Hyundai’s planned introduction of its all new second generation i20 WRC car later in 2015 has been shelved, with the Korean outfit now aiming to bring a fully homologated version of its new hot-hatch to the 2016 season opener in Monte Carlo. Additionally, the new car will be of the five-door variety as opposed to the three-door model initially announced by Michel Nandan’s team.
Original plans would have seen the current first generation i20 WRC phased out before the end of the 2015 season and replaced by a WRC homologated three-door version of Hyundai’s all new i20 hatchback, unveiled late last year. This would have enabled the team to clock-up some precious kilometres on the new machine under live rally conditions – development in the field – before lining up for a genuine title charge in 2016. However, indications from the Asian manufacturer suggest that delays in the production of the road car have scuppered efforts to homologate a rally variant before the end of this season.
All this means that the i20 WRC in its current guise will continue to turn out in the blue and red of Hyundai for the remainder of the 2015 championship season, with a number of important updates, including the introduction of a paddle shift gearbox later this month in Argentina, in the pipeline to keep it in the fight for podiums.
Despite these setbacks, testing of the next generation model continues in earnest. The team’s Belgian ace Thierry Neuville and young test driver Kevin Abbring have been hard at work putting the latest evolution of the new i20 WRC through its paces in the Almería region of southeast Spain during the recent seven week break from competition. With the development schedule extended, Hyundai has afforded itself the maximum timeframe possible to fine tune all aspects of its new competitor before sending it into battle at the 2016 championship curtain raiser in Monaco. Particular attention has been paid to engine and chassis development as well as high altitude trials at the team’s Iberian Peninsula testing camp.