Hyundai Motorsport is first out of the starting blocks with an official reveal of a new 2017 World Rally Championship contender.
Hyundai launched the new i20 Coupe WRC — built to the new technical regulations allowing greater aerodynamic freedoms and more engine power — at the annual Monza Rally Show in Italy overnight.
And Kiwi rally star Hayden Paddon says he can’t wait to hit the special stages with the dramatically styled new car.
"It's an incredible looking car - really aggressive, wide and fast,’’ Paddon told Driven.
"To think I will be driving that car makes you pinch yourself sometimes. The engineering and knowledge behind such a car is mind blowing.’’
The 2017 car sees Hyundai move to the three-door coupe body style of the New Generation i20.
The car is 55mm wider and 65mm longer than the 2016 car and its prominent aerodynamic features includes a wider front air dam, ``dive planes’’ incorporated into the flared front wheel arches and a much larger rear wing.
Under the wider bodywork, the track has been widened by 55mm while the wheelbase is unchanged at 2570mm. The new rules allow the teams to modify the door sills and fit a large rear diffuser.
There will be increased power in 2017 from the 1.6-litre direct injection turbocharged engines which power all WRC cars. It comes from an increase in the turbocharger air inlet restrictor from 33mm to 36mm while maximum boost pressure remains pegged at 2.5-bar.
Hyundai is claiming 380bhp at 6500rpm and peak torque of 450Nm at 5500rpm. It’s estimated the 2016 cars developed in the region of 315bhp.
Hyundai says the i20 Coupe WRC is 10kg lighter than the 2016 car. The other major change sees electronic control of the centre differential being allowed for the first time since 2010.
"The new car is exciting and is certainly faster,’’ Paddon said.
He expects it will deliver its performance in a different style to the 2016 car.
"As we don't have much extra torque the acceleration is similar, but because the engine has 60+ more horsepower, once you are up to speed, the corners come quicker.
"We also need to rev the car more which makes it sound more spectacular.’’
Early tests in the new car have highlighted some handling differences.
"The chassis is similar but the wider track and active centre diff make the car more stable. And it’s also more tuneable to different driving styles,’’ Paddon said.
"In testing we are feeling comfortable in the car and most importantly it has proved very reliable so far.’’
During the launch event overnight team principal Michel Nandan said the new car had already covered more than 6000km in testing with several more tests planned in the seven weeks before opening event of next season in Monte Carlo.
"This is the biggest change to the regulations for some time,’’ said Nandan.
"It’s a great new technical challenge and one that we have tackled with enthusiasm. We want to demonstrate our ability to fight for the Championship next season – and we are confident the i20 Coupe WRC will help us do just that.”
The intent for the new car was clearly outlined by Hyundai Motorsport president Gyoo-Heon Choi who began the launch formalities by summarising Hyundai’s first three years of involvement in the WRC and then said: "The learning is done. We aim to win the championship.’’
Hyundai Motorsport is the first manufacturer team to officially launch its 2017 WRC contender.
Citroen displayed concept version of its new C3 WRC at the Paris Motor Show in September while Toyota Gazoo Racing used a test version of its new Yaris WRC to launch a sponsorship partnership with Microsoft. The M-Sport developed Ford Fiesta has remained in camouflage test trim.
The opening round of the 2017 World Rally Championship is Rallye Monte Carlo which runs January 20-22.