Could 2016 be The Year of Hyundai?
This will be one interesting year for everyone at Hyundai Motorsport. The team is switching to a brand new car, which we are told is much better than its predecessor. This car simply must work. When Hyundai retired their 2015 machine, they also retired the bag containing all the excuses and promises, so this year I expect them to either shine or, well, that’s about it. Hyundai must be competitive in 2016, they are not newcomers anymore and they do not lack experience. I know these are not the main and only factors, but aren’t they? Either you can or you cannot, what else is there? The problem is, they have to beat Volkswagen, and as we know, only Volkswagen can do that, based on what we’ve seen so far. Regardless, they should remain Hyundai’s main target. I am praying every night to my atheist deity, asking it to make sure we don’t hear any complaints mentioning Volkswagen’s budget from any of the teams, Hyundai included. I am also praying we do not hear the second most horrible excuse at all this year – you know what I’m talking about, the dreaded “we’re fighting for the 2nd/3rd/4th spot in this event / we’re aiming for the second place in the manufacturers standings (shouldn’t be too hard this year, eh?)”. I want Hyundai to finally start kicking and biting, I want them to stop making mistakes, in driving and organization and technical preparation and car design, even before they start threatening the almighty VW. Yes, this will be a tricky year for them, because they had to squeeze this new car in, only to see it retired after only one season, but as said earlier, no more excuses. And please, oh please, let’s not even think about “we’re dropping this year and focusing on 2017” – things like that are not something fans should hear and learn, as much as I like the transparency and all the background noise. Hopefully, it won’t come to that. Did I forget to mention I also do not want to hear “’tis a new car, it’s ok for it to not be as fast yet”?
Drivers are another point of interest when it comes to Hyundai in 2016. Dani Sordo received his promotion to become the main nominated driver for the team. Following some unwritten rules, this means Sordo is now Hyundai’s number 1 driver, but as nice as it may sound, it’s a hell of a burden to bear. Since this is a no-excuses year for Hyundai, Sordo simply must deliver on every single event. And by deliver I mean he must be at the top of the ladder at each event, as high up as he can. He also must make sure to be above both of his team mates; MUCH easier said than done when those team mates are Neuville and Hayden Paddon. Sordo will be under big pressure this year, much bigger than Neuville and Paddon. He simply must beat them, even if Hyundai’s representatives insist all drivers are considered equal. Meanwhile, Neuville will be pushing very hard, I have no doubt about that – in 2015 he lost a bit of confidence and received several heavy blows to his reputation – let’s keep in mind this is the guy often mentioned as the “next big thing”, so criteria here are extremely high. And Paddon, well, he’s going to do what Paddon did in 2015, but even more confidently this year, which should push Sordo like never before. The Spaniard was often mentioned as a tarmac or event specialist, but this year he must try his best to overcome this image. Even though we could see specialists return to market in near future, with rules allowing more variations in driver line-ups.
I want a strong, competitive and united Hyundai. Just a note, that does not mean that in-house wars should stop, no please, those were excellent last year and if they can serve as a motivation, just keep waging them.