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WRC Rally Finland

Deadline set for Hyundai WRC four car expansion decision

Hyundai will decide whether to expand to four cars for next year’s World Rally Championship by the end September, a move key in determining the driver silly season.

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

As previously reported, the South Korean brand’s team principal Cyril Abiteboul is evaluating a move from three to four factory entries for 2024, having fielded three cars in the top tier since 2019.

Internal discussions regarding an expansion are continuing. They centre around budget and the ability to secure a driver line-up to make the most of the extra investment from Hyundai.

Abiteboul says that a decision would need to be made by the end of next month. He stated that Hyundai should “take a risk and do things a bit differently”, but emphasised that running four cars has to “make sense” for the whole team.

“I’m still quite keen on creating something new and fresh for next year,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.

“I think us as a team and also maybe the sport, I think we need to take a risk and do things a bit differently. We all have the responsibility of bringing something a bit different to the sport.

“It is not just about making up figures with cars participating. We want to make sure it is something that makes sense for everyone.

“I think the changes are reasonable, but I need to make sure that everyone and everything is aligned in that direction.

“Frankly, there are a lot of parts on the car that have long lead time items, so we need to make a decision quickly and I guess the end of September is the latest. One of the parts in the car is also the driver.

Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team

Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team

Photo by: Romain Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport

“If we want four cars, we need to make sure we have four decent drivers that can take advantage of the four cars which is an investment from Hyundai.”

Regarding the team’s 2024 driver line-up, Thierry Neuville has a contract in place for next season and is currently the only WRC Rally1 driver with a deal for 2024.

Abiteboul confirmed in Kenya last month that he intends to hold contract extension talks with the squad’s other full-time driver Esapekka Lappi, who has impressed since joining from Toyota this year.

It is understood that Teemu Suninen, who has been promoted to the team’s third i20 N Rally1 for Estonia and this weekend’s round in Finland, is among the favourites to secure a more extensive Rally1 programme for next year.

Veteran Dani Sordo’s future is yet to be resolved although it appears the Spaniard, who is sharing the third car, could contest selected rounds next year or move into a non-driving role within the team.

Hyundai also has reigning WRC2 champion Emil Lindholm on its books as part of the brand’s newly re-launched driver development programme.

As it stands, Toyota's reigning world champion Kalle Rovanpera, Elfyn Evans and its eight-time world champion Sebastian Ogier are technically without contracts for 2024, along with former Hyundai pilot and now M-Sport star Ott Tanak.

Asked how much he would like to sign Rovanpera, Abiteboul added: “I learn also to detect where the future of someone lies.

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

“You feel that Kalle is in the right place at this moment in time and you have to think about what you have to offer, and it is not very clear what we can offer to Kalle that he doesn’t have right now.

“He is probably one of the fastest drivers out there. It would be stupid not to try and understand what we could offer to him.

“But don’t speculate that we are signing Kalle. There is 2024 and there will also be the long term future and that is what I am doing with every single driver that is racing in Rally1 and Rally2.

“I’m trying to understand what is it we could give in the future.”

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