Hyundai drivers told to slow down to save transmission

Technical director F-X Demaison wants to ensure Thierry Neuville makes it to the finish of Safari Rally Kenya


Hyundai’s chances of ending Toyota’s domination of Safari Rally Kenya look to have been spoiled by transmission issues, with the team’s technical director François-Xavier Demaison saying the i20 N Rally1 will have to be driven at 80% for the remainder of the event.

Talking to DirtFish following the gearbox ‘explosion’ Esapekka Lappi suffered while running second on Friday afternoon, Demaison was frank in his assessment of the Alzenau-based team’s round three chances.

“The casing exploded,” he said. “We know the transmission is the weak point of this car. It’s not been developed and validated properly. Last year was the propshaft and now it’s the transmission. With the current rules and the number of jokers, we’re a bit stuck. That’s the situation.”



Demaison is fustrated with the i20 N's mechanical woes

Asked if there were concerns for the sister car of world championship leader Thierry Neuville, he added: “Yes, for sure. It’s a risk. It’s really difficult to put a number on it, but it’s a risk. [All they can do is] drive at 80%, which is not what we want to do. We’ll have to compromise a bit the performance and not be 100% everywhere.”

Hyundai’s propshaft failures were a feature of the Safari last year and homologation restrictions have made it difficult for full transmission fix to be found. In Demaison’s words, the ‘fuse’ has been moved from the prop to the gearbox.

Leader after Thursday’s Nairobi superspecial, Neuville suffered his own issues with a puncture in Geothermal on Friday morning. The fourth placed Belgian goes to bed a worried man tonight.


Neuville will have to take it easy if he's to make it to the end of Safari Rally Kenya

“I’m also a bit scared about what happened to EP,” he said. “I don’t want to retire on a technical issue here this weekend. So, yeah, I mean, we need to keep focused on our job. I can’t feel anything [with the gearbox] but you can feel that the cars are suffering. Yeah, that could be worrying indeed.

“We did well today. Tomorrow should be an interesting day, a long day, and I’m going to try to keep the rhythm, and we’re going to see.”

Ott Tänak’s i20 N Rally1 was lost after he hit a rock in the road, then went into a bank and damaged the suspension on the day’s penultimate test.