Replace Andrea Adamo as team principal at Hyundai Motorsport. Fancy it? Me? Not a chance. I’d prefer a shot at something much more straightforward, such as managing world peace. Or answering the question about when, precisely, time began.
The new Adamo? Forget it. It’s an impossible task.
Who could land late – very late – into the job and immediately bring back-to-back world titles? Who, then, could do the same while introducing Jennifer Aniston to the service park? And still find time to dismiss speculation with the words: “Sometimes the mother of the idiot is always pregnant.”
Tough job. But somebody is going to have to do it.
Let’s start with who’s going to be making the decision. It’s fairly likely it won’t be coming from within the walls of Hyundai Motorsport. The top management of the team has changed dramatically in the last six months – as well as Adamo, team manager Alain Penasse departed in the summer. Director of marketing Stefan Henrich remains and will surely feed into the decision, as will current HMSG president Scott Noh.
Noh is, of course, the stand in team principal right now. Could he carry on? In short, no. It’s not where his skillset is.
The final decision on the Adamo replacement will come from Hyundai’s headquarters in Seoul. And from two desks in particular.
Vice president of N brand management and motorsport at HMC Till Wartenberg and global chief marketing officer Thomas Schemera are the men in the know on this one.
The good news is that we’re in safe hands. Both know rallying and know what they’re looking for. Wartenberg is embedded and invested in the current program, and Schemera started his Hyundai journey as head of the high performance vehicle and motorsport division in 2018.
But who are they looking for?
Predictably, nobody mentioned below was willing to talk about doing it. And, I’ve got to be honest, there are no shortage of curved balls being drilled in from left field.
There will be an element of carpet bombing in this story; I’m thinking if I throw enough names at the wall, one of them could stick, right?
The one thing the silent bunch were in agreement about is the timeline. In short: “Wednesday. That’s when it needed to be done. In fact, a week Wednesday. It’s almost 10 days already and no movement on this is bad. This is a crucial time for the team and a time when the team needs leadership.”
In that case, let’s not waste another moment.
Let’s dive in and start with the name closest to the top of the team right now.
Step forward Mr Loriaux.
Yes, yes, I know Christian Loriaux might have been seen as a slightly, how to put this politely… non-conformist character, in the past. Those days are very much gone. Granted, it’s not corporate Christian through and through, but he’s somebody who has worked hand-in-glove with Adamo and has six months’ understanding of how the team works.
More pertinently, he understands the sport intimately and few have a better technical grasp on what makes a rally car work around the world.
Will he do it? Almost certainly not.
Could Penasse come back? Timing is everything here. Had Adamo made his move while Alain’s feet were still under the same table, I’m sure he would have stepped up. Now? Doubtful. He’s been away for a while and, as I’m sure you’ll remember, he made it quite clear he’d have happily stayed on.
Back in June, Penasse told DirtFish: “This is not my decision to go. The decision has come from Korea. Obviously, like you can understand, it’s not a decision I understand or agree with, but what can I do?”
That decision, DirtFish understands, was born out of Korea’s desire to put contractors on a more permanent footing.
What about Penasse’s successor, Pablo Marcos?
Appointed as team manager in June, Marcos worked as Hyundai’s logistics coordinator and test team manager for the previous six years. He’s capable, resourceful and, as you imagine for a logistics guy, tremendously organized.
Is he a team principal? Possibly moving forwards, but right now it’s not for him. He doesn’t yet have the voice or the political weight needed to fly Hyundai’s flag in meetings.
Richard Millener has both. M-Sport Ford World Rally Team principal for the last two years, he has grown into the role and flourished beneath Malcolm Wilson’s wing. Few have the commercial and sporting grasp of the service park that Millener does.
One man who could add governance to a bow already strung with the necessary commercial and sporting credentials is Yves Matton.
The FIA rally director’s name is, we’re told, heard with increasing regularity at the water coolers at Hyundai Motorsport’s base in the Frankfurt suburbs.
Would he leave the FIA? Some see his work as being done there and with the potential for a shift in political persuasion (I’m typing these words ahead of the FIA presidential election result), the timing could work for him.
Matton’s time at Citroën Racing included factory and private World Rally Championship campaigns plus the firm’s shift to running a World Touring Car Championship effort. He knows the sport from all angles and he’s been dropped in at the last minute before – he had about a week to settle in ahead of the 2012 WRC season opener when his predecessor Olivier Quesnel departed.
The final name I’m going to put before you is Petter Solberg. Like Matton, he’s talked about plenty. Triple world champion as a driver, Solberg demonstrated his management appeal by guiding the PSRX Volkswagen squad to total domination of the World Rallycross Championship in 2017 and 2018. He’s spent his life working with manufacturers in a sport that runs through his veins.
There’s the emotional attachment to his son Oliver’s WRC program with Hyundai, but that’s an aspect which could be easily managed.
Actually, I do have one more name. Prepare yourself for the dark horse coming up the outside. Markko Märtin.
In terms of matching Adamo’s ability for direct action, few can top Markko.
Will he do it? Not a hope. If he does, I’ll eat my DirtFish cap.