Hyundai Motorsport has announced its 2023 World Rally Championship driver lineup, with Esapekka Lappi and Craig Breen coming into the fold to join Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo.
Hyundai fielded Neuville and Ott Tänak in full-time drives this season, with the third i20 N Rally1 being shared by Oliver Solberg and Sordo.
But after October’s Rally New Zealand, Hyundai elected to end its relationship with Solberg – citing the need for more experienced drivers – while 2019 world champion Tänak decided to walk out of his two-year contract one season early.
That freed up a minimum of two spots alongside Neuville, with Sordo unconfirmed but widely expected to stay put for 2023.
As revealed by DirtFish, Lappi has been signed from rival Toyota to drive for a full season, while Breen – who on Thursday was confirmed to have been extracted from his two-year deal at M-Sport Ford – will share a third car with Sordo – as he did in 2019, ’20 and ’21.
Hyundai deputy team director Julien Moncet said: “We are pleased to confirm our complete driver line-up for the 2023 WRC season with a three-car line-up and four experienced crews.
“With Thierry, we know his performance potential and his appetite to fight for the drivers’ title.
“With Esapekka joining the team on a full-time campaign, we have a driver line-up that can compete for the top positions at all events and on all surfaces. Esapekka also has the required experience to help us develop our Hyundai i20 N Rally1, which will be fundamental throughout the season.
“Sharing the third car, we have Dani – who is the perfect team-player and a trusted pair of hands; he has taken five podiums in his past six events, which says it all. Craig returns to the team fully motivated and secures an enviably talented line-up to support Thierry and Esapekka.
“With these four crews, we have a competitive and experienced combination of talent, which will underpin the teamwork ethos and mentality within our entire organisation.”
Lappi also added that getting a full-time drive at Hyundai was “truly a dream”.
“Life is full of surprises! Getting a chance to join Hyundai Motorsport and to drive a full-calendar WRC program was something we didn’t expect,” he said.
“This is truly a dream and a unique opportunity; we are very happy to join the Hyundai Motorsport family.
“The team showed during the 2022 season that it is capable of developing the car a lot during the season and has chances to win on every surface. From what I’ve heard already, 2023 looks very promising.
“We are well aware that there is a lot of work to do, but with Janne, I am committed to it. I believe we have a lot to give to the whole team.”
Meanwhile for Breen, although he won’t be competing full-time next year, he is hopeful that he can still fight for victories next year.
“Joining Hyundai Motorsport for the 2023 WRC season feels like a homecoming for me.
“We have secured some very memorable results together in the past, including several runner-up results, so hopefully I will be able to take that a step further.
“I have followed the team’s progress and development with interest this season, and I can see the momentum that has been building.
“Having the backing of a manufacturer team like Hyundai is special, and I’m sure we’ll have plenty more reasons to celebrate next season.”