Hyundai will be hoping a return to the World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2014 will be enough to bolster its share of younger male buyers.
The South Korean manufacturer earmarked its renewed involvement in the WRC as a means to capture a larger share of the crucial 18- to 35-year-old male audience.
Hyundai also expects to leverage its involvement in the rally championship by creating a high-performance division for its road cars, which could see the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine from the Veloster Turbo dropped into a specially developed i30.
“We are looking at developing some high-performance versions of our road cars that would benefit from our work on the WRC cars, as we think that would change the brand’s perception among key young male buyers,” Hyundai Motorsport GmbH team manager Alain Penasse told CarAdvice.
Speaking at the group’s dedicated WRC facility at Alzenau in Germany this week, Penasse added that WRC is undoubtedly the best way Hyundai can make “a positive impact on the brand.”
Penasse also confirmed that the current i20-based WRC car would be superseded in 2015 by an entirely new model, most likely based on the new-generation i20 – due for replacement after a lifecycle stretching six years.
The 1200kg WRC version of Hyundai’s i20 shares little with its current road-going sibling other than the chassis.
Power will come from a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder direct injection engine tuned to develop close to 240kW. It’s mated to a six-speed sequential transmission driving all four wheels.
While Hyundai has confirmed Michelin as their WRC tyre supplier for the 2014 season, other current technical partners including Brembo (brakes), Reiger (suspension), Magenti Marelli (electronics) and Sabelt (seats, harnesses and steering wheel) are still unconfirmed for seasons beyond 2014.
Australia’s Chris Atkinson is one of three test drivers currently in the running for a factory driver’s seat for next year’s season. Atkinson has over 50 WRC stage wins and six podiums to his credit and is considered a good bet for one of the key driver spots.