You probably won’t need reminding that Hyundai had a bit of a shocker on the Monte Carlo Rally, the first event of the World Rally Championship’s Rally1 era.
Ott Tänak crashed and retired. Thierry Neuville nursed a broken damper to end-of-day service on Saturday and picked up sixth. Oliver Solberg retired after several failed attempts to stop fumes polluting the cockpit of the i20 N Rally1.
Monte was bad. We know it, Hyundai knows it. As deputy team director Julien Moncet said at the finish, the main positive of the Monte for Hyundai was “looking forward to Sweden”.
Sweden. A chance for redemption, perhaps. That’s certainly how Tänak sees it. Reliability gremlins were omnipresent in the Hyundai garage last month but more than that, it was the weakest surface for the i20 N out of the box. Ice and gravel hold greater promise says Tänak.
“Let’s say when the conditions were a bit more tricky, actually our pace was not so bad,” he told DirtFish.
“It was possible to compare ourselves to other teams, and we were competitive. It’s just on high-grip we were a bit behind, but we were also carrying our different issues so we were definitely not in full performance mode.
“I think the key at the moment is to get rid of all the issues we are having, all the small things we are carrying, and when we get rid of this then we could see actually where we are.
“I’m pretty sure the potential for this car, in just pure performance, is there. The car will be fast. But we just need to get it ready, that we can focus 100% on the performance.”
We are quite on the back foot with everything alreadyOtt Tänak
Tänak concedes a repeat of Monte is possible. A fast car is useless if it’s an unreliable one. And the gap between Monte and Sweden isn’t that big – expecting Hyundai to turn an unreliable car into a bulletproof one in less than a month is a stretch.
“From my side, everything is possible, for sure they are trying,” he added.
Hyundai is behind the curve on preparation. There’s no doubt about that. Moncet admitted it was touch-and-go getting all three cars built in time for the season opener. And while he was roundly supportive of the long shifts being put in at Alzenau, Tänak was not shying away from just how fine his team had been cutting it.
“The guys were really pushing hard. The engineers and the mechanics especially, spending all the night, and it was not only the last weeks, it was all the last months pushing to get the first car ready, pushing to get to the first test and pushing to get cars ready for the rally and things like this.
“Everything was really, really late but still it was important to get the cars ready here [in Monte], we got here.”
During the Andrea Adamo era, Hyundai’s test and development strategy extended to entering several regional rallies with i20 Couple WRCs.
Rally di Alba, a favorite of Adamo’s as a Piedmont native, had welcomed an army of i20s in the past. Tänak had gone back home to compete in the South Estonian Rally.
But those were the old days. This is a new era and, for now at least, there are no plans for Hyundai to hit the stages outside WRC to speed up development. The car needs to do the basics right first.
“I think where we are at the moment, we are quite on the back foot with everything already,” said Tänak.
“First we need to figure out all the things, we need to get the cars running and get the spares and get the development done. And if you have the chance, then for sure we will try to do some more, but at the moment I think we’re busy enough.”
Based on its Monte performance, Hyundai has a rather large hill to ascend. Tänak reckons he got a very small glimpse of the summit at the Monte. But there’s still plenty of climbing to do yet.