The fastest time on SS11 (Pellafol-Agnières-en-Dévoluy, 21.37km) was set by two Hyundai drivers, Ott Tänak, the 2019 World Champion, and Thierry Neuville, the provisional leader of the 92nd Monte-Carlo Rally. This 1-2 by the Korean brand showed that the 2024 version of the Hyundai i20N has everything it takes to do well against the Toyota Yaris this season.
“It’s an unfamiliar stage, so I didn’t take too many risks. And I couldn’t hear my co-driver’s notes very well, especially in the last section,” explained Neuville, who seems to be, more and more, in control of the rally after a cautious start on Thursday evening. The Belgian, five times runner-up in the World Championship, returned to the Gap service park at midday with a 5.1 second lead over Elfyn Evans and a 7.7 second lead over Sébastien Ogier.
Both Toyota drivers – one of whom, the Welshman, will be aiming for the world title, while the other, the Frenchman, will be content with a few official outings – may well have found someone to talk to, this season. Particularly if the new version of the Hyundai i20N, developed by technical director François-Xavier Demaison, an exceptional engineer from Citroën and then Volkswagen, continues to prove as reliable as it is efficient.
Hyundai on a high
The good performances this week by Neuville, and this morning by Tänak, show that this new Hyundai is healthy and easy to drive, and that it could be the pleasant surprise of the start of the 2024 season, against the ogre Toyota. In the meantime, there are still three stages to go this afternoon (SS12 to 14), the same as this morning, and three more on Sunday morning (SS15 to 17) on the way back to Monaco.
In WRC2, the battle is as fierce as ever. After SS10, Russia’s Nikolay Gryazin (Citroën C3) was leading the way again, ahead of Spain’s Pepe Lopez (Skoda Fabia RS) and Frenchman Yohan Rossel (Citroën C3), the 2021 WRC3 champion. The three drivers are all within 9 seconds of each other, on another planet compared to their rivals. Same as in Rally1.