Speaking exclusively to CarAdvice at this weekend's 2016 World Rally Championship (WRC) Rally Australia event in Coffs Harbour, Hyundai Australia public relations manager Guido Schenken said while rally is an important sport for the brand, the next chapter of what was known as the V8 Supercar series, isn’t.
“[World rally] is very important for our brand image and to help develop the brand further,” Schenken said.
“At the moment, [though], we’re not looking at any form of local motorsport.
“Potentially, with the introduction of i30 N towards the end of next year, in 2018 there could be a possibility that we might look at doing some sort of events like Targa Tasmania – it would make more sense once we have the road cars here to maybe develop a motorsport program off the back of that.
“We do have conversations with the people behind Supercars, but we’re not really seriously looking at it at all. It’s just not for us. It’s an expensive exercise and it’s not something we’re looking at.”
If it was interested, new rules outlined back in 2015 – allowing for body styles based on a wider range of four-seater road cars, and permitting the use of turbocharged four- and six-cylinder engines – would make it possible for the South Korean brand to enter the fray against the likes of the two currently-competing factory teams from Holden and Nissan.
With Hyundai globally being “100 per cent focussed on rally” for at least the short-term future, though, Schenken said Volkswagen’s shock announcement to leave the sport after four dominant years – claiming 12 consecutive world championship titles for driver, co-driver, and manufacturer – is tied to mixed emotions.
“It definitely gives us a chance next year to be more competitive and potentially have a shot at a championship, but in terms of overall exposure for WRC, I guess it’s – not a negative – but it would’ve been great to compete against them.
“They’ve been a fantastic champion the last four years, and when you want to win, you want to beat the best. So, it’s good in a sense that we’ve got a good shot next year, but it’s a pity as well that we haven’t been able to have a go head-to-head and beat them in a championship fight.”
Despite Hyundai Motorsport factory driver Thierry Neuville telling Australian media that with three years now under the team’s collective belt and Volkswagen exiting, the 2017 WRC title is the one Hyundai must win, Schenken is aware of the difficulties.
“Our team’s been getting stronger and stronger over the three years we’ve been in the sport, and this year, it looks like Thierry will secure second place in the championship and Hyundai will finish second in the manufacturers’ championship as well," Schenken said.
“With regards to next year, with the all-new rules and the introduction of two new teams [Toyota and Citroen] – Citroen taking a year off to spend a full year preparing their 2017 challenger – we’ve had to balance between developing our current-generation car and developing next year’s car.
"So, the team’s basically taking a week off [at the end of the 2016 season], and within two weeks they’ll be back testing next year’s car.
“It’s a bit early to predict how we’ll do, but we’re very quietly confident now it’s our fourth year in the championship.”
Rally Australia 2016 images by David Zalstein.