HYUNDAI KEEN TO SIGN UP DRIVERS
Korean firm wants Paddon, Neuville, Sordo and Abbring back
Hyundai has revealed more about its 2017 plans, with the Korean manufacturer reverting to a three-door World Rally Car and hoping to retain its current driver line-up next season.
The team which has won two of the last three World Rally Championship events is stepping up its work on a third World Rally Car in as many seasons as the series’ next generation of machinery looms larger on the horizon.
Team principal Michel Nandan admitted a 2017 mule i20 has been running for some time now, testing engine and transmission parts. The new, three-door shell won’t be completed until later in the year.
“We won’t run the complete car until quite late,” Nandan told MN, “but we have dedicated one 2016 car to run some 2017 parts. This started in April, when we were testing intercoolers, bigger restrictors, things like that. Now we are working with the transmission – we have to do this rather than waiting for the new bodyshell.”
Hyundai had been intending to build this year’s World Rally Car off a three-door coupe platform, but insufficient numbers of road cars made it impossible to get that model homologated.
“At the time, the three-door car didn’t comply,” added Nandan. “But now it should be different. We will carry a lot of parts over from the current car to the new car, but the regulations are quite different for 2017. There is still some work to do: we have new suspension pick-up points and things like that.”
Of the team’s current drivers, only Hayden Paddon has a confirmed deal with Hyundai next season. Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo are out of contract, while Kevin Abbring is understood to be on a rolling agreement.
Nandan wants to keep them all: “Our line-up is not too bad, this has been proven some times. We still have to discuss a little bit, but we are quite confident to keep our drivers. They are fast and the combination is good.”
Asked if he was talking to other drivers, Nandan added: “Yes, it’s normal that we talk to everybody.”
Running four drivers in the championship next season will prove difficult, according to Nandan, who said: “The difference between two and three cars is not so big; four cars is the biggest difference because of the spare parts you need as well. When we started in 2014 we put three cars on some events, then last year, when you have a car which has been running for one year, you have a pool of parts and you can run three cars. But to put four cars, really it’s a big amount for next season.”
And Hyundai has no interest in running a current car next season – regardless of what the FIA ultimately decides to do with them.
He added: “Normally this year’s cars can run for next season, they are homologated so I don’t see why they couldn’t run. But a car of 320bhp up against one with close to 400bhp means they will have no chance.”