Reasons why Hyundai face challenges on fast gravel rallies despite optimistic outlook

Reasons why Hyundai face challenges on fast gravel rallies despite optimistic outlook

Festus Chuma 12:15 - 16.06.2024

Performance improvements at Hyundai show promise as they tackle fast gravel rallies with Neuville highlighting key developments and strategic testing.

Gravel rallies present a significant challenge for Hyundai but recent developments suggest a turning tide for the team as it faces a fast-paced trio of World Rally Championship (WRC) events.

With Rally Poland on the horizon, followed by Latvia and Finland, the summer stretch could prove pivotal in Hyundai's quest for the WRC title.

Current WRC leader, Thierry Neuville acknowledges the unique challenges posed by these rapid stages.

"I mean, Poland, it’s still a bit different type and will be a soft surface, and on soft surface, we are not too bad," Neuville explained to DirtFish.

While Hyundai has shown prowess on softer surfaces like Poland, where Neuville secured a victory in 2017, the harder gravel found in Finland and the former Rally Estonia have historically been sticking points for the team.

"It’s mainly on the hard ground like Estonia or even more Finland where we struggle a lot, and we have been better. I believe there’s still room for improvement on those surfaces," he added.

Despite these challenges, there are signs of progress. Ott Tanak's victory in Finland in 2022 underscored Hyundai's potential breakthrough.

The addition of Esapekka Lappi, who won in Finland in 2019, to the team has further bolstered their development efforts, particularly in adapting the i20 N Rally1 to demanding conditions.

Hyundai's strategic move to establish a permanent base in Finland highlights their commitment to mastering fast gravel.

This decision allows the team to spend more time fine-tuning the car's performance on these challenging roads.

Neuville’s recent performances including a second place in Finland in 2023 demonstrate the benefits of this focused approach.

"Since we are testing also in Finland, we have improved on that surface, which was clearly for me, from a driver’s point of view, always a struggle because you don’t get so much mileage on those roads," Neuville noted.

The shift from Rally Estonia to Rally Latvia in 2024 does not diminish the strides Hyundai has made.

The team's continuous efforts in Finland leveraging the challenging terrains for testing have instilled greater confidence in Neuville and enhanced the car's capabilities.

With the WRC title in sight every improvement and adaptation could be crucial in turning Hyundai's past struggles into future successes on the world's fastest gravel roads.

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