The Korean marque announced on the eve of this weekend’s season finale in Japan that Esapekka Lappi will conduct a part-time programme, driving the team’s third factory i20N entry.
Lappi had been expected to scale back from a full-time to a partial programme after Hyundai signed Ott Tanak from M-Sport to join Thierry Neuville for 2024.
But Hyundai is yet to announce the full driver line-up for the third car.
Abiteboul confirmed to Motorsport.com that Lappi’s 2024 schedule is yet to be firmed up, but he did reveal that Sweden would be the Finn’s first outing.
“It is not defined,” he said. “It is a sensible programme [for Esapekka] so it is not like one or two rallies, but it will be shared with other drivers.
“It is more than 50% of rallies. The first one will be Sweden, that we can confirm already.”
When asked about the team’s plans for the third car outside of Lappi, Abiteboul said the Finn could share the car with “maybe two drivers”.
Hyundai appears to have plenty of options to join Lappi with Teemu Suninen, Dani Sordo and Emil Lindholm already on the team’s books.
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
Esapekka Lappi, Hyundai World Rally Team
There are plenty of candidates outside of the team too, with M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux emerging as a possible contender, while Oliver Solberg is also open to the prospect of returning to Hyundai should an opportunity arise.
“We are not able to announce the full line-up now because we are really not sure and we want to see what the competition is looking like,” added Abiteboul.
“I believe that Toyota are due to make an announcement in the very near future. If we can have that last piece of information before our final decision, it can be a good thing.”
Neuville has suggested that former Hyundai WRC driver and newly crowned WRC2 champion Andreas Mikkelsen, and Fourmaux would be strong options to join the team.
“I think that there are not so many contenders anymore,” Neuville told Autosport.
“For me, Andreas is a very good candidate and Fourmaux could be a good candidate and Dani will do a few races also.”
Sordo is hoping to contest rallies with Hyundai next year with Portugal on his wish list should Hyundai wish to continue with the Spanish veteran.
“I will try, maybe yes or maybe no,” Sordo told Motorsport.com when asked if he will continue with Hyundai next year.
“For sure, I don’t want to have my last race here [in Japan]. I’m not thinking like this will be my last race.”