There are two ways to look at Dani Sordo’s current form in the World Rally Championship.
One is that he’s still executing the perfect team role for Hyundai, avoiding major driving errors to safeguard points for its manufacturers’ championship charge.
The other is that since moving from the i20 Coupe WRC to the i20 N Rally1, Sordo is no longer as fast. His best finish from two events this season for example is a fairly forgettable fifth.
Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul told DirtFish “we need to have a look at the situation”.
“Dani is a fantastic team member, and we know that we can count on him in that particular situation,” he said.
“But we need to see if we can also expect a bit more from a pace perspective.”
Is Hyundai therefore getting what it needs from Sordo? And if not, what should be done about it?
Our writers have examined the situation and delivered their verdict:
Paddon should be considered
This is a stupid multi-voice feature. It’s stupid because it’s forcing folk to make a decision nobody’s really ready to make. Dani Sordo is one of the nicest and most decent people I’ve known in my time in the championship.
I’ve known him since he arrived in a Mitsubishi Lancer. I watched him develop alongside Kris Meeke in Citroën’s C2 S1600-based junior team. He didn’t quite have the same raw speed as the Northern Irishman, but neither did he have the same penchant for panels.
Not much would change in the next 15 years or so. That’s not to say Sordo hasn’t demonstrated that killer instinct for speed – he certainly has in places like Germany, Spain and even the likes of Argentina and México. He deserves more than the three wins that stand alongside his name.
But does he deserve a place at the WRC’s top table? The honest answer I’m leaning towards is no.
But if we drop Dani, do we immediately promote Craig Breen to a full-time seat? Not on the evidence of last year. And not if Hyundai wants to continue its strategic approach to working the running order on the road.
So if Sordo goes, who comes in? Andreas Mikkelsen’s the obvious one, but I’m going to New Zealand for Hayden Paddon instead.
Paddon was dealt with pretty appallingly in 2019 (when he was dropped for Sébastien Loeb) and his treatment in the years before that wasn’t much better. This would be the perfect time for Alzenau to make amends and show how much it can value a driver of Paddon’s potential.
But getting rid of Sordo. Really? That’s like saying goodbye to the family labrador. Maybe just one more Spain. Oh…
Sordo’s only a problem if Hyundai’s strategy has changed
In many respects, Dani Sordo’s results in the last year or so have flattered to deceive.
Remember that scorching run of five consecutive third place finishes? They gave the impression that the Spaniard was performing better than ever, but on how many of those events was Sordo genuinely eye-catchingly fast?
Portugal, perhaps, when he ripped a podium away from Takamoto Katsuta right at the death. Spain the previous year in the i20 Coupe WRC too, where a string of fastest stage times allowed him to repel Sébastien Ogier’s Toyota on the final day.
But mostly, Sordo got his podiums by keeping his nose clean and bringing his Hyundai to the finish.
What’s changed this year? Nothing so far as I can tell, other than slices of misfortune and the rapid pace of those around him restricting Sordo’s ability to climb higher.
Sordo has never been employed by Hyundai to win stages and rallies, he’s there simply as an insurance policy and a stable hand capable of continually banking manufacturers points for the team. And that’s exactly what he did in México. Yes his drive was unspectacular, but that’s exactly what it needed to be after Esapekka Lappi crashed and ensured Sordo would be relied upon to score points.
Of Hyundai’s two part-time options, Breen looks the more capable of bringing home a headline result. But is that what Hyundai needs from its third driver? It has Thierry Neuville and potentially Lappi to do that.
Sordo certainly doesn’t look as comfortable (or, by extension, as fast) in the Rally1 car as he did in the old WRC, which is undeniably sad to see. But whether that’s a problem or not depends on what Hyundai is looking for.
It certainly never used to be an issue, but then again Sordo was never an Abiteboul hire.
Breen’s changed the goal posts
I have to agree somewhat with my colleague Luke Barry on this. Sordo’s results have flattered to deceive.
But we should not forget that Sordo is still mightily competitive.
He might not have the outright pace of Rovanperä, Tänak or Neuville but that’s really not what he’s there for. He’s a dependable points scorer and last year he played the role well, finishing on the podium on three of the five rallies he contested.
Something has changed this year, but I don’t think it’s Sordo. I think it’s the fact Hyundai has Breen in its armory once again, and in Sweden he made a real and lasting impact, proving he can score points and more. And that’s likely what has caused Hyundai to sit up and think about what it should do.
Should it retain the services of a dependable and loyal servant even though he’s reaching the twilight years of his career? Or should it look to make more use of a driver that’s six years his junior and proving he could have rally-winning potential?
If I was in Abiteboul’s position, I’d probably sit on the fence a while longer. Breen needs to prove that Sweden is not a one-off yet. But if he does prove to have the consistency, I think Sordo’s time will be coming to an end very soon.
But if that is to be the case, I just hope Sordo gets given the send off he truly deserves.