Cyril Abiteboul: “We are banking on the continuity of the current technical regulations” 

As he has been doing for several months, Cyril Abiteboul reaffirmed in Portugal the idea that the WRC should continue to be governed by the same rules until 2027. The Frenchman affirmed that his team was not working on any other project and wanted that the 2027 horizon be the priority.

Published on 17/05/2024 à 10:28

Loïc ROCCI

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Cyril Abiteboul: “We are banking on the continuity of the current technical regulations”

Cyril Abiteboul is mainly planning on the 2027 regulations (Photo: Nikos Katikis/DPPI)

If his team did not win in Portugal, Cyril Abiteboul was still satisfied with his Portuguese weekend. In addition to noting the competitiveness of his troops, the boss of Hyundai also enjoyed this round overall. “ It was a great test, he explained in conclusion. I heard of 700 people on the rally. We may not have many cars, but what a spectacle we have! » If his next sentence had been “ why want to change things? ”, it would not have been a surprise.

After proposing to the FIA ​​to remove the hybrid unit from Rally1s a few months ago, the Frenchman was instead forced to buy several for the current season. He now wants to use them and ensure that the 5-year settlement that had been planned comes to an end. The other reason which pushes him to want the WRC does not move before 2027, is that its engineers, with François-Xavier Demaison in the lead, have developed a new version of the i20 supposed to erase some of the defects with which the current one is saddled. Before knowing if the team will one day be able to use this revised and, above all, corrected Korean Rally1, we will have to wait for the World Council on June 11. Until then, Abiteboul has no intention of changing his mind and the unbridled progress of the Portugal rally has only reinforced this idea.

« This World Council of the month of June (the 11th in Uzbekistan, Editor’s note) is important because it will determine next year's regulations, he explained in Porto. This technical subject is very hot, but it is the FIA ​​itself that created it. She took extreme positions by consulting us, but without listening to us, which is not the same. They put themselves into a somewhat complicated schedule and we no longer know which car we should make (laughing). Our design office is completely lost, which causes enormous stress internally. Are we going to ride with or without a spoiler? With or without hybrid? Faced with this situation, we made a decision which is simple and which is to focus on the continuity of the technical regulations, because we do not understand the objective of the alternative regulations. That's why we didn't want to do a test with a car that looked like next year's. Well, that's not entirely true. Thierry (Neuville, Editor’s note) did a test in Croatia, without a wing and without a hybrid...he believed in it, but the first corner of the last special, he quickly noticed that it didn't work at all...(laugh). »

Regaining his seriousness, the former boss of Renault en F1 continues his explanation. “ We are very determined on this regulation with our strategy in terms of jokers which was very clear. This also included the parts which are designed and which are being launched by our suppliers. If the sport takes a completely different direction, that puts us at risk. We cannot consider all scenarios. There are items with very long lead times. For example, removing the hybrid would require us to redo the gearbox staging and that would take several months. Even though it is a risk, we decided not to do it. With regard to our shareholder, we can no longer afford to spend millions of euros to cover all these scenarios knowing that there will only be one that will be drawn in the lottery. » Although affirming this clear-cut position, the Frenchman continues to explain that Hyundai wants to stay in the WRC.

2027, still a question mark

While the three team principals all reaffirmed during the Portugal Rally that they did not want the current Rally1s to undergo changes before 2027, Cyril Abiteboul like his colleagues cannot be certain of the outcome of the next World Council . “ This deadline must arrive and then we must be able to see to what extent this corresponds to our expectations. », he projects. In order to get the message across that the 2025 and 2026 seasons are not really the subject, the boss of the team based in Germany addresses the question concerning the future of Hyundai in the WRC. “I am not suggesting that Hyundai move towards another discipline,” he says. I still think that the stability of commitments in motorsport is what makes it marketing power. I think, for example, that Audi is still strongly associated with rallying. This lasts a very long time provided it is done well. I think we still have things to do. In what form, what format, what regulations... things can also evolve. »

To conclude on this subject of regulation, Abiteboul, like his counterparts, regretted a short-term vision. “ I would have liked to be much further along in the discussions on the future Rally1. I found that interesting. There, it's not that we are not advanced, it's that there is nothing, zero. I would have liked to discuss it, because if continuing in the rally makes sense, I can only do it by knowing where we are going...which is not the case. » Andrew Wheatley, the Road Sport Director at the FIA ​​having explained in Croatia that the file addressing the subject of regulations had to be submitted four weeks before the World Council, it must already be under study. What does it contain and what consequences will it trigger? Responses should come around June 11.

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Loïc ROCCI

Journalist specializing in rallying past, present and future... and with a southern accent

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