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Hyundai bolsters world rally squad with new appointments

Hyundai bolsters world rally squad with new appointments

The Korean manufacturer is ramping up its preparations for entry into top-level motorsport with the Hyundai i20 WRC

Hyundai has ramped up its preparations for a return to the World Rally Championship by appointing a number of key technical staff.

The Korean manufacturer confirmed last year that it will enter a Hyundai i20 WRC in the WRC in 2014 and, since the appointment of team principal Michel Nandan in January, it has been busy building a bespoke facility in Alzenau, Germany, and getting the i20 WRC ready for testing later in the year.

Experienced rally technician Stephane Girard, formerly of Subaru, Citroën and Peugeot, has recently been appointed as engine manager and will work with chief designer Bertrand Vallat on the engineering team. Vallat is another former Peugeot Sport employee and worked on the Peugeot 207 S2000 rally car.

Alain Penasse will start a new role of team manager on 22 April. The 51-year-old Belgian has previously been involved with Toyota and Peugeot, as well as tyre manufacturer Michelin and as an organiser of the Ypres Rally.

Hyundai’s workshop will be headed by Ernst Kopp, formerly involved with Toyota’s rally, Le Mans and F1 projects. Stefan Henrich has transferred across from Hyundai Motor Europe to become marketing and PR chief.

Team principal Michel Nandan said: “We’ve been evolving rapidly since the beginning of the year and made great progress in filling all the main roles to establish our core team. We’re facing a big and exciting challenge in building a team from scratch, and we have now only nine months to prepare for next year.

“I’m now surrounded by the best people in the business and I’m confident we’ll be ready to meet our ambitious goal to be ready at the start of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship. While we have a very busy year ahead of us, I believe that team-work together with shared commitment and passion for motorsport are the keys for success.”

The Hyundai i20 WRC has been seen in two development phases, with the most recent appearing at the Geneva motor show last month.

There has been speculation that the team is gearing up for an early competitive debut on Rally GB in November, although team sources say a decision on that will not be made until testing starts in the summer.