There was talk for a long time that Barumka could aspire to a world mandate, as a long-time organizer of the European championship, they have proved themselves very well in Zlín. In the end, however, everything turned out differently – the Czech special stages (starting with a special stage in Prague, then the competitors move to the Šumava) will be next in the framework of the Thursday and Friday program of the Central European Rally (after us the Central European Rally). At the weekend, the Czech “er-zety” will be joined by those in Germany and Austria (the crews will cross the border several times on Saturday and Sunday).
And the deadline? The competition will start in Prague on Thursday, October 26, and the company will close the announcement of the winners on Sunday, October 29 in Passau.
Follow Hyundai to Alzenau!
These trips to the development and production centers of racing teams, that’s something for me. For years, I remember a trip to M-Sport, which develops and manufactures Ford competition models for the World Championship.
And now I was with the competition that entered the WRC in 2014. A small clarification – connoisseurs know well that at the turn of the millennium, Hyundai Accent WRCs were not very successful in the World Championship. It really wasn’t a hole in the world back then, but very interesting names got behind the wheel of Korean specials. For example, Armin Schwarz, known to Czech fans, who was with the first Škoda WRC models. Or Alister McRae, brother of the unforgettable Colin, Juha Kankkunen also tried it in Accent. Certainly more than capable pilots, but the Accent WRC never made it to better than fourth place.
Of course, the Accent could not be missing in Alzenau, but it did not have the first place in the parade line of exhibited models that Hyundai Motorsport produced during its existence. The Hyundai Coupé Kit Car, which began its career among sharp two-wheelers in 1998, appeared on special stages even before it.
In 2014, however, Hyundai stepped into it in a “slightly” different style. The Korean brand has built a real and full-fledged team, in addition to the Accent WRC, we were able to view much more successful WRC models, in all cases based on the Hyundai i20, as part of the festive exhibition in one of the halls in Alzenau. And besides the WRC specials there were also other racers standing there… I’ll get to them.
You see, I will tell you why Alzenau is the headquarters of Hyundai Motorsport. No science, from Alzenau it is close to Frankfurt Airport and also to the European headquarters. In addition, there was a suitable building available. True, it is not as posh and opulent as M-Sport’s headquarters in Dovenby Hall, which most resembles a country noble estate. In Alzenau, these are more prosaic and purposeful spaces, in short, industrial halls.
What Cyril Abiteboul told us
You may have noticed that the management of Hyundai Motorsport changed before this season. The eternally emotional (sometimes too much) Andrea Adam was replaced by Cyril Abiteboul, who we know above all as the head of Renault in Formula 1. The star Cyril also stopped by our Czech group for a moment, of course we were interested in the future of Hyundai in the World Championship, and therefore the championship as such. It is certainly no secret that the WRC is not experiencing the best years – just three car companies in the starting field is not exactly a guarantee of a colorful spectacle…
“We shouldn’t be afraid to experiment and try new things, approaches, the World Rally Championship has been quite conservative for a long time,” Cyril poked lightly. “Formula 1 should be a big inspiration for us. And it’s definitely not just a series on Netflix, of course everyone is talking about that, but look at the new format of sprint races, for example. This is exactly the attitude that should be ours too. And if the possible news doesn’t work? So let’s try something else.’
In order not to be so strict, one thing – and it is definitely very revolutionary, the WRC really tried, there were completely new hybrid specials. Greener technology was supposed to attract new car companies, after all, Rally1 hybrid models are also suitable for marketing purposes for existing participants. A godly idea for sure, but it ran into one major problem. You can guess for yourself – the new specials are very expensive. No one will officially tell you the exact number, after all, the price of a car that is not actually sold is quite difficult to determine. But while the price of the previous specials was supposed to be somewhere around fifteen million crowns without tax, it is currently about five million more. “In this direction, the change really didn’t work, that’s obvious. Hybrid specials did not attract anyone else to the championship. We have to try even harder when specifying the new rules,” said Abiteboul. We’ll keep our fingers crossed, so far there’s talk of 2027. Hopefully everyone involved will have a luckier hand than in the case of hybrid specials.
We also discussed these with the Czech mechanic Mark Soukup, who is in charge of Esapekk Lappi’s car. “It’s a huge difference. While the previous specials were not so far from the production car, or rather there were a lot of components that did not differ dramatically, practically everything is different with the hybrid Rally1. And it’s all very expensive,” Marek admitted.
How will it be next year?
We asked Cyril about next year as well, we were interested in Hyundai’s line-up for the upcoming season. Colleagues even teased the team boss by asking if it was time to change Hyundai’s number one. Thierry Neuville is somehow still waiting for the title, and he has been with the team since 2014, when – as we said – Hyundai returned to the WRC with full pomp. “At the moment, we certainly do not plan to change the position of the team’s number one, among other things, Thierry’s loyalty is also important to us, and because of this, he continues to deserve our trust.”
However, Cyril does not yet have the complete composition of the rider line-up for next year finalized. “It’s too early for that, but Esapekka, for example, is a great experience for us. He brought a new perspective to the team and overall moved us forward in many ways. Although he doesn’t have a completely 100 percent season, it’s a bit up and down, but he’s definitely an asset to us,” Cyril praised the Finnish competitor, who replaced everything he could in the WRC.
Not only rallies, but also circuits
In Alzenau, however, they do not “only” deal with rally specials (in addition to Rally1, they also build custom i20s of the Rally2 category here), in the exhibition of parked specials we also came across TCR circuit equipment – first in the form of i30 models, Hyundai Motorsport is currently focusing on the Elantra N TCR model ( the Veloster N TCR is also moving overseas).
You also know the latest special Elantra N TCR from the website of Garage, the team of Vašek Janík is celebrating success with the circuit Hyundai. And it was nice to hear that Janík Motorsport is well known at the headquarters as well. It is true that at the regional level (Janíkovci dominated TCR Eastern Europe this year) the TCR category is still doing very well, but the world championship is no longer held and there is also speculation about new rules. In a category built from the start on relative availability (the Elantra N TCR will cost around 3.5 million), this will require a very sensitive approach…
After all, we don’t have to go far for an example. We have already talked about overpriced hybrids in Rally1 rally specials, and the ETCR electric road racing championship can undoubtedly be considered a total fiasco. She wrapped it up after only one season, the races of several specials for a few laps really weren’t exactly an attractive spectacle… However, Hyundai in Alzenau is preparing something electric and racing (and circuit), although we couldn’t see under the sail of the special under construction, but we heard something about the racing Ioniq 6… we’ll see!
It was really nice to visit the headquarters of the factory team after years, which builds the most special specials of the Rally1 category. And in addition to them, the TCR circuit racers, with whom I was also lucky enough to meet. But I’ll admit that I was also slightly saddened that in a few years there would still be places to go on excursions. But then, we will hope that the WRC will grow similarly to Formula 1, that new car companies will enter the championship and that the whole thing will start to resemble the time around the first Accent WRC, which competed with a host of different brands around the new millennium.
But why cry about the old days, when in a few weeks the biggest holiday that generations of Czech fans have been hoping for awaits us – the WRC will finally show up in the Czech Republic! So let’s stop complaining and enjoy the world’s best competitors with our own eyes and on the Czech special stages. See you at the end of October!