Hyundai Motorsports WRC Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul says that a victory in the final round of the season next weekend in Japan would be the ideal finish for the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship season. Twelve months ago the team came away from the final event of the year with a 1-2 finish and Abiteboul believes that the team can achieve this again.
“The last rally of the year has arrived very quickly and it is the final chance we have to push ourselves and the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid. The team’s 1-2 in Japan twelve months ago proves that the car is capable of victory at this event. Plus our victory at Central European Rally and podiums at Monte Carlo and Croatia show that we have the performance we need to be successful on tarmac. Our mission is to combine this momentum with Thierry and Dani’s experience of the roads and end the season with the strongest result possible. A victory would be the ideal finish to 2023.”
Thierry Neuville goes into the final event of the season having taken victory in the Central European Rally last time out and will be hoping to overhaul Toyota’s Elfyn Evans for second in the championship behind Kalle Rovanpera.
We are going to Japan with the tarmac mileage from Central European Rally and a win from last year. It’s an exciting event in a country I really enjoy, particularly the culture and atmosphere. The fans are really excited to see the WRC and I think we are going to see even more enthusiastic fans this year supporting us, I didn’t even know I had so many fans in Japan until I arrived there last year – it was so beautiful to see. In order to be successful, we need to ensure we avoid understeer and make the right calls on tyres; this time of year means that conditions can be tricky. Hopefully we can continue our success and have another great experience out there.”
For Finland’s Esapekka Lappi it will be his first time competing in Japan and he will be hoping for a clean run through the 22 stages of the event saying:
It’s my first time in Japan, so my goal is to finish well. I want to end the season as high as we can, and I want to be on the podium again. There are many things we must do to achieve that result, but tyre choice will be crucial. An early exit last time out on the European tarmac means that we have everything to prove here as it’s both the second consecutive tarmac event and the last rally of the season. I have heard that the atmosphere is great and there are some very passionate Japanese rally fans, so I am excited to put on a good show for them to close the season.”
Dani Sordo returns to the team for the first time since the Acropolis Rally and he will be hoping to redeem himself after retiring from Japan last season.
“Rally Japan is difficult as the stages are often narrow and twisty but is a nice event. Although we didn’t do too many kilometres there last year due to the fire, it is a rally I enjoy. The atmosphere in Japan is amazing; the people really like and respect rally. There are always lots of passionate fans, particularly on the road sections as many of the stages are up in the mountains where it is difficult to go and see the cars. For us, the keys to success are to have good pace notes and a strong setup. Making the car easy to drive and nice in the corners is very important. As for our goal, I would like to win for sure.”