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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Hyundai gearing up for WEC hypercar programme, WRC long-term future unclear

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Hyundai appears to be like set to affix the World Endurance Championship’s Hypercar class and race on the Le Mans 24 Hours inside the subsequent three years. 

Autosport has realized the South Korean producer is gearing as much as develop an LMDh hybrid prototype for a programme that’s more likely to embody the GTP class within the IMSA SportsCar Championship. 

What isn’t clear is the timing of a transfer that has been facilitated by the two-year extension of the LMDh and Le Mans Hypercar rulesets in each the WEC and IMSA till the top of 2029.

Sources counsel that an LMDh developed at Hyundai Motorsport in Germany may start racing as early as 2026, the ultimate yr of the present set of technical rules within the World Rally Championship by which it has fielded a manufacturing facility programme since 2014.

Hyundai Motorsport president and workforce principal Cyril Abiteboul wouldn’t verify {that a} prototype programme is beneath analysis, solely that the marque is “exploring totally different classes” and has a need to clarify “our ambition on this sport”, when requested about hypothesis linking Hyundai to the WEC.

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The previous Caterham and Renault Formulation 1 workforce boss steered that an announcement by the Hyundai Motor Group, the world’s third largest automobile maker by gross sales, by which it is going to lay out its plans for the WRC and the longer-term future will come sooner or later. Autosport understands this could possibly be as quickly as September. 

“There can be announcement sooner or later by the related individual,” he advised Autosport when requested about Hyundai’s future motorsport plans finally weekend’s Rally Poland.

“I have never mentioned that particularly we have now some issues to announce. The very first thing that we are going to announce, however we need to do it within the correct approach, is our plan in WRC.”

He added that additionally it is “planning to make clear” its future ambitions.

Cyril Abiteboul, Group principal Hyundai World Rally Group

Photograph by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

A 2026 entry in both the WEC or IMSA or each would suppose that improvement of a Hyundai prototype and the inner combustion part of its hybrid powertrain is already up and operating. 

It’s understood that Hyundai has recognized French constructor ORECA as its chassis improvement companion: an LMDh should be based mostly on the backbone of one of many still-born next-generation LMP2 prototypes that had been initially attributable to arrive in 2023 when the licences for ORECA, Dallara, Multimatic and Ligier to supply P2 equipment had been prolonged in early 2020.

ORECA already has expertise in LMDh: it has supplied the core of the Acura ARX-06 and Alpine A424 that respectively race in IMSA and the WEC. Hyundai would more than likely produce the LMDh engine in-house like its WRC powerplants.

Autosport has additionally realized that Hyundai is in touch with Chip Ganassi Racing, which can half firm with Cadillac on the finish of the 2024 marketing campaign. 

Ganassi has a base in Germany from which it runs the WEC programme and a cope with the US racing big would permit Hyundai to compete in two sequence with the identical workforce.  

Hyundai has lengthy had an curiosity in coming into the sportscar enviornment, probably beneath the banner of its Genesis luxurious model. 

It’s identified to have taken a spot on a few of the related FIA technical working teams, together with the one exploring the introduction of hydrogen within the WEC, at the moment scheduled for 2028.

Hyundai is known to have actual curiosity in racing within the WEC and at Le Mans utilizing hydrogen and has had fuel-cell automobile, the Nexo SUV, in manufacturing since 2018. 

It seems that a conventionally-fuelled LMDh could possibly be precursor to a swap to hydrogen when the following WEC/IMSA guidelines cycle begins in 2030.

What does this imply for Hyundai’s WRC programme?

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Group Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photograph by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

It’s unclear if a transfer into sportscar racing will have an effect on Hyundai’s involvement within the WRC. Though, speak of a WEC programme sparked rumours within the Rally Poland service park that Hyundai may go away the WRC.

Nevertheless, given its capability within the automotive sphere the model may conceivably run programmes in WEC and WRC.

Ought to Hyundai choose to depart the WRC, an exit earlier than 2026 – the ultimate yr of the present rules – would appear a wierd name for a number of causes. It’s dedication to the WRC was additional outlined earlier this yr by means of a venture to successfully homologate a brand new i20 N Rally1 automobile to be launched subsequent yr.

This plan was scrapped amid uncertainty of the WRC technical guidelines after the FIA proposed adjustments for subsequent yr, which resulted in a U-turn after producers strongly opposed the transfer. Now rules are staying in place till the top of 2026, a fraction of the 2025 automobile venture has been salvaged and is predicted to be applied subsequent yr, by means of the usage of homologation jokers.

Since becoming a member of Hyundai, Abiteboul has been a key participant in instigating change within the WRC to enhance its attraction and return on funding for producers. This yr the FIA and the WRC Promoter have revealed visions for the long run that features a number of initiatives to enhance the championship’s promotion and footing.   

When requested about Hyundai’s future following the FIA’s U-turn, Abiteboul mentioned: “We are going to carry on implementing our plan for this yr and subsequent yr and deal with work for the long run which is 2027. We’re actually eager on understanding the path of the game from a enterprise and a expertise perspective so we are able to see what it appears to be like like for us.

“Clearly, I’d not deny that having pushed the game on this path it will look unusual that we don’t preserve our dedication within the sport.”

The FIA plans to disclose new technical rules for 2027 and past in December which the world motorsport governing physique hopes will present stability and relevance to not solely preserve the present marques, however appeal to new producers.

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