Hyundai gearing up for next season's WRC

Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville racing at the RallyRACC Catalunya. The Belgian (above) finished third.
Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville racing at the RallyRACC Catalunya. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville racing at the RallyRACC Catalunya. The Belgian (above) finished third.
The Belgian (above) finished third.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

With two races remaining in this year's FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Hyundai Motorsport are poised to record their best season since their debut in 2000.

The Korean team are second in the manufacturers' championship - having never finished higher than third - while lead driver Thierry Neuville is joint second in the drivers' standings.

Such a strong showing bodes well for next year's campaign as Hyundai seeks to end Volkswagen's dominance.

The German outfit have won three straight manufacturers' titles (2013-15) and are favourites to win a fourth, while Volkswagen driver Sebastien Ogier has already clinched the drivers' title for his fourth championship.

Neuville, with one victory at the Rally d'Italia Sardegna in June and five podium finishes, is confidently looking ahead.

He told The Straits Times: "The challenge for me is always the same: I have one goal - to win the world championship title and I really want to achieve this goal in the two next seasons."

DRIVING FORCE

The challenge for me is always the same: I have one goal - to win the world championship title.

THIERRY NEUVILLE, Hyundai Motorsport driver, on his dream of becoming a world champion within the next two years.

The 28-year-old Belgian, who has been with Hyundai for three seasons and recently signed a two-year deal, was third at last weekend's RallyRACC Catalunya and is tied with Volkswagen's Andreas Mikkelsen on 127 points.

Ogier (222 points) has an unassailable lead with the Wales Rally GB (Oct 28-30) and Rally Australia (Nov 18-20) remaining. A win is worth 25 points.

Hyundai have confirmed their line-up for next year, which includes New Zealand's Hayden Paddon and Spaniard Dani Sordo.

Neuville said: "I am going to try the 2017 car for the first time this week, and I can't wait to be in Monte Carlo and start the new season with it. I'm very excited about 2017; it will be a new era for the WRC with the revised regulations and all the teams will start with new cars so it is going to be very interesting."

Apart from changes to regulations to allow teams more technical and design freedom and greater power in the cars, next season will also see the return of Toyota and Citroen.

Hyundai used a five-door car this year but will use a three-door car next term starting from the opener in Monte Carlo from Jan 20-22.

Testing on the prototype has been done since April "in numerous locations on different types of terrain, in order to prepare the best as comprehensively as possible," said Hyundai team principal Michel Nandan.

He expects competition to be fierce between next year. He said: "All the manufacturers next year will start with a new car so we are going to be on (an) equal level and I'm sure that will be the start of a very positive era for our sport."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'Hyundai gearing up for next season's WRC'. Print Edition | Subscribe