Hyundai: Australia dominance a warning shot for 2018
Hyundai team principal Michel Nandan says the Korean manufacturer's domination of last week’s Rally Australia is a taste of what’s to come from the team in 2018.
The i20 WRCs were never headed in New South Wales, with Andreas Mikkelsen leading until he was forced to retire with two punctures on Saturday morning.
After the Norwegian's demise, teammate Thierry Neuville led until the finish, while Hayden Paddon made it a double podium for team in third.
Mikkelsen has led two of the three rallies he has started with Hyundai, and Nandan believes his shows the choice to recruit the ex-Volkswagen driver was the correct one.
“The decision to bring Andreas is, from what we have seen already, the right one,” said Nandan.
“In the end we are here to be world champions. We missed it this year and, for sure, we don’t intend to miss it next year, so we have to try our best.”
Mikkelsen’s arrival has caused friction, forcing Paddon and Dani Sordo to share a third car for next season, while Mikkelsen and Neuville are expected to contest every round in 2018.
“We are the complete team now,” Hyundai team manager Alain Penasse told Motorsport.com.
“We said at the start of the year that we thought we had the [driver] line-up that was the right choice, but during the year it proved to be too weak and that’s why we had to make this change.
"It doesn’t please Dani or Hayden, but we’re not here to please them, we’re here to do the job.
“There is pressure to be world champion and the manufacturer has the desire to achieve that; there is no phone call from Korea, but there is the passive pressure. We are aware we have to deliver.”
While the i20 Coupe WRC has shown blistering pace, with Neuville winning four of this year’s 13 rounds, it has struggled to match its rivals for reliability.
The Belgian has run a 2018 specification i20 for the last two rounds and Nandan is confident the team has found the durability needed to challenge next year.
“We made the homologation of the 2018 car in October so Thierry could use this car in Wales,” Nandan explained.
“At that point there was still the chance for him in the championship – that’s why we gave this car to Thierry. We couldn’t make three of these  cars for the last rallies.
“We had some issues with the car, but we focussed the development on the reliability for the next season car and this is done.
"With this car we can go to next year’s championship with good confidence.”
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