Our New Generation i20 R5 will make its first WRC2 start at Tour de Corse – Rallye de France, which takes place from 29 September-October 2, subject to a timely completion of the homologation process. Three of the brand new machines are set to line up for the event, the tenth round of the WRC season. Among the trio of New Generation i20 R5 cars that will take the ceremonial start in Ajaccio will be entries from the first two customer teams to take delivery from Hyundai Motorsport.
The two crews who will drive the cars show the broad appeal of the R5 class and the New Generation i20 R5. Stéphane Sarrazin and Jacques-Julien Renucci are past winners of the rally, but the weekend will mark their first appearance in the WRC service park this season. The experienced Sarrazin, currently a regular driver in FIA World Endurance Championship and Formula E, captured ninth overall on the event last season, competing in WRC-spec machinery.
Aboard the other customer teams’ New Generation i20 R5 will be Fabio Andolfi and co-driver Manuel Fenoli. Tour de Corse – Rallye de France will be a first start in an R5 for the Italian pairing. They will compete in an entry run by HMI and ACI Team Italia, supported by ACI Sport, the national motorsport body in their home country. Currently in the middle of a second season contesting the WRC3 championship 23-year-old Andolfi lies fourth in the points’ standings, having taken victory on the neighboring island of Sardinia in June.
The third New Generation i20 R5 to take on the ‘Rally of 10,000 Corners’ will be run by Hyundai Motorsport for Kevin Abbring and Seb Marshall. In his role as lead test driver for the team, Kevin has been an integral part of the Customer Racing team throughout the project. The Dutchman has completed almost all of the 5,000km of testing conducted during the seven-month development process. During that time every one of the car’s crucial systems has been optimised in preparation of joining one of the most closely contested categories in world motorsport.
The Customer Racing department will travel to Corsica with two targets. The first will be to prove the pace of the New Generation i20 R5 on the stages against the more established manufacturers in the class. However, the weekend will also show the level of support that customers can expect. The customer teams at the rally will be supported by a dedicated engineer, with further specialist technicians in attendance to make sure that all three cars remain as competitive as possible throughout the event.
Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “With the competitive debut of the New Generation i20 R5 this year’s Tour de Corse – Rallye de France will be the biggest event in the history of Hyundai Motorsport. The foundation of the Customer Racing department was an important expansion for the company, and we will have an unprecedented six Hyundai Motorsport built entries at the start of the rally. For the first time we will compete with a car other than our WRC challenger. In taking on the R5 category and the WRC2 championship we have targeted one of the most competitive areas of modern motorsport. Due to the tight deadlines, which have been a constant part of this project, we are still awaiting final confirmation of the car’s homologation for competition from the FIA. However, with preparations in the workshop well advanced, the New Generation i20 R5 should be ready to compete.”
Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing manager Andrea Adamo explained: “Though we have been testing with the New Generation i20 R5 since January the Tour de Corse – Rallye de France will be the first real test. We have always known that the success of the project depends on how the car performs on the stages compared to the R5-spec machines from other manufacturers. Of course we aim for good results, not only from our own entry, but from each of the cars. For the rally weekend we will have two aims: we enter to prove the performance of the car, but we also want to show the level of support Hyundai Motorsport is capable of delivering to our customers. During the event we will divide our focus between the three teams, with engineers from the Customer Racing department supporting not only Kevin and Seb, but also our customers.”
On Familiar Ground
For Hyundai Motorsport drivers Kevin and Seb their competitive debut in the New Generation i20 R5 will be a third successive start on the Tour de Corse. Last season, driving a Hyundai i20 WRC in the most challenging of conditions, the pair held second overall at the end of the opening day. As well as taking on the testing role for both WRC and Customer Racing teams the pair has already passed several competition milestones this year, scoring their first career WRC stage win and points in Sardinia. At the Ypres Rally in June, the crew showed the strong pace of the car on low-grip tarmac stages, which they will be looking to repeat on the vastly different challenge of the stages in Corsica.
Kevin said: “It will be great to finally drive the New Generation i20 R5 directly against the competition We’ve been testing since January and it’s all been building up to this point, so to be part of the car’s WRC2 debut is a great way for us to celebrate our achievement in reaching this point in the project. We know we have a strong package for tarmac, but Corsica is one of the toughest rallies of the season. While it would obviously be great for me to come away with a strong result, the weekend will be all about the team and the i20 R5.”