Next week sees the start of the 2024 World Rally Championship (WRC) with the first round set to take place in Monte Carlo from January 25. Estonian ace Ott Tänak, who has rejoined Hyundai this season, said he is motivated and will once again set his sights on winning the World Championship title.
Tänak, who became world champion when racing with Toyota in 2019, joined M-Sport Ford for last season. However, in October it was revealed in that the Estonian's partnership with M-Sport would only last one year, with Tänak opting to return to Hyundai, the team he represented from 2020-2022.
The Estonian said he was delighted to be reunited with his former team. "I'm very excited and motivated to be back with Hyundai. I can see the excitement in the team too and there is a clear goal here to have a strong season," Tänak said.
"We are starting the year with a fresh slate and [whether we have] a strong season is all down to us. Of course, our goal is to win the World Championship title and all the team wants the same. It's going to be an exciting year!"
Over the previous two WRC seasons, Hyundai have managed seven stage wins and 13 podium, but has failed to snatch the title from Toyota and Finnish driver Kalle Rovanperä. The two-time world champion, however, is taking some time off this season and so will not be competing full-time in the World Championship. This could open the door for Hyundai and its new line-up.
In addition to Tänak, Belgium's Thierry Neuville will be behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid this season. They are joined by Esapekka Lappi of Finland, Spain's Dani Sordo and Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen.
According to Hyundai, the aim of the latter three drivers is to support Tänak and Neuville in the title chase, with the team's biggest goal to score more rally wins. "This year we want to win more often. Looking ahead to the 2024 season, we believe we can also win the drivers' title," said team chief Cyril Abiteboul.
"Ott had some unfinished business with this team and when we started talking we realized that both parties wanted to get it done. Together with Thierry, we have two drivers who have the potential to take the title," Abiteboul continued.
"With the third car, we wanted to acknowledge the drivers who, in our view, deserve this opportunity. All three have shown loyalty, outstanding speed and ability over the years."
Neuville, who finished third overall in last year's championship with 189 points, was the best-placed Hyundai driver in 2023. Tänak, who was representing M-Sport, was 15 points behind the Belgian, while Lappi was sixth with 113 points.
Neuville has also expressed his desire to become world champion. "It's obviously going to be difficult and we have to drive well at every rally to make it possible. We'll do everything we can to fight for the title. We have a very strong line-up this year and that will help us fight for wins and podium places," said the Belgian.
Editor: Michael Cole