WRC: New year, new challenges for Hyundai
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Hyundai Motorsport is looking ahead with confidence to the new competitive landscape of the 2017 World Rally Championship.
As the all-conquering Volkswagen Motorsport team exits the sport, Toyota returns and Citroen restores its effort to a full season campaign, the Hyundai squad is well placed with the experience of two rally wins in 2016, second place in the Manufacturers' title and also runner-up honours in the Driver's title.
Driven spoke to Hyundai Motorsport team principal Michel Nandan during Rally Australia. He believes the team has done a strong job developing the 2016 car while simultaneously working on the next version of the i20 WRC for the revised 2017 rules.
"If we look back at the complete season I think we did quite a good season," said Nandan.
"Starting with a new car is always quite difficult. There are a lot of unknowns about the reliability of the car even if you are doing testing.
"We had some small issue at the very beginning but we sorted it out very quickly and we have managed to improve the car every time. This is reason we are getting closer and closer to VW.
"Our target was to get as many podiums as possible and we have managed to do quite a lot and we had two wins.
"Of course, we could have probably could have done more but this is a new car and there is also a lot of work to do for next year to introduce a new car again.
"So it's been a big workload for the team and I think we can be quite satisfied with this season."
Nandan said the early indications from the 2017 challenger are positive.
"We can be quite confident. So far all the tests we have done are quite positive. On the reliability side it looks like the car is as good as the one from this year.
"I'm quite confident but each team will have new cars completely different from what we have. So, in terms of performance, it's difficult to calculate but that is the same for everyone. Let's see who has done the best job."
Although the news of Volkswagen's exit from the sport has caused a scramble among drivers for seats in the 2017 championship, Hyundai had already settled its line-up ahead of the VW announcement. Belgian Thierry Neuville, Kiwi Hayden Paddon and Spaniard Dani Sordo remain with the team.
"Our strong point is we have a good driver line-up," said Nandan.
Hyundai's team principal said Paddon had performed well and shown progress.
" He did a fantastic drive in Argentina [where he won].
"On tarmac he has made quite some progress. We have seen at the end of the rally in Corsica his stage times were very good and also in Spain as well.
"So I think he is improving every time and next year should be easier for him."