Hyundai Motorsport enters Rallye Monte-Carlo with youth and experience
The first chapter of a new challenge in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) begins at Rallye Monte-Carlo this weekend with Hyundai Motorsport focusing on making a fast start to the Rally1 hybrid era.
Battling for victory in the new Hyundai i20 N Rally1 from 20 to 23 January will be a line-up that boasts a combination of youth and experience, as the Alzenau-based team targets a renewed challenge for the manufacturers’ title in 2022.
Competing alongside the established pairs of Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe and Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja will be the youngest Hyundai Motorsport crew in the team’s history: 20-year-old Swede Oliver Solberg and his 27-year-old co-driver Elliott Edmondson. All three crews have worked extensively with Hyundai Motorsport’s new challenger ahead of the event in a bid to power themselves to the top of the classification over the course of the four-day rally.
Due to its treacherous and ever-changing conditions – which can feature a mixture of tarmac, snow and ice in a single stage – Rallye Monte-Carlo is one of the most challenging and unpredictable events on the WRC calendar. This year’s rally will feature a new service park in Monaco instead of Gap, which had been the base of the event since 2014. There are also changes on the stages, with almost 95% of the route modified from the 2021 itinerary.
After a three-day recce, Rallye Monte-Carlo will begin on Thursday 20 January with an opening ceremony in the iconic Casino Square before the crews take on two stages under the cover of darkness. Friday will push the new Rally1 cars to the limit, running six stages without a midday service. Instead, there will be only a single tyre-changing opportunity sandwiched between nearly 100 km of mountain stages.
Saturday features five more demanding tests covering a competitive distance of 92,46 km. As on Friday, the final day of the event has no service when crews tackle four more stages in the Alps.
Hyundai Motorsport’s preparations for the 90th Rallye Monte-Carlo began early December, with its crews putting the new Hyundai i20 N Rally1 through its paces in wintery conditions in the French Alps. The team did its final pre-event test last week in the Gap area for the drivers and engineers to fine-tune the car’s set-up.
Deputy team director Julien Moncet said: “We are excited to see the debut of the new hybrid-powered Rally1 cars. This will be the culmination of an intensive period of technical development from our entire organisation. Our new car has undergone significant testing to prepare us for Monte-Carlo, which will be a tough event for all competitors. Reliability will play a key role as we put the new cars through their paces.
“For Hyundai Motorsport, our long-term target this year is to fight once again for the WRC titles. We know to achieve that it would be a big advantage to secure a good result in the opening round.”
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe:
Neuville said: “Our main target in Monte-Carlo is to finish and gain experience in the car. I don’t think we are going to have a completely dry event, but I don’t think it will be full of snow either; as usual, we expect mixed conditions. That means it is hard to have the perfect tyre choice for all the stages, so it’s all about compromise – the driver who does it best will be the most competitive. Choosing the tyres is not so easy because you have to collect a lot of information, trust yourself and commit. It will be a challenge, but I like driving in these conditions, so it is going to be exciting.”
Crew Notes: Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja:
Tänak, who together with co-driver Järveoja starts their third season with Hyundai Motorsport, said: “I think there is some uncertainty heading to Monte-Carlo, so it is important that we get through the rally without major issues and keep the car running to gain as much experience as possible.
“Rallye Monte-Carlo is not as much about pure performance; it is about the reliability and small decisions you make. Of course we want to finish well and score many points for the championship this weekend. The very first stage in the dark with the new car will certainly be an adventure.”
Crew Notes: Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson:
Solberg said: “Starting my first WRC campaign in Monte-Carlo is going to be very exciting. I think we have realistic expectations for the event – the most important part for us is just finishing and helping the team as much as possible. I know I will take some time to find my feet, but I have the best guys in the team to learn from.”