What now for Hyundai Motorsport? Already on the back foot going into the off-season, the Alzenau team now faces a significant battle to get its test schedule and plans for 2022 back on track following Thierry Neuville’s crash on Saturday.
As soon as Neuville and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe were given the all-clear in hospital, thoughts would have turned to preparations for the coming season.
Sources within Hyundai Motorsport have told DirtFish of their concerns at the work still to be done ahead of the 2022 season-opening Monte Carlo Rally – three event-ready i20 N Rally1s have to be ready for a shakedown close to the factory in Germany in just over five weeks.
The source said: “It was always going to be tight – you talk to Andrea [Adamo, Hyundai team principal], you know that. Now…”
“Later nights and even longer days. That was a big shunt for Thierry. A big one.”
The source declined to talk about the details of how the hybrid system had stood the impact, but they made it clear the latest safety revisions – including an all-new safety cell inside the car – had certainly worked to save the crew from more serious injury.
Talk to any team now and the biggest headache for the first half of the 2022 season is getting chassis prepared and built in time.
Sources have indicated the crashed chassis was the only test-ready car Hyundai Motorsport has right now. The team will be working harder than ever to fast-forward chassis number two to get it on the road as soon as possible.
Opinion varies on whether that will be a matter of days or more than a week.
Adamo himself has already talked about how far behind Hyundai Motorsport is compared with rivals M-Sport Ford and Toyota. The Italian also laid bare how mileage from the test i20 the world saw running through the fall was useful, but not definitive – it’s only now that the team is running a genuine 2022-specification car.
Extreme weather already derailed the original test plan last week, with heavy snow forcing Neuville’s to be postponed until the weekend.
Let’s not forget that, while M-Sport’s Ford Puma and Toyota’s Yaris are closing on final homologation specification, there’s still some serious work and a considerable number of test days to get through with the i20.
It’s impossible to say how much Saturday’s crash – where those close to the test site in France reported that Neuville and Wydaeghe rolled down a ravine and landed in a river – will impact on Monte Carlo next month.
The one thing we can say is that it’s not going to make Adamo and his team’s job and easier.
Hyundai’s back was already veering towards the wall, it’s fair to say it’s right up against it now.