Hyundai World Rally Championship Team Principal Andrea Adamo has said his team will be out to bounce back in the title race when Kenya hosts the World Rally Championship Safari Rally from June 24-27.
Hyundai are returning to Kenya with disappointing results from the last two rounds of the global championship, especially in the June 3-6 Sardinia, Italy, where 2019 world champion Ott Tänak ripped a rear wheel from his turbo-charged 380BHP six-speed sequential gearbox i20 car after hitting a rock and Dani Sordo, winner in Portugal last month, rolled.
The only consolation for Hyundai was Thierry Neuville who finished third in the drivers’ standings. In the Rally of Portugal held from May 20-23, Hyundai driver Sordo was second.
Team principal Andrea Adamo was not happy with the Pirelli tyres in Sardinia but reckons the coming days will be crucial as the rugged, sun-baked gravel sections in the Mediterranean island of in Sardinia, where the team is testing its tyres and cars, are remotely similar to the Safari Rally routes. The stages are fast and narrow, leaving no margin for error.
“A win in Kenya will be very meaningful for us. It is important to come back for a win. In the last two rallies we have not been okay. So a win will bring us back into contention,” Adamo told journalists in a video call on Wednesday evening.
“We had issues with tyres in Sardinia. It is not something which can be addressed by Hyundai but the supplier of tyres. But tyres problems happen to all cars,” he added.
Hyundai, the reigning Manufacturers’ champion has been very unlucky. Adamo singled out Tanak who has been faced with problems in the last two WRC rallies while in the lead. But he does not feel frustrated.
“Frustration is a big word. In my life it was more frustrating. It is normal to lose in rallying.”
The team will field the same three drivers in the Safari Rally, and Adamo reckons they are focused and hungry for success to revive their championship hopes since Sebastien Ogier, with 106 points, has already opened an 11-point lead over his teammate Elfyn Evans.
Hyundai’s main challengers, Toyota Gazoo Racing, are runaway leaders in the manufacturers’ standings with 231 points followed by Hyundai (182) after five rounds. There are seven more rounds to go.
Hyundai came to Kenya as a full works outfit in 2002 when former Safari champion Juha Kankkunen finished eighth in a Hyundai Accent, a result the team felt was satisfying at a time they were embarking in the WRC proper.
Prior to that Phineas Kimathi gave the South Korean manufacturer their first ever WRC points after winning the F2 category. A lot has since changed, but Adamo still prefers the marathon Safari Rally to the current route concept which has long straights and few tight corners.
“Still, the Safari will have everything including grassy sections. So it is also unique,” he said.
The ambience will be interesting,” said Adamo who remains “optimistic” that Hyundai Motorsport will extend its involvement with the World Rally Championship beyond 2021 and enter the hybrid era from next year.
The Korean manufacturer has not committed to next year but Adamo has confirmed that work on their Hybrid-powered Rally1 car has already started. M-Sport Ford and Toyota are way ahead in their development programme.
“I can also say that the delivery of the hybrid kits has been delayed a few times now, so even those manufacturers which have already confirmed their presence in 2022, and are already working on their cars, can’t do testing in full due to this,” added Adamo.