WRC teams weigh in on Hyundai’s driver shuffle

Hyundai's policy of rotation among its drivers is more surprising than you think

Thierry Neuville Hyundai Rally Sweden WRC 2019

The third round of this year’s World Rally Championship brings a third different driver line-up from Hyundai Motorsport – a policy which is drawing different views from different corners of the service park.

Sébastien Loeb relinquished the controls of the third i20 Coupe WRC to Craig Breen in Sweden and now Dani Sordo drives the car at Rally México later this month.

The León-based event is the one where motorsport director Andrea Adamo’s policy could really bear fruit, with the Spaniard starting his first WRC round of the season in the best possible position on the road; with no starts and no points, he’ll be last of the P1 drivers into the stages on Friday.

If the weather stays as it is at the moment – 28 degrees and zero percent change of rain – then Sordo will have the most grip and the fastest line.

Toyota team principal Tommi Mäkinen has maintained the same driver line-up for each season since 2017. Rotating drivers is not on his agenda.

The Finn told his domestic media: “I’m not entirely sure if it’s a sporting rule to change drivers on Monday after the last rally. It’s a little crazy. You can then play the game in the best possible fashion.”

When DirtFish talked to the four-time world champion about the same subject his response was more middle of the road.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a big fight in the whole championship,” said Mäkinen. “I’m sure Sweden was a special event and Monte Carlo was also. Now we are coming to more constant conditions we’ll see [if Hyundai runs a more regular line-up].”

Asked directly if he agreed with the policy he said: “It’s difficult to say. We feel we have a good team – but Adamo, he has a good team also.”

Adamo’s response was as brief as it was concise.

“It seems,” he told DirtFish, “that Tommi has more free time to think about my drivers than I have free time to think about his comments.”

M-Sport Ford’s Richard Millener was pragmatic enough to admit, budget permitting, he’d follow Adamo’s lead.

He said: “I don’t have a massive problem with changing it around, it adds a bit of interest and, if I were in his position, I would do the same thing.

“Andrea has great budget behind him and [Hyundai team manager] Alain Penasse isn’t stupid – he knows the rules inside-out and he knows the best way to challenge and get the best out of it. Toyota’s probably kicking themselves that they’re not doing it, but they’ve employed three [full-time] drivers.”

One thing is certain, Adamo won’t be changing his policy any time soon.