Thierry Neuville won’t be happy when he hears this, for his calls for “more power” were usually answered by “hey, how about a new car, which is better in every way”. Joking here, but maybe it would not make that much of a difference whether the new i20 WRC debuted this year or not. This car is still quite young and I doubt it would be instantly competitive, as in be faster and more reliable than the existing car. Sure, nothing beats real events when it comes to car development – the new car could have been used in proper rallies and developed on the go, according to team’s original plans, but can we really say that would have been the best option? No we cannot, mainly because we don’t know how different the two cars really are. The existing i20 WRC has plenty of kilometers under its belt and the team is well aware of its characteristics and performance capabilities. Replacing a car with a brand new machine is never easy – logic tells you to do it as soon as possible, but if circumstances do not allow it, you’re forced to do your work in the background. Hyundai wanted to give this new car some events this year and fine tune it for the proper assault next year. Today we learned those plans will not materialize, so the team will continue with the existing fleet of 1st generation i20 WRCs, while the work will continue on the new car for its debut in Monte Carlo next year. The team did not go into full details, explaining the debut delay, so I hope issues concerning homologation of the new generation 3 door road car are not, in fact, a result of poor planning.
I also hope that the two cars are similar enough so the upgrades announced for the existing car this year can be translated to the next generation i20 WRC as well. Hyundai does know the potential of the existing car and I am pretty sure they are also aware of the issues which need more development – most of those issues will be addressed by the team this year in order to keep the car competitive enough for podium finishes. In my opinion, it would be wrong to abandon the existing car even though team’s main focus will be on the 2nd generation machine – again, let’s hope this parallel development brings as much benefit to both cars as possible. Or rather, may it benefit the new car more, while keeping the existing machine happily capable of challenging Fiestas, Polos and DS3 on the WRC stages. It is important for the team to see the results of their work and to be able to do that, they need points, podiums and rally wins. As a World Rally Championship manufacturer team, Hyundai should be perfectly capable of running one car while working on the other at the same time.
The official announcement follows below.
Hyundai Motorsport continues New Generation i20 WRC development
The Hyundai Motorsport team has recently completed a four-day test of the New Generation i20 WRC car in the Spanish region of Almeria. The test marked the next important phase of development for the car, which will make its debut in the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
The team’s test driver Kevin Abbring and his co-driver Sebastian Marshall were at the wheel of the New Generation i20 WRC together with Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul. Work focused on engine and chassis development, as well as altitude testing with the latest iteration of the car, which has been upgraded compared to the version used in previous tests.
Hyundai Motorsport has established a detailed testing plan for the New Generation i20 WRC and had hoped to introduce the car later this season. However, there has been a delay to the planned homologation of the new car caused by the three-door production schedule of the road-going version, which means that the team will now shift the target to debut the WRC car at the start of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
The unforeseen delay now gives the team extra time to develop and refine the five-door car ahead of its competitive debut, while concurrently evolving the current specification Hyundai i20 WRC for this season’s WRC events.
A series of upgrades will be introduced to the current Hyundai i20 WRCs in the remaining rallies of 2015 in a bid to help the team fight for podiums regularly in only its second season in the competitive World Rally Championship.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We had a very detailed week of testing planned in Spain recently, as we put an upgraded version of our New Generation i20 WRC through its paces in the Almeria region. Kevin and Thierry worked on engine and chassis development, as well as altitude tests, which will help us to further develop the car as we move through 2015. We had hoped to introduce the new car later this season but unfortunately an issue with the homologation schedule – related to production of the three-door road version – will delay our programme. We have therefore opted to continue focus on the five-door version of the New Generation i20 WRC which will compete at Rallye Monte-Carlo 2016. This revised schedule gives us extra time to ensure the car is where we want it to be performance-wise. At the same time, the current Hyundai i20 WRC will undergo a number of important updates which we hope will keep us in the fight for podiums this season.”