Hyundai has bolstered its budding World Rally Championship programme with the appointment of WRC veteran Michel Nandan as team principal.
The Frenchman, who has held key technical positions on the world rally stage since the mid-1990s and who worked with the Toyota, Peugeot and Suzuki WRC teams, joins Hyundai as the manufacturer gears up to re-enter the sport, as confirmed at the Paris Motor Show in September last year. Hyundai is currently developing a WRC-specification of its new i20 model with the objective of competing in the entire 2014 championship.
Hyundai has also now established a bespoke motorsport subsidiary, Hyundai Motorsport GmbH, under which the company's WRC programme will be run. Gyoo Heon Choi has been named the president of Hyundai Motorsport GmbH.
“Hyundai is excited to re-enter WRC, and we're back not just to compete, but to win,” said Tak Uk Im, executive vice president & COO of Hyundai Motor. “Hyundai and WRC form a perfect match, and our racing experience will translate directly into performance and handling improvements in our road-going vehicles.”
Hyundai is no stranger to the world of WRC, having participated in the series from 2000 to 2003. Now, Hyundai is looking to 'raise the bar' for its return, running an in-house team operating out of custom-built headquarters in Alzenau, Germany, just outside of Frankfurt, where Hyundai's European HQ is situated.
As the 2013 WRC season gets underway next week with the legendary Rallye Monte Carlo, Hyundai is embarking on a year of preparation for its return to the world rally stage with the intensive development of its WRC-spec i20 under the direction of new boss Nandan.
“I am honoured to have been chosen by Hyundai to spearhead its exciting new entry into the WRC. The project is still in its infancy, but things are moving rapidly, and I am looking forward to developing the team as this year progresses,” Nandan noted.
“There is much to be done, of that we are fully aware, but with a dedicated facility in Alzenau and an ambitious core of highly motivated personnel, we are already making good progress.”
An interim version of the i20 has already begun testing in Korea to enable Hyundai to undertake component and suspension analysis with further tests scheduled throughout 2013.
“We are deliberately using an interim version of the i20 to carry out important component testing and to ensure that we have done our homework before we enter competition,” Nandan added. “This phase will continue throughout 2013 as we prepare for our first full season back in WRC in 2014.
“There are a lot of other decisions that we will have to make during the course of the year, particularly regarding the selection of drivers, but this also requires time and due diligence. We will, at the same time, keep a close eye on how the 2013 WRC season unfolds.”