Neuville and Tanak to start 2024 season on equal terms as Abiteboul reveals

The team principal of Hyundai Motorsport, Cyril Abiteboul, clarifies that Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak will have an equal treatment from the start of 2024, but things can change in favor of one of them as next season progresses and he believes that it is better to have two drivers fighting against others rather than having only one carrying his team on his shoulders.

Hyundai Motorsport finalized its driver line-up for next season by confirming Neuville and Tanak as full-timers while Esapekka Lappi, Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen will share the third i20N and will support their teammates on their fight for the drivers' title. Tanak announced after his win with M-Sport Ford in Chile that he would leave the British squad and would return to Hyundai Motorsport in 2024 as he could clearly see how the Korean team has changed its structure and has set clear goals for the future which are to win rallies and championships. 

Abiteboul replaced Julien Moncet and became the new team principal of Hyundai last January and immediately he detected a serious problem on Hyundai's organization which was the lack of a technical director. As a consequence of that, he hired Francois-Xavier Demaison who was behind the creation of the victorious Volkswagen Polo R in World Rally Championship. Although Tanak terminated prematurely his contract with the Alzenau-based team back in 2022, Abiteboul managed to persuade the Estonian to join them in 2024 despite the problems he had with the previous people in charge who preferred to sacrifice him at Acropolis Rally of 2022 to favor Neuville resulting in his losing more ground from the championship leader, Kalle Rovanpera. Finally, it must be mentioned that Tanak has already tested the 2023-spec i20N Rally1 in Finland this month and was satisfied by the development and the behavior of the car.

"When the season starts there will be absolute parity of parts, information, opportunity and contractual rights and privilege to both drivers, and a clear mission for car number three to be here to support", Abiteboul said.

"We have identified, and I won’t go into detail, but a milestone during the season where we will review the situation and possibly change our internal code of conduct. 

"The drivers are aware of this.

"I would like to think that it is a good problem to have. 

"I would rather have two drivers against one and deal with the consequences rather than have one driver going against two from other teams.

"On many occasions this year we have been one against many, going against Kalle Rovanpera, Sebastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans, and at times it was very difficult. 

"It was a tough job and a tough ask on Thierry.  

"Yes, it will be difficult in 2024 as we will have some intra-team competition going on, but I also think it is a bit of a relief for a driver to know that he is not alone and carrying the weight of the whole team on his shoulders.

"On many occasions this year I felt it simply was almost too much pressure on Thierry and we have seen that when he has made mistakes it is also because most probably there was this huge pressure because he was alone.   

"There will be conflict, there will be tension and I’m doing everything I can do now to address this. 

"I’m not waiting for Monte Carlo or later in the season to discuss our strategy. 

"I think some of that can be facilitated by dealing with it outside of the action and pressure. 

"Overall, I think we will be better equipped next year".


Photo Credits: Hyundai

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