Why Hyundai is looking beyond WRC for its 2020 schedule

Team boss Andrea Adamo is getting Hyundai i20s back onto rally stages in Italy and Estonia


The World Rally Championship has just lost three rounds in six days. The world’s finest rally cars and drivers will remain out of sight for at least the next three months. When he heard this latest blow to the sport he loves, Hyundai Motorsport director Andrea Adamo decided he’d heard enough.

He looked at his calendar, made some calls and came up with a new plan.

“What can we do?” Adamo asked DirtFish. “If we just sit here and hope, then nothing will happen. We have to make things happen.”

Adamo making things happen means three rallies – two in Italy, one in Estonia – in three weeks for his Frankfurt-based team.

Dani Sordo will be joined by Pierre-Louis Loubet in a pair of i20 Coupe WRCs on Rally di Roma Capitale (July 24-26), with the latter making his belated debut aboard a factory Rally1 car. They will be joined by Craig Breen and Callum Devine in i20 R5s.

For Sordo and Loubet it’s a chance to shake off some rust from the enforced downtime without the pressure to deliver points or trophies, as they’ll be in their own ‘Rally Stars’ event and not formally timed as part of the main rally. That’s especially useful for Loubet, whose last competitive outing of any sort was Rallye du Condroz in November last year.

Craig Breen Itaralli

Breen has already rallied the i20 R5 this year, finishing third on Finland's Itäralli

Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

But for Breen and Devine, it’s the start of their primary 2020 rally programs. Both are present to begin their respective campaigns for the overall and ERC1 Junior titles.

Loubet retains Rally1 power with a customer car for Rally di Alba (July 31-August 2), while Breen and Jari Huttunen maintain the development work with R5 entries.

And then it’s north to Estonia for the big one and the very, very fast one: Rally DirtFish (August 7-9).

World Rally Champion Ott Tänak and Monte Carlo Rally winner Thierry Neuville drive the i20 Coupe WRCs, while Huttunen sticks with the R5 on the Otepää-based event.

In typical detail, Adamo explained his reasoning for the new plan.

He said: “The pandemic remains critical in some areas of the world and we are certainly not pressing ahead blindly.

“However, the situation in Europe has allowed us to resume some of our operations at Hyundai Motorsport, with safety precautions and social distancing in place. We are reacting as best we can to an always-evolving schedule.


With Rally Finland canceled for 2020, Rally DirtFish will be Neuville's best chance to fully open the taps on his i20 this year

Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

“The recent cancellations of WRC in Finland and New Zealand [and subsequently Rally GB] mean we have an extended period of no championship action, so we’ve looked at how we might be able to keep active.

“We want to give our drivers and co-drivers the opportunity to compete and to put a smile back on fans’ faces. We are monitoring the circumstances closely but hope we can field our i20 Coupe WRC and i20 R5 in a handful of events this summer.

“This has been a challenging time for a lot of people, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel, so we must continue to take cautious steps back to our normal routines.”