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WRC Rally Kenya

Abiteboul: WRC Safari Rally reliability issues a “wake up call” for Hyundai

Hyundai will conduct a thorough analysis of the reliability issues it suffered at Safari Rally Kenya that have provided a “wake up call” for the World Rally Championship team.

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

The weaknesses of the team's i20 N Rally1 were made clear in Kenya last weekend after Esapekka Lappi suffered three prop shaft failures followed by another problem that left the Finn with only two-wheel drive.

Lappi was unable to complete any runs in shakedown after two prop shaft failures, while the third took him out of a strong third position on his debut at the African event.

On top of Lappi’s issue, Thierry Neuville retired from fourth overall on Friday when his front left suspension collapsed. The Belgian rejoined the rally to finish eighth, only to be disqualified from the event after breaching recce regulations.

Dani Sordo was the team’s best performer in Kenya finishing fifth, albeit more than five minutes behind winner Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier.

Hyundai deployed containment measures to address the prop shaft issue, but those failed. However, the team is planning to deploy further measures ahead of next month’s round in Estonia without using an emergency homologation joker.

The team’s new technical director Francois-Xavier Demaison told Autosport that it would be unlikely to introduce a re-designed prop shaft, should it be required, until the October homologation joker window.

“I think we needed a wake up call or what we call sometimes a burning platform to do some of the changes that need to be done, now that we have the management in place, and we are well aware of the weaknesses of the car, which are linked to some of the weaknesses in the mindset that was in place up until that point,” Cyril Abiteboul told Autosport.

Dani Sordo, Candido Carrera, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Dani Sordo, Candido Carrera, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

“We have no excuse to do the changes that are needed so that is what we will do in parallel to the containment measures for the next rally and a strong engineering effort to get to the bottom of the very strange issue that was focused on one car.

“But that is a mystery of Kenya. It is really strange what happened and we will take that very seriously, and we will come up with the appropriate response.

"We need to react in a strong way, but not in the same way this team has been used to reacting in the past. We strongly agree that we need to have a strong and structured approach and not a knee jerk reaction, so I don’t think we will need to use an emergency joker that we had.

“We need to understand it properly and make sure we have a containment plan for upcoming rallies and a medium- to long-term plan.

“It also starts with something that has not been done before, which is a thorough, honest and complete analysis of the failure.”

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When asked if he had any concerns over Neuville’s suspension issue, Abiteboul added: "It is a check that we need to do more of. It is an easy fix and it is not finger trouble, so I have absolutely no concern over that one.

“It is one of those things that shows that as a motorsport organisation if we want to fight for championships you need to cover the extra mile.

"Covering the extra mile is what we missed in particular on Thierry’s car, not on Esapekka’s car as we covered the extra mile and more as we changed everything we could. I guess that extra discipline is what it takes.”

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