In just three seasons the Hyundai WRC team has gone from fledgling outfit to serious title contender; we head to its factory to find out how
21 August 2016

Hyundai is a serious contender when it comes to motorsport, we've gone behind the scenes to find out how they got there.

1. Find a base and set up your team

Hyundai Motorsport was created in late 2012 at Alzenau, near Frankfurt. Its headquarters is close to the Hyundai European HQ at Offenbach, the European Technical Centre at Russelsheim and Frankfurt Airport. The team entered its first WRC event, the Monte Carlo Rally, in January 2014 with three i20s.

The first two seasons were a learning curve, despite a lucky win in the first year. This year, with the car fully developed, the team has won two rounds on pace alone. WRC veteran Michel Nandan was appointed team principal from the beginning.

“When we started, the factory was empty,” he says. “By the middle of 2013 we had 40 people, 100 by the end of the year. There are 200 today.” The first year focused on hiring experienced staff from endurance racing, F1 and rallying to design, engineer and run the cars.

Our Verdict

Hyundai Veloster

The Hyundai Veloster wins on practicality, price and standard kit but lacks the dynamic talent and appeal that a coupé should have.

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“You need people with motorsport experience initially; it’s a different way of working compared to a normal production car environment,” adds Nandan. The i20 WRC car first turned a wheel in May 2013.

2. Establish close links with the parent company

When Hyundai last competed in the WRC with the Accent between 2000 and 2003, the running of the team was contracted out.

Now, Hyundai Motorsport is fully integrated, sharing learning and experience with the parent company. “The goal is to show what Hyundai is capable of and help promote future high-performance N road cars,” says Nandan. There’s an exchange of engineers between Hyundai Motor and Alzenau, and data gathered during the development of the 300bhp 1.6-litre WRC engine is fed back to the factory, along with information on new materials.

3. Work out how to get kit and people around the globe

Being in the right place at the right time for testing and the 14 WRC events is a huge task handled by a dedicated logistics team of just six people, all working for team manager Alain Penasse.

“Initially, there’s a massive amount of research, but that gets easier after the first time at a particular event,” Penasse explains. “Although the requirements for each rally stay much the same, the dates change each year and that can trigger a logistical rethink.” Rally China in September is a new event for this year, and the team has been on location to check accommodation, facilities and the special stages. 

4. Optimise performance with last-minute preparations

On asphalt rallies, each of the three Hyundai rally crews has a trusted freelance road crew that precedes them on the rally to correct pace notes and ensure they match conditions on the day.

A team of four to six freelancers report weather conditions at each stage around two hours before the stage goes live, so the team can make the right tyre choice and suspension settings. The event team consists of 60-72 members if two cars are run, or 72-82 staff for three cars. Weekly meetings back at base ensure planning stays on track. 

5. Stay on the pace, even between rallies

The first two seasons were run with previousgeneration three-door i20s. The all-new 2016 car, based on the latest i20, is a five-door due to homologation timing, but 2017’s car reverts to a three-door and is currently under development. Engine and gearbox rebuilds and development takes place in-house. A main workshop, engine dynos, machine shop, composites department and offices are all housed in one half of the 16,000-square-metre facility; the other half houses the new R5 Customer Racing team.

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Our Verdict

Hyundai Veloster

The Hyundai Veloster wins on practicality, price and standard kit but lacks the dynamic talent and appeal that a coupé should have.

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week