Hyundai Motorsport won’t be bringing any performance updates to its i20 N Rally1 until the start of 2024, instead prioritising reliability for the rest of this season.
Hyundai trails World Rally Championship leaders Toyota by 91 points with just one victory (Thierry Neuville in Sardinia) to Toyota’s eight in 2023.
Its i20 has improved dramatically compared to the car that was both off the pace and unreliable at the start of the Rally1 regulation cycle in 2022, but Toyota has made its own progress – particularly on hard-surface gravel rallies – meaning its GR Yaris Rally1 is still widely recognized as the benchmark across the WRC service park.
Hyundai technical director François-Xavier Demaison told DirtFish that Hyundai has three development jokers left to spend this year but he doesn’t intend to use them for any performance gains.
“Most of the jokers this year will be used for reliability development, to improve the reliability so there will not be much performance out of it, “Demaison said.
“We don’t want to rush it, so go through the proper validation period. If you homologate something, it’s really bringing performance and reliability.
“We made the choice to say ‘OK this year, don’t try to rush something and use it only on two rallies’. Just use these two extra months and make sure that it’s an improvement.
“But we have jokers next year, two more next year, where we will push to the maximum the weight-saving and try to do the second loop of weight-saving which you normally do in the normal development period and save weight.
“And today we, it’s not a secret, we’re still overweight so it’s really painful for an engineer to be in that situation.”
One of Hyundai’s key areas of attention this year will likely be the propshaft, which failed four times on Esapekka Lappi’s car on June’s Safari Rally Kenya.
Lappi suggested to DirtFish that nothing has changed on the car since then.
“I guess one of the biggest topics is still the propshaft thing we had in Safari, or what I had in Safari,” he said. “But there will be a change for this anyway coming.”
However Hyundai’s next major performance update won’t be until the 2024 Monte Carlo Rally – a situation which frustrates Neuville who feels WRC teams should have more freedom to develop their cars.
“It’s the regulation. I guess that manufacturers were pushing for that [a limited number of jokers] in the beginning,” Neuville told DirtFish.
“[But] I think with the current management that we have, they deeply regret because anyhow we are spending millions and millions every year, so a few more or less won’t make a big difference I don’t think – not for those two manufacturers involved in the championship.
“So yeah, somehow we are penalized, the competition is less and the championship is less interesting.
“Somehow I think there needs to be a rethink of those regulations.”