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WRC Rally Kenya

October wait to properly address Hyundai WRC reliability concerns

Hyundai will realistically have to wait until October to properly address its World Rally Championship reliability issues highlighted at Safari Rally Kenya, according to new technical director Francois-Xavier Demaison.

Hyundai's weaknesses with its i20 N Rally1 have been thrust into the spotlight in Kenya following three prop shaft failures on Esapekka Lappi’s car.

The issue prevented the Finn from completing any runs in shakedown after suffering two failures on Wednesday before a third struck on Saturday, which took him out of a comfortable third place.

These issues have occurred in addition to a front suspension failure for Thierry Neuville that forced the Belgian to retire on Friday.

Hyundai deployed containment measures to address the prop shaft problem, utilising assistance from the team’s Alzenau base, but it wasn’t sufficient to avoid a third failure on Lappi’s car.

As per the sporting regulations teams can only make significant changes in designated homologation joker windows. The next window is 1 July, but according to former Williams F1 and Volkswagen WRC technical director Demaison, the team won’t be ready with a full fix to present for that window.

An emergency joker can be taken but Demaison believes that the next window on 1 October is the most realistic option for the squad to use a homologation joker to address its reliability.

“We had an issue today and it is difficult to a develop car with the number of jokers you can use,” Demaison told Autosport.

“You can’t change much and you can only change parts at specific times in the calendar.

“WRC is a really difficult series because you homologate the car and you have that for a long time. If you have made a mistake, it is really difficult to change things.

François-Xavier Demaison, Technical director Hyundai Motorsport

François-Xavier Demaison, Technical director Hyundai Motorsport

Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport

"We have some jokers for this year and for next year, but the main focus is clearly to make the car more reliable as quickly as possible. I think it will be difficult to make a bulletproof car with three jokers this year.

“We will do our best as quickly as possible. We will go step by step, we can’t just change the design of the car but it will be small improvements in the key areas.

“The next homologation joker is July 1 but we haven’t presented anything. We should have presented earlier. The next open window is October 1.

“We can do an emergency joker, which could be an option, but you have to homologate the solution which you have tested because rushing to homologate a solution that you have not really tested and proved it is an improvement does not make sense.”

Asked if October would be the most realistic opportunity to address reliability, he added: “I think so. You can do something but you will be rushing, and it would be half a solution, and we are limited on jokers.”

Team principal Cyril Abiteboul confirmed that Hyundai will be working on further containment issues regarding the prop shaft weakness before next month’s Rally Estonia.

“There are a few things we can do in the short term, as always,” said Abiteboul.

“When you have reliability issues in motorsport, you first work on some containment issues which is frankly something we have tried to do here this weekend after the shakedown.

“We have been trying something with the support of the factory and I would have preferred not to have to count on the support of the factory and not to have the issues, but in the circumstances it was good to have their support.

Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team

Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team

Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

“We will be working on new containment measures with a bit more time before the next rally, but I suspect that in the future we will need to work on a new specification.

“But it is very difficult to be in a sport like this one and making the financial commitment we are doing and yet have to trade between a fix for an issue due to some designs that probably wasn’t the right one and some performance [gains].

“We want to have a championship that is a competitive championship and, given our commitment, I think we should be given the opportunity to match the other cars which we can’t do right now.

“Some of that is due to our own weakness, but that is really a problem. We have a new technical director who is really keen on improving car, but it seems his hands will be tied for a long time.”

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