available day to work on further development.
“When you make a mistake that spoils the whole rally you have to feel a little sad and I know that I lost important points for the team as well as any chance in driver points,” said a philosophical Loix.
“But looking at the whole event, the biggest frustration for me is still the fact that we lost all of the shakedown. It handicapped me from the beginning and didn’t allow me to make the most of the improvements that we had made to the car. I wasted too much time on the first day trying to get the set-up of the car back so I could only really show what the car could do on the second day. It’s clear that we have a competitive package that allows us to challenge the Fords and Subarus,” he added positively.
Freddy’s team-mate Armin Schwarz and co-driver Manfred Hiemer saw an unfortunate end come to their rally when they also damaged a wheel and suspension on road-side crash barriers. Confident that the accident was not as a result of a lingering weakness from his Rallye Deutschland accident, Schwarz was also regretful of the mistake made in a situation not dissimilar to that of team-mate Loix.
Graham Moore, Chief Engineer, felt a host of positive results will be taken from Sanremo, following the vastly improved performance of the Accent WRC³ on the Italian asphalt. “We had a really good test with a lot of good work before this rally. There was no single area where we made vast improvements but we made a raft of changes and modifications that have really made a difference,” said Graham.
Pointing to the car’s improved speed he said, “We did a lot of work on mapping and introduced an active rear differential. Tyre work went well and we ended up with a really good dry set-up. But to run consistently well on a proper tarmac event like this and to set a string of top ten stage times is heartening.”
Looking ahead to the next event, Freddy added, “Now I have to think about New Zealand where the slight difference in engine power to the Peugeots will not be as important – that is a prospect I can be excited about. I have to make up for my mistake both to the team and myself,” he promised.
News from our Rivals
The final leg of the rally saw no leading retirements and no change at the top of the leaderboard – Gilles Panizzi (Peugeot) and team-mate Marcus Gronholm drove to finish with maximum manufacturer points and Petter Solberg continued his charge to keep hold of third place that he snatched from Richard Burns (Peugeot) on the final stage of leg two, giving the Norwegian his first podium finish on asphalt. Markko Martin took Ford honours in fifth after Carlos Sainz retired and Colin McRae’s string of problems prevented him being part of he action at the head of the field.
The twelfth round of the FIA World Rally Championship leaves its European home and heads to the other side of the world for a return to gravel and the first of two consecutive longhaul events, Rally New Zealand, running from 4-6 October.