What can Hyundai hope to achieve on the first gravel event of the World Rally Championship season in Mexico?
Well it seems that not even the team and drivers can necessarily agree, although they do have one expectation in common: a podium should definitely be achievable.
Hyundai’s team principal Cyril Abiteboul is going for gold. He feels the time is now for the i20 N Rally1 to pick up its first win of the season – encouraged by victories in Sardinia and Greece in 2022.
“The team performed very well on this surface last season, so we are on a mission to continue that in 2023,” said Abiteboul.
“All three drivers have experience of Rally México and the effects of the heat and high altitude on both themselves and their cars.
“This year will offer a different challenge, as this is the first time the new hybrid power units will run during the event, so we have an opportunity to find a competitive edge with our setup.
“The crews are feeling confident, as am I, so we should be able to target our first victory in Mexico.”
But while Abiteboul is confident that a win could be on the cards, Thierry Neuville is more measured in his expectations. He thinks a podium is a more realistic target.
“It will be challenging for a number of reasons: it is the first gravel rally of the season, it will be hot, and the high altitude is tough on the cars,” explained Neuville.
“This year it will be important to get the hybrid mapping correct and take advantage of that extra power. Setting up the car to have good traction and then driving precisely will be also very important to us performing well.
“Our target for the weekend is to be amongst the fastest crews and fight for another podium.”
Esapekka Lappi also echoed his team-mate’s sentiments.
“Our road position of sixth should be an advantage, as there should be some cleaner lines after the first cars have cleared the way,” he said.
“We want to have a consistent and strong weekend, as I feel we deserve it after the first two events.
“With that in mind, we should be firmly in the fight for the podium.”
Dani Sordo, who will be the last Rally1 car to start the stages on Friday, is the most bullish of Hyundai’s trio of pilots.
“Our target for the rally is to finish as high as possible and we hope that is near the top,” he said.
“If we get it right, we believe we can be in the battle for victory, but we want to be on the podium as a minimum.”