Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul has outlined the role and responsibilities of new technical director François-Xavier Demaison – a key objective being to close the gap to rival team Toyota.
Demaison, whose last job in the World Rally Championship was with Volkswagen, starts his new role at Hyundai Motorsport today (June 1) and will work alongside Hyundai’s tech guru Christian Loriaux.
Demaison’s appointment was announced last Wednesday, but facing the media for the first time since, Abiteboul told DirtFish that he has been pushing Hyundai to bring in a technical director.
With Demaison now in that position, Loriaux’s job title has changed from technical advisor to WRC program manager.
Abiteboul explained: “F-X has come in quite an obvious position which strangely was not in existence in this team for years, which is a position of technical director because Christian was not technical director. He was technical advisor, something that I made aware we needed to change.
“Christian is now program manager of WRC, so the Rally1 car, so Christian needs to have full accountability for the strategic direction that we are taking on the development of the car, from a technology perspective.
“And F-X, in the role of technical director, will make sure that we deliver in accordance to this vision and to this strategy. On top of that, F-X will have a number of activities because it’s not just Rally1 we are doing, we are doing Rally2 car as you know, and we have also a number of other cars that we are developing in touring cars and customer racing program.
“On top of helping me out on a number of new projects that we are working on.”
Demaison is one of several key management changes at Hyundai this season, including Abiteboul himself who joined as team principal in January and Tolga Ozakinci who replaced Pablo Marcos in team manager after Rally Sweden.
Ahead of this week’s Rally Italy Sardinia, Hyundai is in a much better place with its Rally1 car compared to this point last year, although the i20 N Rally1 is yet to win a round of the WRC since last year’s season-closing Rally Japan.
Toyota, meanwhile, has won four of the first five events.
Abiteboul made it clear that one of Demaison’s first tasks will be to work with Loriaux to close the gap to the GR Yaris Rally1.
“In very straightforward conditions I do believe that they have a better car,” Abiteboul said of Toyota.
“They’ve been dominating in the last few events in many different surfaces so I would not see why it would suddenly change this rally.
“Having said that, it’s rally and because it’s rally it’s never that straightforward, that’s why it’s not Formula 1.
“So let’s see what can happen but more seriously we are all taking seriously the fact they are clearer faster than us, and obviously F-X’s first priority will be to work with Christian in making the car faster than it is now because we are right now [being] dominated and it needs to stop.”