With so many things to look forward to and keep track of, how do you pick one thing, be it driver or team or a combination of both, to follow and pay special attention to? It’s easy, you don’t. At least in my case, it never is about one driver or team, because for me this sport does not work like that. They are not only fighting each other, they’re fighting the elements, the odds, it bonds everything in a way no other form of motor sports does. Regardless, there is no question I will be focusing that extra bit of special attention on one team and its drivers in particular in the next three days. They are hours away from tackling the very first special stage of their new and very important WRC project and much depends on how well Hyundai’s start will be. Even though they claim this year will be mainly about learning and not about running after the results, it’s only natural for Hyundai to say that.
However, they just might be right about being cautious rather than reckless in their predictions – after all, they did not have the amount of time Volkswagen had in car development, they spent a lot less time testing the car and they completed their lineup quite late. There are many factors, and these are just a few, to consider when predicting the pace and chances of Hyundai Motorsport. To top it off, first event of the year is Rallye Monte Carlo, where you can safely take your predictions and throw them out of the window if the weather stays anything but nice, dry and relatively warm. And it wont.
It will be very interesting to see how fast and competitive Hyundai’s package is. Another extremely important factor is reliability and the ability of the team to respond to unexpected situations. Hopefully not all of that will be put through the test in Monte Carlo, but many areas could. We will follow Hyundai and track their drivers’ progress over the course of this season – on events we will keep our eyes on Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo, Juho Hanninen and Chris Atkinson, but in general we will monitor how well Hyundai adapts to the WRC surroundings, challenges and requirements. As said earlier, Hyundai’s preparation year was quite different compared to Volkswagen’s. Not better or worse for all we know, but different. If Hyundai will be off to a good start, it will send a signal to other manufacturers and teams – there are more ways than one to prepare and launch your WRC project, if you’re dedicated and organized enough.
However, this brings us back to Hyundai’s cautious approach to 2014. Perhaps they do realize they lack general pace compared to direct competitors, which means that their 2013 was simply not enough to bring them up to speed to the established teams. Either way, 2014 did not even begin, WRC-wise, and plenty of things can and will change. Personally I do believe Hyundai will not need entire year to catch up, no way. For what it’s worth, I think they’ll be on the pace before the season is half way through, at the very least.
Also needless to say – there will be special rooting shout reserved for each time Hyundai crosses the finish line and posts time onto results board. Go Hyundai, welcome to the show, stun us please.