Ott Tänak will return to drive for Hyundai Motorsport next season.
The 2019 World Rally champion has agreed terms with the Alzenau-based team and will return to partner Thierry Neuville next year.
Tänak left Hyundai bound for a single season with M-Sport Ford World Rally Team at the end of last year. He’s now making that journey in reverse.
This isn’t the first time the Estonian star has rocked the service park with a move – jumping ship from Toyota to Hyundai was a story revealed on the weekend he won his world title at the wheel of a Yaris WRC.
Ironically, this latest move comes on the back of a sensational victory aboard an M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid in Chile.
Tänak’s decision to return to Hyundai will raise eyebrows in the sport: his three-year-stint aboard an i20 netted just five wins, one short of the six he’d achieved with Toyota in his title-winning season.
Recent changes of management have been at the heart of the move, according to a senior DirtFish source.
“Look to the team,” said the source. “Hyundai is not Hyundai from 18 months ago. TP (team principal) has changed, team manager has gone and now FX [Demaison, technical director] is there to help with the engineering side.
“It’s completely different now. It’s not something that’s [kept] quiet that Ott didn’t love all of the team in the past, but now they’re new faces.
“OK, it’s not like [Andrea] Adamo is coming back, but we can see he (Tänak) can see the change and it’s enough to convince him to come to the factory again.”
Talking to Belgian media outlet RTBF, Neuville admitted he would look forward to the return of the driver he considered his hardest team-mate.
Neuville said: “We have to strengthen the team. He’ll probably come back with knowledge of another competing car [and] that can only help.
“I always said it: he was the toughest team-mate, the hardest to beat. It was a reference for me, it gave me the opportunity to surpass myself from time to time.”
Talking more about a possible rivalry within the team, Neuville said he had confidence in the team’s management.
He added: “Even if team collaboration has not always been easy, with Cyril Abiteboul at the helm, he will play the game and he will be a good team-mate.”
DirtFish has contacted both Tänak and Hyundai Motorsport for comment.
DirtFish understands Esapekka Lappi will remain with the team next season, but the Finn could run a reduced program, potentially sharing a third car with countryman Teemu Suninen.