Hyundai Motorsport Preview: Round 1 – Rallye Monte-Carlo
• Hyundai Motorsport embarks on its tenth season in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) targeting a strong start at Rallye Monte-Carlo
• A trio of Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid cars will take to the mountain roads around the French Alps for the opening round of the year, which takes place next week (January 19-22)
• Team veterans Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo will be joined in the event line-up by new arrival Esapekka Lappi, with the Finn making his debut with the team.
January 13, 2023 – A milestone tenth season for Hyundai Motorsport in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) begins next weekend (January 19-23) with the 2023 edition of the iconic Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Following a steep learning curve in the debut year of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid in 2022, the team in Alzenau has worked throughout the offseason to improve the overall package of the car for 2023. The first competitive test for the updated challenger will be at Rallye Monte-Carlo, an unpredictable mixed-surface event which has hosted the WRC opener on all but two occasions since 1973.
The famous – and often treacherous – snow and ice of Monte-Carlo were largely absent last year, due in part to the move of the service park from Gap to Monaco and a significant modification of the event itinerary. It is expected that the condition of the tarmac roads will be less wintry once again due to the current warmer temperatures; nevertheless, the event remains one of the more demanding on the WRC calendar. The threat of ice on the roads in the opening stages remains, and making the right call on tyre choice will be key throughout the weekend.
Three talented crews will be behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid to kick-start the team’s tenth season at the pinnacle of rallying: the 2020 winner Thierry Neuville with Martijn Wydaeghe, newcomers to the team Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm, and experienced Spaniards Dani Sordo and Cándido Carrera.
The itinerary of the 91st edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo covers a distance of 325.02km across 18 stages. SS1 and SS2 will take place in pitch-black conditions on Thursday evening, before the crews negotiate six stages on Friday. Saturday is the longest day of the event, consisting of six tests that total 111.78km. Four final stages on Sunday bring the rally to a close.
Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “Everyone in the team is excited to start what we hope will be a strong year for Hyundai Motorsport in the FIA World Rally Championship. So far I have only had a short visit in the factory in Alzenau, but what I saw was very impressive. It is clear that the team has been working tirelessly to improve the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid in a bid to be consistently competitive in every round. Speaking to the crews, they have painted a clear picture of the tricky nature of Rallye Monte-Carlo, and what it takes to win there; it is evident they are ready to take on the challenge. Personally, I will be attending the event to observe and start immersing myself in the team and the series. My goal for the season ahead is to support the team and do what I can to put us in the best position possible to succeed, but this will only work by taking a step back and focusing on getting myself up to speed quickly.”
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (#11 Hyundai i20 N Rally1)
• Neuville enters tenth season with Hyundai Motorsport
• Belgians claimed podium at 2021 edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo
Neuville said: “I always like starting the year with Rallye Monte-Carlo; it is an event where we have been competitive in recent years. I expect we will face some tricky conditions, despite the warm weather in the region at the moment. Monte-Carlo is always a bit of a surprise, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s nice to kick off a new season; everyone is on equal points again, and it’s up to us to make the best out of the clean slate. The package of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid has improved so much since its first round in 2022, which helps with our confidence going into this year. There’s been some slight evolutions on the car which will give it even more performance. We never know what our opponents have done during the winter, but I don’t think there will be any big changes. While everybody will have improved a bit, hopefully we are all on a similar level.”
Crew Notes: Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (#4 Hyundai i20 N Rally1)
• Finns set to make debut with Hyundai Motorsport
• Pair finished fourth on last WRC visit to Monte-Carlo in 2020
Lappi said: “Rallye Monte-Carlo changed location last year; it moved closer to Monaco and there was a bit less snow and ice than before. I don’t know whether that will be the case this year as well, but if it is, then it will certainly make things simpler for us, as we also have to learn a whole new car. Thursday night is always quite tense – I have to say it is not the nicest feeling climbing up the hill in the darkness on slick tyres in potentially icy conditions! There is excitement, but there is also a small bit of fear. However, it’s quite special, and the following morning you feel more at ease – at least in your mindset. I’m excited to start this adventure with a new team; I will only have one test day on tarmac, but I will go there with my mind open and not give up before we’ve even started. I am confident we can have good pace – maybe not from the very first stage, but certainly we will develop a lot during the weekend and hopefully finish well.”
Crew Notes: Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (#6 Hyundai i20 N Rally1)
• Sordo boasts three previous podium finishes at the event
• Spanish duo secured a trio of top-three results in 2022
Sordo said: “Rallye Monte-Carlo is a difficult event, but now it is based more around Monaco and the south of France it may be a little bit better in terms of the weather. It is always a challenge due to the conditions; normally it is cold and you have the potential for ice, especially first thing in the morning. As a result, in the course of one stage you can come across so many different levels of grip on the tarmac, so it is very demanding. However, we need to be a little bit closer to the rally to see what the weather will do and understand what we are going to face on the stages. It is important to start the season well; every time you arrive to the first event you do so with full power and recharged batteries. Overall, I really like Monte-Carlo and its stages, so hopefully we can perform well and begin the year with a positive result.”
Weekend at a Glance
• Rallye Monte-Carlo begins on Thursday with two evening stages, including the longest test of the rally: La Cabanette / Col de Castillon (24.90km)
• Friday’s itinerary consists of two loops of Roure / Roubion / Beuil (18.33km), Puget-Théniers / Saint-Antonin (19.79km) and Briançonnet / Entrevaux (14.55km), separated by a tyre fitting zone
• Saturday is the longest day of the event, with the six stages boasting a total distance of 111.78km
• The rally concludes on Sunday with two passes each of Lucéram / Lantosque (18.82km) and La Bollène-Vésubie / Col de Turini (15.12km), with the second of the latter acting as the Power Stage.