Hyundai facing shortage of drivers for Finland
Hyundai could face a shortage of top-line drivers for Rally Finland, with both Dani Sordo and Sébastien Loeb reluctant to contest the event. There are also concerns over Andreas Mikkelsen's form.
The Korean team started 2019 with Thierry Neuville and Mikkelsen in full-time drives and Loeb and Sordo sharing the third car. But then Mikkelsen was left out in Corsica after a poor start to the year and has also been dropped for Portugal later this month.
Hyundai will bring car updates to Finland when the WRC kicks off again in August after the summer break but it has never scored a podium on the event. Kiwi Hayden Paddon was originally offered a one-off drive in Finland but it is now unlikely that he will rejoin the team.
Some speculation had ex-junior driver Jari Huttunen returning for a drive in Finland and the 25-year-old drove on last weekend’s Riihimaki Rally, in the Finnish championship. But Hyundai team boss Andrea Adamo said he did not want to look further than his usual drivers.
"You cannot jump in the car and be fast,” Adamo said. “The level is so high, we are no longer in the days of Lancia when you had the likes of [Pentti] Airikkala who could jump into a car and fight for victory. The commitment is so high - it's really a three-day Grand Prix and you fight for tenths of a second. My job is to think about all the ingredients needed for Hyundai to win the championship.”
Loeb is contracted to do six rallies for Hyundai this season, and the recent news that he would replace Mikkelsen again for Portugal takes him to five. The sixth is expected to be Catalunya in October. The nine time world champion said: “No, no, no. I don't want to do Finland. It's during the holidays."
The focus of Hyundai's development work on the i20 Coupe WRC is centred on the aerodynamic balance of the car, and Adamo says the benefit will be felt everywhere.
"We work on many areas for the car, but the biggest change, I think, will be visible,” Adamo added. “It will be aerodynamic. We know we have not been fast enough in Finland and we know we have work to do. The car is catching up. We are not as fast as I want us to be. We need commitment to improve in a rally where we are not so competitive."