Hyundai decided to react after another disappointing rally

Hyundai will not be fooled for long. Three weeks after his first win of the year in Sardinia, which seemed to have ended a difficult start to the year and finally started the season, the South Korean manufacturer disappointed at the Safari Rally.

It always repeats the same scenario, namely a series of technical glitches that affect an overall performance that could be of good quality considering the top speed shown by the i20 N.

For reliability we have to go back, and we only have to list the countless mishaps that have befallen the team to gauge the frustration that has been building among crews for some time.

It all started with a broken shifter on Ott Tänak’s car on Friday morning. An unusual incident, however, which immediately affected the Estonian’s result in this sixth round of the season, losing more than thirty seconds.

Fate then befell the winner of the Sardinia Rally, who had to retire on Saturday due to a broken gearbox and the next day due to a failure of his power steering. Result of the races: white score for the 2019 World Champion, who will not have had an opportunity to capitalize on his Italian victory in early June.

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Thierry Neuville fared no better, although the Belgian keeps shouting when it comes to shaving a few points and proving that if the i20 N is riddled with youthful blemishes, it’s not dead even at mid-season, nevertheless shows a speed boost that is in no way inferior to its Toyota competitor, the GR Yaris.

He actually finished fifth in the Safari Rally, while on the Power Stage (for the second year running after Sardinia) he was fastest and still brought home 15 points.

Small wonder given the number of mechanical problems that plagued him throughout the Kenyan weekend: loss of power on Friday after his i20 N picked up sand, then an alternator problem on Saturday before the engine stalled after driving it during a ford had flooded .

Neuville was again buried under technical problems at the Safari Rally

A noticeable lack of organization

With Rally Estonia approaching halfway point in mid-July, the situation becomes increasingly pressing for Hyundai, who desperately need to raise the bar if they are to establish themselves as a credible contender for the various titles.

Neuville, second in the championship, is actually 65 points adrift (ie the arithmetical equivalent of two rallies, including Power Stage points) to leader Kalle Rovanperä, author of a speech during the last lap, while Tänak is third by 83 units .

The fact is, however, that the roots of the Korean manufacturer’s torment undoubtedly lie in its organizational problems, which have been going on for more than six months.

Former team boss Andrea Adamo, who left the team in December 2021 for personal reasons, has never really been replaced, although former head of transmission systems Julien Moncet continues to provide care on an interim basis, with great merit.

The development of the i20 N thus pays the price for this lack of organization and is several months behind the development of the other cars entered in the WRC. A situation all the more damaging as the discipline has entered a new technical age in 2022 with the advent of the hybrid and the advent of a new generation of vehicles.

Somehow, since December 2021 and the surprise departure of Andrea Adamo, Julien Moncet has taken over as interim manager at the helm of the team

Somehow, since December 2021 and the surprise departure of Andrea Adamo, Julien Moncet has taken over as interim manager at the helm of the team

Diminished hope, the team seem aware of their weaknesses and want to work on them, Moncet has assured that on the evening of the 2nd stage of the Safari Rally: “I think we’re going to talk a lot next week. We know what our problems are and now it’s up to the team to react.”said the brand manager.

“It was a very difficult weekend for us. Of course, two of our cars finished and Thierry won the Power Stage. But it was frustrating because we had a lot of problems [rallye difficile] will take place in Greece, so we still have some time to go on some issues, but on others we need to act now.”

For his part, Neuville continues to turn his back and take it upon himself, despite the series of misfortunes suffered since the start of the season. “Of course we try to improve as a team and communication is important”said the Belgian on the evening of the second stage “I think we have to be constructive in our situation [plutôt que s’énerver].”

“We did our best. To finish fifth after all the problems [que nous avons eus] can be considered a satisfactory result. It’s been a tough weekend […]. Our goal from then on was to bring something back from the Power Stage, which we at least managed to do. There isn’t much more to say. The situation is clear. I am very disappointed not only for us but also for all the mechanics who worked very hard but how we were not rewarded for their efforts.

Heading for a rest in Estonia?

Hyundai knows it, it’s at a turning point in the championship. Both in terms of the calendar, as we said, but also and above all in terms of its resilience. Indeed, if the team manages to bounce back despite the Safari Rally’s renewed disappointment, it will emerge more united and able to fight against Toyota and M-Sport.

“In this difficult moment we will see how solid the team is because now we have to react”emphasizes Monet. “To be honest we still have complications at the moment, that’s for sure. Hopefully we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel, we’ll just have to be patient. Of course we have to finish the verification of the organization [de l’équipe], and I have a feeling it will be settled in the next few days. We have to work internally, with the pilots and the design office, with everyone on different issues. We have identified some problems, we know what we have to do and now we have to act.”

The next round of the calendar takes place on Ott Tänak’s land in mid-July and offers less brittle ground than Kenya. A good opportunity for the South Korean brand to relaunch, this time for sure.

With Tom Howard

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