Established on 19 December 2012, Hyundai Motorsport GmbH (HMSG) is responsible for Hyundai’s global motorsport activities and primarily for its World Rally Championship programme. Based in Alzenau, Germany, the company has engineered Hyundai’s return to the WRC with a bespoke team of skilled staff who are constantly developing the WRC-specification i20.
From a blank sheet of paper, our young team embarked on an ambitious programme during 2013. As well as establishing our brand new facility and building a team of dedicated professionals we also saw the development of our new i20 WRC.
The car was given its first shakedown in May and went on to complete 8,000km in private testing. Sporting a striking zebra livery, the car was put through its paces in a range of conditions in France, Finland, Spain and Germany.
We carried out a rigorous assessment of the car’s mechanical components on ground that would best replicate the demands of the competitive WRC environment. With the motorsport world paying close attention to our work behind the scenes, we were laying important foundations for our debut season.
A Winning Start
Just over twelve months after the official establishment of our team, we arrived in Monte-Carlo with two i20 WRCs – ready for our competitive debut. The harsh realities of the Championship hit hard as we were forced to retire both cars – a valuable lesson learned.
It wouldn’t be long before these early experiences and our team’s determined attitude led to success. In only our third event, Rally Mexico, Thierry and Nicolas scored our first ever podium.
They followed this up with another top-three result in Poland as we started to make our presence felt in the WRC. But it was at Rally Germany where we really made a name for ourselves. After an accident in shakedown, which required our mechanics to completely rebuild the car, Thierry and Nicolas went onto claim our first WRC victory. A strong performance from Dani and Marc made it a 1-2 for our team – and many happy memories from our maiden season.
With a full season of WRC behind us, we set about making improvements to all areas of our operations in 2015. From enhancing the performance of the i20 WRC to getting more out of our team on the rally stages, it was a year of consolidation.
We had three cars contesting most events with Hayden and John joining Thierry/Nicolas and Dani/Marc. We also welcomed our test and development crew Kevin and Seb into the team allowing us to run four cars in selected events.
We’re not a team to shy away from a challenge! We also started to develop a brand new car, the New Generation i20 WRC, in parallel to our Championship campaign.
After an encouraging 2014, the rally stages delivered more success in our second season with podiums in Sweden, Sardinia and Spain. The results put us in close contention for second place in the Manufacturers’ Championship – a fight we took right to the end of the season. Third place was still great progress and a sign of things to come.
Closing the Gap
2016 was to be our most competitive season to date in the WRC. It was a breakthrough year. Our New Generation i20 WRC proved to be a genuine contender in most rallies, with our crews fighting for stage wins and podiums in each event. A debut podium for the new car in Rallye Monte-Carlo set a positive trend.
It was at round four, Argentina, where we made people sit up and take note of our potential. Hayden and John were unbeatable – they dominated the rally and claimed their maiden WRC win, our team’s second – and the first for our new car. It was a performance matched by Thierry and Nicolas just two rallies later in Sardinia.
With two victories and a total of 12 podium results during the season, including 47 stage wins, we secured second place in the Championship.
With revised regulations on their way for 2017, we also ran a concurrent development for our new car, while also establishing our Customer Racing activities. We had matured as a team and were ready to approach our fourth season with even more ambition and determination.
2017 was to be one of the most closely fought seasons among all manufacturers in WRC history. We developed a brand new challenger, the i20 Coupe WRC, based on revised technical regulations. It was to be a season of mixed feelings for our team as we finished vice-champions for the second consecutive season.
We comfortably led in Monte-Carlo and Sweden but misfortune struck on both occasions. A strong charge followed with Thierry and Nicolas taking a podium in Mexico, and then back-to-back victories in Corsica and Argentina. Further podium success came in Portugal before we registered a 1-2 in Poland. Our best team result of the year put us firmly in the championship hunt.
We kept pushing right to the end of the season, dominating at the final round in Australia. It was the culmination of a competitive year in which we took four victories on three different continents, on gravel and tarmac.
Aside from WRC, we ramped up our Customer Racing activities in 2017 with continued success for our NG i20 R5 and the debut of our i30 N TCR circuit racer, which won in its first ever race. We also strengthened our HMDP programme ahead of 2018, which promises to be the busiest year to date for Hyundai Motorsport.