Mexico will help define Hyundai’s WRC development strategy

Mexico will help define Hyundai’s WRC development strategy

This weekend marks the first gravel rally of 2023 and the third different surface in as many rounds, following the asphalt of Monte Carlo in January and the snow of Sweden last month.

It is also the third round since former Caterham and Renault Formula 1 boss Abiteboul took over as team principal at Hyundai in January.

Hyundai’s new boss has begun to make changes to the squad, beginning with a focus on improving its internal structure by implementing practices honed from his time working in F1 to improve communication and the decision making process.

Hyundai’s i20 N underwent a significant aero upgrade over the off season, but its development strategy will largely be formed following this weekend’s event in Mexico which Abiteboul anticipates will highlight the car’s strengths and weaknesses.

Hyundai is yet to taste victory this season but has racked up three podiums to date thanks to Thierry Neuville finishing third in Monte Carlo, followed by a double podium in Sweden when Craig Breen finished second ahead of Neuville in third.

“This is the third event and the third type of surface; the calendar is quite handy in that respect so I think after these three events we will get a good picture [of the current package],” Abiteboul told

“We saw we had a bit of pace on tarmac in Monte Carlo. I think we would be better if we were going back to that event today; maybe not to the level of Toyota and [winner] Seb [Ogier], but slightly better.

“We were very competitive in Sweden and I think the car was good there. I’m very keen to see how it does here in Mexico.

Abiteboul is confident of Hyundai's prospects after its Acropolis podium lockout in 2022

Abiteboul is confident of Hyundai’s prospects after its Acropolis podium lockout in 2022

Photo by: Romain Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport

“We have done hopefully what we need to do from a reliability perspective and in terms of software and energy management.

“[The rally] is going to be quite important as it will give us an idea what to expect fro the rest of the season. It will also help us in terms of development strategy for the year.”

Hyundai will be regarded among the favourites to challenge for victory in Mexico after impressing in rough gravel rallies last season.

The South Korean marque appeared to have an edge over its rivals Toyota and M-Sport Ford on the surface after scoring wins in Sardinia and Greece in 2022. The latter witnessed Hyundai’s first podium lockout in the WRC.

This weekend the team will also benefit from an advantageous road order with Neuville starting third, Esapekka Lappi sixth and Dani Sordo ninth.

“Until it is proven impossible we will be going into every rally aiming and thinking a victory is possible, that is very much the spirit,” he added.

“We can be confident but again [Mexico] is a particular one. There is high temperatures and altitude, so it can be tricky.

“The engine is one of the strengths of our cars and this is going to be undermined by the altitude and that will be the same for everyone.

“The deciding factor will be reliability. The roads will be tough and the altitude will be demanding and the temperatures will be high.”

Neuville will start third on the road

Neuville will start third on the road

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Hyundai will operate with Tolga Ozakinci installed as the new team manager in Mexico. The former Toksport team chief took over the role in Sweden, although predecessor Pablo Marcos oversaw the event as part of the transition process before his departure.

“[Tolga] has had a remarkable time with Pablo, who is off to new things,” Abiteboul added.

“Pablo has been remarkable right up to his last day to offer the best possible platform for Tolga, who is our new team manager which is a really important position.

“It is important in other categories, but I think it is even more important for controlling the team’s overall performance. I think Tolga has a good platform and he will have big shoes to fill, but I will be helping him.”

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