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Hyundai Home Country: Korea
I seem unable to trace where the Hyundai name comes from and what it means, except that Hyundai uses the Honda brand logo. However Hyundai is mother to a whole group of South Korean based industries and is one of the top10 richest companies in the world. So no excuse they are a poor team. So it has to be questioned if they are really all that serious about rallying or even interested in having their cars look good. That said, you will find it extremely hard to find a friendlier and more dedicated bunch of people than Hyundai’s preparation contractor, MSD = Motor Sport Development in Milton Keynes, UK is. But in the right order:
The initiative to have the Korean manufacturer in rallying came from Wayne Bell, an Australian driver and tuner. Following long negotiations with the manufacturer themselves, he started preparing and running Hyundai’s in the WRC. Even insiders are hard pushed to recall the first entries of Hyundai’s WRC team. Their debut was in the Rally NZ 1997 with an F2 Hyundai Coupé Kit Car and drivers Wayne Bell and Robert Nicoli, both Australians. Their first event in Europe was the Rally GB the same year, driver was non other than Jimmy McRae, the car they used was actually an Accent, but an older shaped model and as well entered in F2. Jimmy McRae only finished 32nd on that event, but at least he finished. We have to give 10/10 marks to Wayne Bell however for recognising to move the operation to an European base and get expert help in was what he needed for a mainly European based WRC series. Already with the start of the following season, still with Wayne Bell involvement, MSD was in charge of preparing and running the cars, which now was permanently the better known Coupé Kit Car and with drivers Kenneth Eriksson and Alister McRae.
From now on Hyundai had the dream of winning the 2-Litre World Championship, as i.e. Seat and Skoda had done before. Indeed, in terms of performance the car had a big struggle at hand on events where the Peugeot 306 Maxi or the Citroën Xsara Kit Car started, but meassured at more regular competition as the kit car versions of Volkswagen Golf, Opel Astra, Seat Ibiza or Skoda Felicia, Hyundai’s target should have been achieveable. Reliability of the Hyundai was not the best either, so Hyundai actually never achieved winning the 2-Litre World Championship despite lack of competition (in 1999 Renault beat Hyundai to the F2 title by accident, Renault never competed for the title in the first place! Hyundai was the only manufacturer actually competing for this title, so you could say they were worse than mathematically possible!), but with the regular appearences of Kenneth Eriksson and Alister McRae they got a superb result in raising the brand awareness.
After all that with the start of 2000 Hyundai entered with a proper WRCar, the Accent WRC, and a promise they would become World Champions withing 2 years. The project showed promise at times, but 3 ½ years after the start of this project (at the time of writing this), they still have failed to even get a podium finish and even fastest stage times are very rare. The project seemed to move into the right direction in big steps with signing Juha Kankkunen as a test driver and 3rd works driver for 2002, but for 2003 the budget was shortened so much that the team not only lost Juha Kankkunen, at one point the Korean Hyundai head quarters were even asking if their WRC stars could not sleep in tents! This is just an unbelievable attitude and a real shame to see the hugely likeable MSD crew struggling for the last pennies while the Korean head quarter is throwing millions of dollars at soccer sponsorship. It is a sad thought, but looking into the past years and the developments within the team, the question is far from “when will they be truly competitive?”, but more like “will they even bother in the future?”
This had been written in spring 2003. Things have moved on since. Hyundai headquarters in Korea had stopped paying the project full stop, leaving the private company MSD in an unbearable and unfair situation. It all went up in a massive, public argument and left without any budget at all MSD and such Hyundai works cars did not turn up for the last 4 events in 2003. As you already see in the mood the above was written in, it was hardly surprising to see Hyundai disappear. The bigger surprise is that Hyundai promises to return in 2005, then in 2006, then.... To the day that comeback has not happened and honestly I do not believe we will see it happen, nor do I feel their return would be worthwhile.
If you allow me that note, even years later my mood about this manufacturer has not changed. They throw billions at the soccer world and european cups since a decade, state everywhere that Hyundai's are the official soccer cars when even soccer stars are so "satisfied" with their products, and Hyundai seemingly forgot they don't have busses in their range, that embarrassingly it is publicly seen that nobody involved uses the official soccer cars. All those billions at soccer, but their rally team was left starving and struggling. I can't help thinking I am not the only one feeling maybe Hyundai is better off advertising their products through a sport that has no connection to cars. They seem better off in a sport that doesn't proof the quality and performance of their products, and it seems Hyundai knows that! Sorry, strong words, and they will be most welcome if their attitude changes. I just can’t help feeling it stinks that a car manufacturer throws billions at soccer, a sport that is well rich enough, while at the same time leaving their team starve in a sport that actually shows and proves their own products!
COLOURS & TYRES:
Nothing distinct it seems, the F2 cars were white with blue & red, the WRCars after Castrol sponsorship silver&red.
Tyres always Michelin.
In 1997 Australian Wayne Bell was in charge of getting Hyundai into rallying. During that time the works cars were registered in Australia. Only 4 cars had been built and registered here. The reg plates would start with "HRS" = "Hyundai Rally Sport" (guess!), followed by quite funny numbers. Well, we had for the 4 cars: 009, 010, 011 & 101. From 1998 MSD in Milton Keynes UK took over and also registered the cars for Hyundai. Look at our general registrations guide for more info on UK plates, as well as at Hyundai reg plates had been re-used. Soon we had private plates with a relatively short number and the 3 letter block displaying "MSD", which was the preparer's name. In 2001 the 3 letter block changed to "HMC" for "Hyundai Motor Company". This change went in line with the introduction of the WRC2 version Accent, such on the reg plate you can actually identify an early Accent WRC from its later evolution versions.
|Hyundai Accent||Formula 2|
|Hyundai Accent||World Rally Car|
|Hyundai Coupé||Formula 2|
|2003 WRC||World Rally Car||66th.||Hyundai (1pts)||14|
|2002 WRC||World Rally Car||4th.||Hyundai (10pts)||14|
|2001 WRC||World Rally Car||6th.||Hyundai (17pts)||14|
|2000 WRC||World Rally Car||6th.||Hyundai (8pts)||14|