Hyundai deputy team director Julien Moncet is “not sure we will ever be able to find out” what caused Dani Sordo’s fire on the first full day of Rally Japan.
Sordo’s i20 N Rally1 was completely destroyed when it caught fire towards the end of Friday’s first stage, Isegami’s Tunnel.
At the scene, Sordo told DirtFish he had been smelling fuel inside his car from as early as Thursday, but the problem was just getting worse until the point it became uncontrollable.
Sordo initially thought it was just a fire at the rear that he could successfully repel, but soon discovered that the battery had caught alight and that meant the car was unsavable.
Moncet said he “was almost crying” when he saw pictures of the Hyundai going up in flames, but was relieved that both Sordo and co-driver Cándido Carrera escaped the car in time, avoiding any injury.
“We still don’t know exactly what happened, not sure we will ever be able to find out because there is nothing left from the car,” Moncet told DirtFish.
“When he mentioned [that he had] some issues we had a look, we checked everything and all the cars are the same.
“Nothing has changed on all these parts of the car compared to Monte Carlo so it’s very difficult, we don’t have data anymore everything has melted down.
“For sure we will have a lot of hypotheses, which one will be the right one I think we will never know.”
One theory that has been ruled out however is a similar exhaust issue to what Oliver Solberg experienced on the Monte Carlo Rally.
For the duration of the rally, Solberg was forced to compete with toxic fumes infiltrating his cockpit – a situation that became so bad he and co-driver Elliott Edmondson had to retire to protect their health.
“No I think it was different,” Sordo told DirtFish, “because I did the run out of the cars for Monte Carlo for Solberg and all and I know what smoke it was for Oliver.
“For Oliver it was the exhaust, but there it was really like fuel, so it was some fuel or something and at one point it broke and they take some hot part in the car and poof.”
As a precaution, Hyundai’s team of mechanics checked over the fuel system and the exhaust on both Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak’s cars in service to make sure there was no fault. Both drivers remain in the rally, second and fourth overall respectively.
That’s undoubtedly a positive, and Moncet was willing to find more from within the expensive loss of Sordo’s car.
“I cannot tell you the price of course, you know how I am, I don’t give you the answers you are looking for sometimes, but we have lost quite some money this morning definitely,” Moncet said.
“But the most important is both Dani and Cándido they are fine, and if I want to find any positives it was anyway the last rally of the year so this was the last time we were planning to use this car.
“So a lot of money lost but everyone is fine and this is the most important.”