Formula One, the BTCC and even the World Rally Championship is now over until next season, so for our regular Motorsport Monday slot, we thought we’d focus on Hyundai’s preparations for competition in the latter next year with its Hyundai i20 WRC.
The Korean team has announced WRC ace Thierry Neuville will lead the team in 2014. The young WRC ace is a real rising star, having recorded some stunning results in the 2013 WRC season.
Neuville finished seconds in this year’s World Rally Championship, with notable results including four seconds places and three third place results.
At just 25 Neuville is THE up and coming driver in rallying – in the hot seat of the Hyundai i20 WRC next year, the Belgian driver will no doubt score some impressive finishes, even in the car’s debut year.
Neuville will bring his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul with him, so the familiar pairing will once again be thrashing the car over ice and snow, gravel, Tarmac and mud.
In 2012 Neuville finished seventh in the championship – still an impressive result in his rookie year. But his 2013 results have proved his amazing pace and clear ability to learn at an incredible rate, as Hyundai Motosport team principal Michel Nandan explains:
“I am thrilled to announce Thierry Neuville as the lead driver to our new WRC team. Thierry has had a fantastic 2013 season and is proving himself to be one of the most exciting young drivers in WRC. His raw speed, driving skill and dynamic approach to rallying make him the ideal lead driver for Hyundai.”
The brilliant Belgian echoes Nandan’s thoughts on next year:
“Hyundai Motorsport is the perfect fit for me because it is a young, emerging and ambitious manufacturer team with long-term objectives for championship success and I have long held aspirations of driving for a manufacturer team.
“I was impressed with the team’s facility, their approach to the rally programme and their clear potential. I hope my two years of experience in WRC will be beneficial to the team as we build a harmonious working partnership. We know we have a steep learning curve ahead of us in our first season but I am convinced we will have a successful future together.”
Alongside Neuville in the sister car will be Finnish driver Juho Hanninen. The 32-year-old driver should be quick straight from the off, too, having completed around 3,500km testing the Hyundai i20 WRC already this year.
Hanninen has put the hard groundwork in, testing in all manner of condition from freezing cold forests to baking hot deserts, to get the i20 WRC to a competitive level and ensure Hyundai continue to develop new and innovative solutions to go faster in rallying.
Hanninen will be joined by long-time co-driver Tomi Tuominen and will make his debut for the team at the 2014 Rally of Sweden in February next year. There are sweet memories for Hanninen of the event too, after he made his WRC debut there back in 2006, winning the Group N class at the event in 2013.
Hanninen on his appointment by Hyundai:
“I am really honoured to have been chosen by Hyundai to be one of the drivers of the second i20 WRC car in 2014, including Rally Sweden, which is one of my favourites.”
“I have been working with the team a lot since May and it has been a really fantastic project to be involved in. All the people in the team are very nice and it has been friendly environment, but with everyone still giving 100% all the time. It’s been a pleasure to work with them in testing and I really respect the opportunity to drive some rallies for the team in 2014.”
Hanninen won’t drive the second car exclusively, as the team has confirmed a number of other drivers will also get a shot behind the wheel in 2014.
However, Hanninen will continue to play a big role within the team, continuing to develop the car for the 2015 season. It’ll be his feedback, along with Neuville’s, that gives the Hyundai engineers a direction to work towards.
We want to know what you think of the Hyundai i20 WRC? Like the way it looks? Would you like to see the WRC challenger spawn a hot hatchback version for the road?