Hyundai Motorsport will expand its activities in rallying this season following the launch of the Hyundai Motorsport Driver Development Program (HMDP). South Korean Chewon Lim is the first competitor to receive the support of the scheme.
The foundation of a Driver Development Program is another step in Hyundai Motorsports increasing presence in rallying, after the introduction of the New Generation i20 R5 last year. Furthermore, the decision to support a South Korean driver will help promote international rallying in the country, home to Hyundais international headquarters.
After competing for six years in circuit racing, including a stint in Formula 3 in Europe, Chewon turned his attention to starting a new career in rallying. In 2015 the 33-year-old from Seoul beat 5,000 applicants to win South Korean reality TV show The Rallyist which aimed to find a new international rally driving talent. They were put through a series of physical and driving tests, with Chewon being selected as the final victor.
Throughout the last year he worked with Hyundai Motorsport at the companys base in Alzenau, Germany. Working with young Belgian co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe Chewon began to develop the specialized techniques needed for his new career, such as the different driving style needed for rallying compared to circuit racing and learning how to make, and understand, accurate pacenotes.
As they continued to develop as a crew, Chewon and Martijn made their competitive debut in June last year, entering a total of seven events in an R2-specification car. The pair will continue to work together throughout 2017, as they graduate to the New Generation i20 R5.
With the switch to the more powerful, four-wheel drive car 2017 enters a more intensive phase in Chewons development with greater support through the Hyundai Motorsport Driver Development Program. He and Martijn are scheduled to compete in up to 14 events across Europe, including Rallye Deutschland and the six stops of the Tour European Rally (TER) Series, which begins with Rally Transilvania in early May.
His selection to be part of the Hyundai Motorsport Driver Development Program also will allow Chewon to continue his development as a rally driver away from the stages. The more demanding schedule he faces in 2017, and the faster, larger car he will drive will continue to present challenges for him as he builds upon what he learnt last season with the support of Hyundai Motorsport.
Chewon Lim said: This is a big step in my rally career. To be part of the Hyundai Motorsport Driver Development Program and have the support of a successful WRC team is very encouraging for me. Last year I felt I made a lot of progress. I had to learn a totally new system, having Martijn beside me in the car compared to before when I would be alone. The most important thing I had to learn to do is to make and understand precise pacenotes. Before I was able to do laps of a circuit a learn everything about each corner. Now I may only see a corner once on the recce, but when I am competing on stages I quickly have to understand and trust Martijn and the note. The move into the New Generation i20 R5 is another challenge for me. There is a lot more power in the car, and it is also four-wheel drive, which means I have to slightly adapt my driving style again to get the best out it. Every time I get in the car I will be learning more, but that is the target.
Hyundai Motorsport Team Manager Alain Penasse, who sat on the TV show judging panel that selected Chewon said: One of the things that most impressed me about Chewon was his ability to learn quickly, and he has maintained that since he started working with Hyundai Motorsport. Through his training and testing last year he learnt the basics of rallying, and was able to build a good relationship with Martijn as his co-driver. In 2017, with the support of the Hyundai Motorsport Driver Development Program, their progression as a crew will continue. They will move up to the New Generation i20 R5, with a full year of events ahead. It will be a new challenge for both Chewon, but it is also an important phase in his development as a rally driver.
Chewon and Martijns first rally in the New Generation i20 R5 is early next month, at the Saarland-Pfalz Rallye (March 3-4) in Germany.
Hyundai Motorsport Driver Development Program 2017 partial schedule
Saarland-Pfalz Rallye (Germany) – March 3-4
Spa Rally (Belgium) – March 17-18
Transilvania Rally (Romania) – May 6-7
Ypres Rally (Belgium) – June 23-24
Rali Vinho da Madeira (Portugal) – August 4-5
Rallye Deutschland (Germany) – August 17-20
Rallye Liezen (Austria) – September 29-30
Rallye International du Valais (Switzerland) – October 27-28
Tuscan Rewind (Italy) – November 24-25