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WRC Rally Chile

Abiteboul sheds light on Lappi’s WRC future at Hyundai

Hyundai boss Cyril Abiteboul is keen to see how it can “expand its collaboration” with Esapekka Lappi as the team evaluates its options for its remaining 2024 WRC drives. 

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: M-Sport

The Korean marque had made a bold statement ahead of next season by re-signing 2019 world champion Ott Tanak to join the already contracted Thierry Neuville

Hyundai is yet to announce its plans for its full driver line-up for 2024 as the team continues to evaluate whether to field three cars or expand to four i20Ns. As Abiteboul has explained, the team will make its decision in a “well-considered way” in the coming weeks with a call expected before Rally Japan next month.

Hyundai currently has Lappi, Dani Sordo, Teemu Suninen and Emil Lindholm on its books, the latter two being part of Hyundai’s relaunched driver development programme.

Should the team opt to run three cars, then there is the possibility of continuing its strategy of sharing the car between two drivers. This could offer the prospect of Lappi and Suninen sharing the car, while the team has already earmarked that a possible fourth car would be designated for a young driver.

Lappi has impressed this season having left a part-time driving role at Toyota to fill Hyundai's second full-time season that was vacated by Tanak following the Estonian’s decision to join M-Sport for 2023.

Lappi has scored four podiums to date and has played a significant role in developing the i20N which has benefitted Neuville. 

Asked if Lappi was a driver he would like to keep in the team moving forward, Abiteboul told Autosport: “I think what we like in particular is Esapekka's commitment to improve the car. 

Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team

Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team

Photo by: Vincent Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport

“I think Thierry is very strong and has a very strong opinion of what he wants, but to a certain degree when you have been 10 years in the same team you struggle to bring up new ideas and concepts. And that is absolutely normal and it is not a criticism of Thierry, and this is an area where Esapekka is very strong. 

“He has come in with a fresh pair of eyes and perspective and different ways of setting up the car, and that has been very useful. 

“I think we are all keen to see how we can expand the collaboration with Esapekka. But without going into too much detail, there are a lot of things going on his side over the last couple of months, so again we will take a bit of time to see what is the best thing for him and us moving forward.

“I have been very transparent with Esapekka as well as Thierry and they understand why we are doing what we are doing.”

Abiteboul went on to confirm that the prospect of running a fourth car is in the hands of Hyundai management at the manufacturer’s headquarters.

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"The fourth car consideration is a way to think about the mid to long-term future but again that is something we need to discuss with the headquarters," Abiteboul added.

"I have been saying on a couple of occasions that we also want to bring up young talent and that will take some time. 

"Clearly bringing back Ott is not exactly young talent that is for sure so that is why would like to invest in young talent with a fourth car, but again this would need to be approved."

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