Hyundai Motorsport has confirmed Kevin Abbring will be handed World Rally Championship opportunities alongside his test driver duties in 2016 due to the new and expanded 2016 race calendar.
With Hyundai launching its new i20 WRC challenger after delaying it by 12 months, the manufacturer is expecting a heavy development workload for Abbring as well as continued competitive opportunities. The Dutch driver was given five WRC outings in 2015 at Sweden, Poland, Germany, France and Great Britain respectively.
Hyundai Motorsport team manager Alain Penasse says he hasn't confirmed which rallies Abbring will be entered for in 2016, explaining the bolstered WRC calendar – with the addition of Rally China – means the team will restructure its plans.
“Kevin will still be the test driver and we've made an agreement with him to do some rallies next year,” Penasse told wrc.com. “But the new calendar means we have to reorganise everything, so we have to look at all the possibilities and recalculate what is possible.
“A completely new car for next year means it will be very, very difficult for Kevin to drive a WRC in the first part of the year. Later in the season is also not possible because we now have so many rallies.
“We can't use the same chassis for all rallies, so we swap the chassis around which lowers the possibility to have Kevin driving at these rallies. We maybe get him driving in the summertime a bit more.”
Hyundai is also set to introduce the first R5 rally car next year and the team is keen to put it to the test but ruled out a full campaign in WRC 2.
“We want to show that the car will be competitive so I think Kevin is the right driver to show that. He will do some rallies but not a full WRC 2 programme, just certain rallies,” he explained. “The calendar again makes it difficult. Because we have three WRC cars to build for each rally, maybe we'll have to choose a European championship for R5 because we don't have the capacity to do it in WRC.”
Hyundai will unveil its new i20 WRC at its Alzenau base in Germany on the 9th December.