Hyundai reveals its Rally2 plans

The Korean firm will step back from a formal WRC2 program to save budget and focus on national campaigns


Hyundai is set to deliver a much-anticipated upgrade package to its i20 N Rally2, with the manufacturer targeting FIA homologation for the car’s next evolution this spring.

The upgrades will primarily focus on the engine, and will be the first of many steps in the development plan for the Korean brand’s customer racing program.

Hyundai’s WRC2 customers have struggled for pace so far this year, with Nicolas Ciamin’s fourth place on the Monte Carlo Rally the best effort so far an i20, which is competing against the brand-new Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 and the more recently upgraded Citroën, Škoda and M-Sport Ford projects.

According to the Alzenau-based squad’s recently appointed customer racing manager, Benoît Nogier, Hyundai remains committed to returning to the front of the Rally2 field.


Nogier was confirmed as Hyundai's new customer racing boss earlier this week

“We are planning to homologate a quite big evolution [of the car] on April 1,” Nogier told DirtFish. “The biggest thing is an engine evolution, we will improve quite significantly the power and the efficiency of the engine, torque.

“So that will be the first step. We are [also] working on reliability, little stuff we had in the past. For example, we had a [suspension] problem last year in Finland with Emil [Lindholm], we will solve that. This is planned for the April 1, although we still have to finalize everything with the FIA for the homologation.”

While the team will continue to develop the car beyond this first round of upgrades, the direction of those developments will only be determined once the future of both the Rally1 and Rally2 categories in the World Rally Championship has been resolved.

With the proposals from the FIA’s WRC working group set to be heard by the World Motor Sport Council on February 28, Nogier won’t have long to wait.


Hyundai could be campaingning the i20 N Rally2 in the WRC's top class next year, if the regulations change

He added: “I think all of us are waiting to know where it is going, what [the FIA working group] will decide [at the end of February]. So, this will be crucial to our development decisions.

“The next step for us in terms of homologation will be to provide five more jokers, so five more evolutions on the car and we have to propose them all at the same time. It is extremely crucial the choice we will have to make. For sure if the category changes, if the goal changes, it will have an influence on the choice we will make of the jokers.”

Frenchman Nogier’s appointment comes amid a restructure of Hyundai’s customer racing department; he’ll oversee the brand’s customer motorsport activities, including in rallying and circuit racing, while Andrea Cisotti will project manage the Rally2 program specifically. Julien Moncet – who found himself running Hyundai’s WRC effort as deputy team director in 2022, before current team principal Cyril Abiteboul was appointed – takes the position of circuit racing project manager, reporting to Nogier.

A key part of Nogier’s new role will be to develop the strategy of Hyundai’s Rally2 program. For 2024, the brand will have a diminished presence in WRC2, with no works program and only the CHL Sport Auto squad (which has entered Emil Lindholm for a full campaign alongside a partial season for Teemu Suninen) receiving partial works support.


Emil Lindholm began his WRC2 campaign on last week's Rally Sweden

Instead, Hyundai will focus on national rallying, seeking to expand its presence in key markets before returning for an assault on WRC2 in the future.

“We do not have official project in WRC2 this year,” confirmed Nogier. “This is because first of all, we have to manage a bit the budget and make the goals. We consider at the moment the best opportunity for us was much more at the national level than at the world level with WRC2.

“We prefer to do a step on the side, to work a bit on the car, to improve a bit and to invest a bit more in 2024 at the national level. Our presence nationally will be much bigger than last year, but the first consequence is that we don’t have this so big and official team in WRC2.

“For sure, if we would be 100% sure that we could get a title in WRC2, maybe the choice would be different. But we have to work on the car and we must improve the car a bit to get back at the top of the category in the world championship and that’s what we’ll address in 2024.”

Hyundai is understood to have reallocated budget within its rally programs this year, with an all-new Rally1 car being prepared for next season.

In terms of where that national focus sits, Nogier said: “We are going to focus on France, at the moment it is the biggest country in terms of Rally2 competition, customers, turnover, etc. We will first focus on this one because it’s the biggest one and we are not there. The second objective will be to carry on and to get good results in Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy. They are basically the biggest markets in the world and in each country we have good drivers with a good team and a good project to just get the titles.”

Nogier also moved to clarify the official status of the two drivers who missed out on a seat in the team’s Rally1 squad for this year, with Andreas Mikkelsen instead taking the much coveted drive.

“Emil [Lindhom] is an official Hyundai driver,” Noiger confirmed. “We carry on with Emil as official driver this year and we kept the contract we have with Emil. Teemu [Suninen] doesn’t have a contract, but we will pay attention. And Emil and Teemu, even if we don’t have this official team in WRC2 this year, we are supporting them and we are supporting their project.

“Of course, we are also behind other drivers in WRC2, but [the only] official driver is Emil.”