Hyundai Motorsport has announced test and development rally driver Kevin Abbring will bolster the team's ranks for three rounds of the 2016 World Rally Championship, starting at Rally Portugal in May.
The Dutch driver has been confirmed for three WRC event entries, Rally Portugal and Rally Italia with a third round to be confirmed, and will compete in the 2015 Hyundai i20 WRC model which Hayden Paddon used at Rallye Monte-Carlo in January.
An experienced WRC campaigner, Abbring scored his best result in the premier class last year with two 11th place finishes at Sweden and Germany respectively last year. Since joining Hyundai he has primarily been used as a test driver, helping develop the new i20 WRC machine, which has notched up two podiums over the opening three rounds, and the New Generation i20 R5 customer motorsport car.
“I am very excited to have the first two of my three rallies this year in Portugal and in Sardinia,” Abbring said. “The two rallies are right after one another so I should benefit from the momentum going from one event to the next.
“When you are not in the car a lot, you have to prepare everything twice as well. We gained some really positive WRC experience last year, so my objective for Rally de Portugal will be to get into the rhythm as soon as possible and then achieve a top-ten classification.
“I have rallied in Portugal and Sardinia twice each, four or five years ago. It has been a while so I am very excited to be back in the car again. The gravel surface is less known to me but this makes it more exciting. I've got plenty of work now that I can focus on these two rallies.”
Hyundai team principal Michel Nandan says Portugal and Sardinia were selected for Abbring to give him vital experience on gravel and is thrilled to give him me competitive time away from his testing duties.
“We have always thought that it is a good move to have a test driver who also does some competitive kilometres,” Nandan said. “We agreed with Kevin that this year he would do three rallies in the latest 2015 edition of our WRC car, as part of a four-car programme alongside our three regular crews.
“At the beginning of the year Kevin was very busy with R5 testing, which was the absolute priority, but now we are a bit further into the season we have more spare time to offer him some WRC events. We have decided on Portugal and Sardinia because they will offer him a useful learning experience on gravel.”