Hyundai gambles on future WRC rules

Abiteboul confirms the current i20 N Rally1 is the only car it will prepare going into 2025

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Hyundai has gambled on the current World Rally Championship regulations remaining in place for the next two years – focusing its future development on the existing i20 N Rally1 Hybrid.

A decision on technical regulations for 2025 and 2026 will be made at next month’s World Motor Sport Council meeting. In February, the FIA confirmed a revised Rally1 specification with hybrid removed, a smaller restrictor and less aerodynamics. The manufacturers were unified in their rejection of such a scenario and wrote to the sport’s governing body with a request to retain the current spec.

While rival team Toyota has demonstrated a readiness for whatever decision comes from WMSC June 11, Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul told DirtFish he’d made his decision. He said: “What we’ve elected to go for, is to focus on one scenario, one technical scenario, which is a scenario we believe is the best for the sport, also the best for us.

“I will only know on the 11th of June if that scenario is a scenario that will be retained by the World Motor Sport Council.”

Asked if he had taken a gamble, the Frenchman added: “Yeah, and I was not calling the bluff. I had to make, for the team, the decision that the FIA did not take. So, again, they did not make a decision in terms of technical regulation. We have to go for one and focus on that one.”

The scenario Abiteboul describes is the continuation of Rally1 in its current form.

He added: “We focused on what we said since day one, which is technical stability. It can be small things here and there [for the FIA to change], but we don’t understand the merit, the rationale behind the big changes that were put forward by the task force (WRC Working Group). We understand that rally needs big change, but sometimes you have to accept that things are as they are for a period of time.”

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Abiteboul, done with contemplating what the rules might be for 2025, has taken decisive action

DirtFish understands the basic work required to prepare a car to the reduced Rally1 trim put forward by the FIA could still be completed between June 11 and January 25, the opening day’s competition in the 2025 season.

The car Hyundai had pinned its hopes on for 2025 is, of course, dead. As previously reported by DirtFish, work on that all-new i20 Rally1 Hybrid for next season has ceased.

“That’s gone,” said Abiteboul. “From the moment the FIA decided the [new] aerodynamic bodywork freeze, there was no possibility to do what we were planning on doing, which was a great idea.

“I’m only very sad that it’s not going to happen. It’s a waste of resources. It’s a wasted opportunity for Hyundai’s team, and that’s clearly a bit of a disappointment and frustration – also from a corporate perspective, because corporate had bought to this strategy, had made available the financial resources to pursue that avenue, and that’s not going to happen.”