Abiteboul identifies first tasks as Hyundai WRC boss

The former Renault Formula 1 boss began his foray into rallying by leading the Hyundai squad for the first time at last weekend’s WRC season opener in Monte Carlo.

While Hyundai was comfortably beaten by Toyota, the Korean marque left the principality with a third-place finish through Thierry Neuville, albeit 44.6s behind winner Sebastien Ogier. Unlike last year, all three i20 Ns finished the rally, with Dani Sordo seventh and Esapekka Lappi eighth.

Hyundai faced a difficult season last year that included a series of internal struggles as the organisation attempted to recover from the departure of long-time leader Andrea Adamo in December 2021.

Now with Abiteboul installed as its new leader, the Frenchman has already identified areas where the organisation can improve. Defining the team’s overall structure and roles is the first task on his wishlist.

It is understood a team manager role will need to be filled in the near future, while the team is currently operating without a defined technical director, with the renowned engineer Christian Loriaux working as a consultant.

«It is a bit early to say,» said Abiteboul, when asked what areas he would like to improve. «I have only had a couple of days into the job so I think it would be a bit arrogant to know as people have been here for years.

«For the time being I want to create a stronger team spirit and team organisation which is exactly what [Hyundai] president Sean Kim is expecting from me.

«I think maybe a bit of clarity on the role responsibilities and structure. I don’t think it is particularly difficult in this organisation. In any organisation where there has been a lack of very clear leadership everyone has sort of taken their own habits as that is a human style.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport

«I think we need to have structure with clear roles and responsibility and accountability so that will be my main focus.

«In the short term we need a bit of clarification and I would say that will take weeks and maybe some improvement to the structure in a few months.»

Abiteboul has however been impressed by Hyundai’s Alzenau factory in Germany and believes the operation is capable of producing championship-winning cars, having visited the facility for the first time last month.

«From a physical point of view in terms of space it is big,» he added. «If you look at the ratio of square meters per person it is quite a lot.

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«The pattern is a bit different from what I was doing before in F1, you designed and built a car and then expand it, and then that is it and you put it in the bin.

«Here you have lots of spare parts which you need to keep that take up a lot of space but I was quite interested to see that we have all the equipment to design and develop what we need to design.

«I was pleased with the engine dyno. Where I am coming from I am still a bit sentimental about the dyno and we have a good one from AVL.

«We have got all the right ingredients but we need a project that can bring everyone together. We have talent and equipment but we have to turn that into a championship.»

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