Why Hyundai faces uphill battle in Safari Rally against Toyota's reign

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MOTORSPORTS Why Hyundai faces uphill battle in Safari Rally against Toyota's reign

Festus Chuma 16:32 - 30.03.2024

Hyundai struggles to match Toyota's performance at the Safari Rally amid mechanical issues and challenging terrain.

Hyundai's aspirations to dethrone Toyota's longstanding dominance in the Safari Rally Kenya seem increasingly unattainable due to persistent transmission issues plaguing its fleet. 

The technical difficulties have forced Hyundai's technical director, François-Xavier Demaison, to admit that their i20 N Rally1 cars will need to be driven conservatively, at only 80% of their potential, for the rest of the competition.

This setback came to light following a significant gearbox failure experienced by Esapekka Lappi while he was in a promising second position on Friday afternoon. 

Demaison did not mince words when discussing the implications of this incident on Hyundai's performance in the third round of the rally. 

"The casing exploded," he revealed, highlighting the transmission as the car's Achilles' heel, a component that "has not been developed and validated properly."

The recurrence of propshaft failures, which were a notable problem for Hyundai in last year's Safari Rally, has been compounded by homologation restrictions, complicating efforts to achieve a comprehensive fix. 

According to Demaison, the reliability 'fuse' has simply shifted from the propshaft to the gearbox, presenting new challenges.

The team's concerns extend to Thierry Neuville's car, with Neuville leading the world championship before encountering his own setback with a puncture. 

Despite these mechanical woes, Neuville remains determined to maintain his performance, albeit with an air of caution.

 "I’m also a bit scared about what happened to Esapekka Lappi," Neuville confessed, emphasizing his desire to avoid retirement due to technical failures.

Adding to Hyundai's list of woes, Ott Tanak's rally came to an early conclusion after a collision with a rock led to suspension damage.

As Hyundai grapples with these mechanical vulnerabilities, Toyota's stronghold on the Safari Rally appears more secure than ever. 

The Japanese manufacturer's consistent performance and reliability in one of the World Rally Championship's most challenging events have set a high bar that Hyundai is struggling to meet, especially under the current constraints.

With the competition heating up and the landscape of the Safari Rally proving as unpredictable as ever, Hyundai's team faces a daunting task.

They must navigate the delicate balance between pushing their cars to the limits and conserving them enough to reach the finish line, all while attempting to close the gap with their rivals. 

As the rally progresses, the motorsport world watches closely to see if Hyundai can overcome its technical hurdles or if Toyota will continue its reign atop the Safari Rally podium.

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