Hyundai abandoned fix for Lappi’s Safari fault in 2023

Esapekka Lappi's geabox failure on Safari looks to have been linked to a homologation issue last year

Esapekka Lappi

DirtFish can reveal Esapekka Lappi’s retirement from last week’s Safari Rally Kenya was likely caused by a homologation problem last year.

The teams are permitted a number of homologation jokers each season. In the first year of a new homologation cycle, five jokers are permitted, three in the second year and then two for the remaining seasons.

In 2023, Hyundai used jokers for the rear subframe, chassis and fuel tank (joker #2023-1c) and a separate submission for the propshaft and chassis (joker #2023-2c). A third joker was withdrawn and not used. Crucially, that abandoned change included the gearbox casing – the part the team’s technical director François-Xavier Demaison confirmed as failing on the Finn’s car.

Demaison told DirtFish: “We tried to fix another issue on the transmission; the casing, actually. And in the very last part of the validation process, we had a problem with this new casing. So we had to cancel the homologation because it was no better than the one we had.

“It’s a long process to make a new casing. To do casings and transmission, it’s design, calculation, design and production… so we missed [the] joker plan for transmission reinforcement.”

Asked if that hurt more following Lappi’s Loldia retirement from third place, Demaison added: “Yes, it does. You know, the problem is also that with the current rules, you have a very limited number of testing days. It’s very difficult to sign off big parts like this. Today we have 21 test days for three cars in the championship – and you mostly want to use these days to prepare [for] the races. It’s not enough just to prepare for the race, never mind test parts.

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Hyundai's technical driector Demaison is frustrated at the lack of testing time available in the WRC

“On top of that, you want to follow process to validate new parts. So, you are a bit stuck.”

The teams are permitted a permanent test site, where cars can run without any testing limitations. Hyundai’s is sited in Jämsä, Finland.

Demaison said that didn’t help in this case.

“You can’t do 3,000 kilometers on 12 kilometers of road,” he added. “They get damaged too quickly. And you need a proper rough road to sign off your new parts.”