Hyundai appoints Nandan and confirms 2014 for WRC return

After several rather odd PR stunts, topped by that infamous “onboard” video of Hyundai’s development WRC car, South Korean brand finally got their act together media wise, releasing more detailed information about their plans to return to WRC battlefields in very near future.

Hyundai confirmed Michel Nandan as team principal, which is great news considering Mr. Nandan’s involvement with the sport and wealth of experience. He will be one of the key members of newly established Hyundai Motorsport GmbH, based in Alzenau in Germany.

Thank goodness, there are no mentions of tens of millions of euro being spent for development each year – I refused to believe that any company would be so silly to toss around numbers like that so I’m glad to see it was just perhaps taken out of context by reporters, or even made up.

For now, Hyundai’s programme looks pretty solid, and isn’t that different to what Volkswagen looked like at the start of their WRC journey. Minus the damn dreaded video of course. Team principal is in place and team has a name and a HQ now, but there is long road ahead of them. Which drivers will they hire? Good thing is, there is no shortage of talents.

While not everything Hyundai did so far was perfect, I’d like to think it’s because they’re still preparing and relearning all there is to know about the WRC. I would expect sport has changed a bit since Hyundai last competed! So for now, let’s welcome them to our family! Great new addition, even more so if they want to do some things differently. Hyundai seems very serious about their EU business, and I would expect this Motorsport project to be equally well executed.

Official release below.

Hyundai Accelerates WRC Preparations with Team Principal Appointment

Alzenau, 11 January 2013

Hyundai Motor Co. has bolstered its nascent World Rally Championship (WRC) programme with the appointment of WRC veteran Michel Nandan as Team Principal. The Frenchman, who has held key technical positions on the world rally stage since the mid-1990s, joins Hyundai at an exciting time in the manufacturer’s WRC programme.

Hyundai announced its intentions to enter the World Rally Championship at the Paris Motor Show in September last year and is now developing a WRC-specification of its new i20 model with the objective of competing in the entire 2014 championship. Hyundai has also established a bespoke motorsport subsidiary, Hyundai Motorsport GmbH, under which the company’s WRC programme will be run. Gyoo Heon Choi has been named the President of Hyundai Motorsport GmbH.

“Hyundai is excited to re-enter WRC, and we’re back not just to compete, but to win,” said Tak Uk Im, Executive Vice President & COO of Hyundai Motor. “Hyundai and WRC form a perfect match, and our racing experience will translate directly into performance and handling improvements in our road-going vehicles.”

Hyundai has identified WRC as the perfect platform from which to promote the excitement and dynamism of its growing brand on an international stage. The thrill and spectacle of world rally coupled with the technological prowess of the series combine to impeccably embody Hyundai’s brand values.

Hyundai is no stranger to the world of WRC, having participated in the competitive motorsport series from 2000 to 2003. Now, Hyundai is raising the bar for its return to WRC, running an in-house team operating out of custom-built headquarters in Alzenau, Germany, just outside of Frankfurt, where Hyundai’s European HQ is situated.

As the 2013 WRC season gets underway with the legendary Monte-Carlo rally, Hyundai is embarking on a year of preparation for its return to the world rally stage with the intensive development of its WRC-spec i20 under Team Principal Michel Nandan’s experienced direction.

Nandan said: “I am honoured to have been chosen by Hyundai to spearhead its exciting new entry into the WRC. The project is still in its infancy, but things are moving rapidly, and I am looking forward to developing the team as this year progresses. There is much to be done, of that we are fully aware, but with a dedicated facility in Alzenau and an ambitious core of highly motivated personnel, we are already making good progress.”

An interim version of the i20 has already begun testing in Korea to enable Hyundai to undertake component and suspension analysis with further tests scheduled throughout 2013.

Nandan added: “We are deliberately using an interim version of the i20 to carry out important component testing and to ensure that we have done our homework before we enter competition. This phase will continue throughout 2013 as we prepare for our first full season back in WRC in 2014. There are a lot of other decisions that we will have to make during the course of the year, particularly regarding the selection of drivers, but this also requires time and due diligence. We will, at the same time, keep a close eye on how the 2013 WRC season unfolds.”

Hyundai’s commitment to and investment in a global motorsport programme underlines the manufacturer’s continued growth and resilience, as it aims to strengthen its global market position. The opportunities for technology transfer from WRC to road-going vehicles in the future make the return to motorsport a shrewd and logical choice for Hyundai.

Hyundai’s rally history
The company’s involvement in the sport began in 1998, when it competed in the F2 class of the WRC for two seasons. In 1999, the team announced it would step up to the top class in 2000, rallying a fully developed WRC car based on the three-door Accent, which competed until 2003.