Korean firm wants Pad­don, Neuville, Sordo and Ab­bring back

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By David Evans Photos: mck­lein-im­age­

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.”

Pad­don took Hyundai win in Ar­gentina Nan­dan (cen­tre): Three-door car for 2017

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