Hyundai Motorsport has unveiled its Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC, a new car with which the team will compete in the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), in its full livery.
Brian Joss – The new car, designed to meet WRC’s raft of new technical regulations, was unveiled on 1 December 1in Italy at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
The three-door Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC is Hyundai Motorsport’s third new car since its debut in the Championship in 2014, following the Hyundai i20 WRC (2014-15) and the New Generation i20 WRC (2016). Entering its fourth season, the team hopes to continue a positive period of growth as it embarks on a new era for the sport.
The new technical regulations for 2017 were introduced to enhance the WRC spectacle, with cars sporting an aggressive new look. While changes centre on improving aerodynamic and mechanical grip, there is an engine power increase from 224 kW to 284 kW, a reduction in the weight of the car, and re-introduction of the active centre differential.
Hyundai Motorsport started testing its new car in April, alongside its ongoing 2016 WRC campaign. The car had already accumulated 6 000 km of testing prior to the launch, with further tests planned ahead of its competitive debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo in January 2017.
With the new car, the team hopes to build on its most successful season to date, in which it secured two victories and an additional ten podium finishes. Hyundai Motorsport crews finished in the top-three in 10 out of 13 rallies last season.
Team principal Michel Nandan said: “It’s a great new technical challenge and one that we have tackled with enthusiasm. All teams start from scratch, so we are on an equal footing. Having finished in second in 2016, we want to show our ability to fight for the Championship in 2017 – and we are confident the Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC will help us do just that.”
Hyundai keeps an unchanged driver line-up for 2017. Thierry Neuville, Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo will contest all rounds of the Championship alongside their respective co-drivers, Nicolas Gilsoul, John Kennard and Marc Martí. The team can also announce an extension to its partnership with title sponsors Shell and Hyundai Mobis.
The new WRC regulations for 2017 mean that manufacturers will be able to enter up to three cars in each round, with the two top classified finishers scoring points for the Manufacturers’ Championship. After three seasons of competing with two separate team names, Hyundai Motorsport’s three crews will run under a unified banner in 2017: the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team.
“We have a strong, consistent and versatile driver line-up. We had a competitive season in 2016, with victories, podiums, stage wins and Power Stage points. To have all of our drivers involved in such a close fight for second right up to Australia showed just what strength in depth we have. We have the confidence in the team to compete at the front and to be seen as genuine contenders in WRC’s new era,” said Nandan.
Neuville and co-driver Gilsoul were one of the standout crews in 2016, taking victory in Sardinia and an impressive string of podium results. Finishing second in the Drivers’ Championship, the Belgians want even more in 2017. “I have high hopes for our new Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC, which is the product of a lot of hard work from everyone in the team. My initial impressions of the car in testing were very positive,” said Neuville.
“The changes in regulations have allowed us to make improvements in key areas, such as aerodynamics and rear stability. The increase in power is incredible while the additional grip and driveability gives us more confidence to push. For the spectators, there will be a visibly marked difference in terms of the car’s speed.”
Paddon claimed an impressive maiden WRC win in Rally Argentina in 2016, with further podiums in Sweden and Poland. The Kiwi and his compatriot co-driver Kennard will be aiming for a more consistent Championship in 2017.
“My target for 2017 is to continue the improvements we showed during this past season. I want to start challenging for more rally wins and demonstrate more consistent speed throughout the year. The Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC is enjoyable to drive and I think it will be more exciting for the spectators too. I like that the cars will be more tuneable to each driver and driving style,” said Paddon.
Second-placed podium finishes were the highlights of a consistent 2016 season for Sordo, alongside co- driver Martí. “When I first tested the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, I was taken aback by the speed of the car,” said Sordo.
“The more powerful engine and increased grip from the aerodynamics are impressive. I am sure this will be an exciting season to be a WRC spectator as well as for us inside the car! It’s very special for me to remain part of the Hyundai Motorsport team. It’s more than just team; it really is like a family. We work very well together and the atmosphere is incredible. The people in this team are some of the best in the business.”