Hyundai has targeted Rally Portugal for the implementation of major upgrades to its i20 N Rally1 contender, with new parts set to be homologated in time for the fourth round of the World Rally Championship.
A difficult start to the season on the Monte Carlo Rally meant Hyundai had only one of its three factory cars at the finish line, with Thierry Neuville coming home sixth after nursing his i20 through many of Saturday’s stages with a damper failure.
Hyundai has already been working to address both its apparent pace deficit and reliability issues since, including relocating its testing base to Jämsä in central Finland.
But deputy team director Julien Moncet has warned that a step up in both speed and dependability for its i20 won’t happen overnight, with Rally Portugal in mid-May the first time it will get a clear picture of whether its updates will work as hoped.
“The process of adding reliability and more performance will take time,” Moncet told DirtFish.
“We will be able to see some improvement in Sweden but it’s a long process to get where we need to be.
“There will be quite a lot of time between Sweden and Croatia, and that will help us. But there are some things that we need homologation to be changed.
“There are two different levels: the parts we can change now because they are not homologated, so we see improvement in Sweden and Croatia, and then we will have to wait a bit more to do some further tuning where we need to homologate new parts.
“I would say that I hope to have a better picture in Portugal.”
With its i20 N Rally1 already homologated, there is a limit to the number of design changes Hyundai can make to its car.
We have seen that the car is able to show some competitive times, so it's not a failureJulien Moncet on the i20 N Rally1's early performance
Moncet conceded his team needed to make more mid-season adjustments than the rules allowed, though was still content with the number of ‘jokers’ the team is allowed to use this year.
“We have a limited number of jokers so we can’t change everything,” he said.
“We are gathering all the new concepts and ideas and we’ll have to evaluate which ones are the best in terms of reliability first and performance.
“We will have to once again prioritize – we have more ideas than jokers. We have to go for the ones with the best potential. But we don’t know yet which exactly.
“We have five jokers on the chassis side, three on the engine side. On the engine, it is reduced because last year was really a lot. And we have some on the software electronics side.
“It’s quite a good number actually.”
Deploying homologation changes so soon after the car’s initial launch has illustrated the game of catch-up Hyundai is currently playing to rivals M-Sport and Toyota.
But Moncet was keen to point out that the car was not a failure, stressing that it was still close to the Puma and Yaris in terms of ultimate speed.
“No, the car is not a failure,” Moncet rebutted. “We have seen that the car is able to show some competitive times, so it’s not a failure.
“Once again, we started a bit late compared to the others. We had less time to validate everything, so for sure it’s not a failure but we need to recover this lost time.”