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WRC Rally Kenya

New technical boss the missing piece of Hyundai WRC puzzle 

Thierry Neuville believes the arrival of former Williams Formula 1 technical director Francois-Xavier Demaison at Hyundai is the missing piece of the puzzle for the World Rally Championship team.

Podium: Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Hyundai announced last month that Demaison, who helped Volkswagen during its domination of the WRC from 2013-2016, will assume the technical director role at the South Korean marque following a stint at Williams.

The team had been operating without a designated technical director, with the renowned Christian Loriaux working as a technical adviser in a contractor role. Loriaux has now taken on the team’s WRC programme manager position in the wake of Demaison’s arrival.

Appointing a technical director was a key aim of new team principal, former Renault Formula 1 boss, Cyril Abiteboul. Demaison attended his first rally in the new role in Sardinia, a rally that ended Hyundai’s 2023 victory drought courtesy of Neuville heading a 1-2 from team-mate Esapekka Lappi.

While Demaison is still settling into his new position, Neuville believes the signing will be key for the team moving forward. 

“It is obviously good news. I think we have been fighting for a technical director for very long and it was a bit challenging to get someone, but finally, we have got someone,” Neuville told Autosport.

“I don’t know if it is too late or not but we are going to find out. We have Christian who brought a lot of new things to the team with his experience, but as a contractor to the company, you don’t always have the power you should have. Now we are going to have somebody who is able to support [us].”

Asked if Demaison is the team’s missing piece of the puzzle, he added: “For sure, as for any well-structured company a technical director is a big part of the success.”

Francois-Xavier Demaison, Volkswagen Motorsport

Francois-Xavier Demaison, Volkswagen Motorsport

Photo by: Volkswagen Motorsport

These thoughts are echoed by Abiteboul who believes Demaison's appointment is “really important” for the team as it aims to fight for the WRC drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles.  

“Frankly when I joined the team there was a bit of an elephant in the room. Something was missing, there was no technical director,” Abiteboul told Autosport. 

“The first thing I wanted to do was to secure Christian, but not in an advising role, but in a really executive position, which he is now doing as WRC programme manager which will complement FX Demaison. 

“I will expect from FX what I would expect from any technical director, which is to embrace and give leadership and management across all departments which was clearly lacking, and maybe part of the reason why we are where we are in terms of competitiveness. 

“I see lots of good ideas being discussed but some difficulty in channelling these concepts to the car. The technical director will make that more efficient for the future. 

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“I think it was really important and it is one element. There is no such thing as a silver bullet in the world of motorsport but it is a very important ingredient. 

“Any domination in any motorsport is associated with a technical director, so if we don’t have one I don’t see how we could claim a domination.” 

Hyundai sits 23 points adrift of Toyota in the WRC manufacturers' standings ahead of next week’s visit to Kenya.

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