Hyundai i20 surpassed all expectations with a debut podium

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Image2011 Australian Rally Champion, Justin Dowel, has described his new Hyundai i20 rally car as “the most exciting and rewarding car” he’s ever driven, after debuting the new machine in Canberra last weekend.

Running in the 4WD section of the two-day National Capital Rally, Dowel and co-driver, Matt Lee, were in a very strong position and about to take the lead in the event going into the final stage, only for two punctured tyres that saw them drop to third place overall.

“I can confidently say that the new Activ Rallysport Hyundai i20 under promised and over delivered,” Dowel said after the event.

“Matt was fantastic and constantly reminded me of the goal for the event, and that was just to finish in its debut and to learn the car.

Image“We went in to the rally with a low key approach to the event, and wanted to focus on developing and evolving the car, especially after the initial test, where we weren’t 100 per cent happy with the geometry of the car and how it was actually handling.

“We didn’t want any big hype or vibe about how good the car was until we actually drove it in competition and proved it in the forest.”

Dowel’s Hyundai i20, which originates from Poland, has a 2-litre turbocharged engine, four-wheel drive and a six-speed sequential PPG gearbox. Although the car is around 100 horsepower shy of an unrestricted Production Rally Car, it makes up for some of that with its shorter and more nimble chassis.

“Our first goal was to get the car competitive with our Evo X unrestricted rally car. We knew if the Hyundai i20 couldn’t match that then we are going to struggle against the rival Maxi cars,” Dowel added.

“When we tested them side by side we knew that the Hyundai wasn’t quite as quick as our Lancer Evo X in most conditions, but we’re now really happy with the car after the changes we’ve made to its set up.

“The car moves around beautifully on the road and is easy to drive.

“Although the Evo X is very fast and subtle, it doesn’t give you that excitement. It gives you the speed, but it doesn’t provide the excitement and the enjoyment that the Hyundai does when you drive well.

“I couldn’t get the grin off my face all weekend, because you can throw the car around everywhere, and it just rewards that type of driving.”

ImageOver the event’s 12 stages, Dowel set the fastest time on five stages, and finished runner-up on another four tests, proving that the car has the speed to compete at the highest level.

“Going into the rally we were going to be happy to finish in the top five, but to get a podium, we’re over the moon,” he said.

“We spent the whole weekend making set-up changes to the car to make it faster and to allow us to push harder in the next event.

“After a great first up rally, I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel again in a month’s time.”

The Activ Rallysport Hyundai i20 will next see competition in next month’s International Rally of Queensland, from June 19 to 21.

- Photos: John Doutch

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