Hyundai Motorsport will look to the future, preferring a driver it can develop rather than an experienced hand to share the third i20 N Rally1 with Dani Sordo in the World Rally Championship.
Hyundai currently has Thierry Neuville, Esapekka Lappi and Sordo on its books, but is in need of an additional driver to complete the program the late Craig Breen was set to run alongside Sordo.
Both Neuville and Lappi are contesting all 13 rounds of the WRC, but Sordo and Breen were sharing the third car – and Sordo will remain on a part-time program.
Hyundai had invested in youth last season, bringing in Oliver Solberg to share a car with Sordo alongside full-time drivers Neuville and Ott Tänak, who has since departed to M-Sport Ford.
But in October last year Hyundai cut its ties with Solberg, citing a need for more experienced drivers instead.
The manufacturer appears to have had a change of heart though, as team principal Cyril Abiteboul explained to DirtFish when asked if Hyundai will look for a young or experienced driver to share Sordo’s program.
“We see that we have in Dani someone who is absolutely capable of performing, and we have in Esapekka… I think that when the decision was made for Craig there was a bit of a question mark for [whether] Esapekka [would join the team],” Abiteboul said.
“And Esapekka and Dani are both a combination of experience and speed when it matters, when the conditions are there and when we are providing them with the right car.”
“So I think it’s a bit of a relief that alleviates a bit of the pressure on the team to find even further experience.
“So I think we can now afford to look beyond just what is here but a bit further away because at some point if we want a future we need to build that future.
“This is also an indication given by Hyundai headquarters, to start building the future, so that is very much what we are doing these days.”
Solberg, the driver Hyundai dropped just seven months ago, would appear a logical solution given he’s still only 21 years old and performing well in WRC2 this season.
But asked if Solberg could be brought back, Abiteboul wasn’t giving anything away.
“I don’t want to give any specific name, neither as to whether they’re a part of the plan or not part of the plan,” he said.
“As I say, now we’ve got a strategy, we need to implement that strategy with whoever is best positioned or whoever in plural it’s not just one person, it’s several people that need to join the Hyundai family for the long-term.”