Interview: Michel Nandan, Team Principal, Hyundai Motorsport
With exactly three months to go before the Hyundai Motorsport team make its re-appearance in the WRC, with a completely newly structured team, we asked Team Principal Michel Nandan how things were going.
So far quite happy because everybody is really doing a hell of a lot of work, we are doing a test every two weeks. Each testing day is of benefit for us because we can learn by that. So far I think we are in quite good situation for next year.
Michel Nandan and Gyoo Heon-Choi deep in discussion about Hyundai's WRC project
Finally a 2014 calendar decision has come from the FIA! Does this work well for Hyundai?
At least it is possible for us to start to plan for the championship next year. It is a good help for us that not a lot of rallies and dates has changed. We hoped this would happen and all our planning so far was based on this year's calendar. I am disappointed about losing Greece. The Acropolis Rally is a rally which has been always in the world rally championship and which is quite special to the series. Poland we don't know much about.
Happy with testing so far?
We have not carried out a proper endurance test so far. We have done long stages and some rough ones but no real durability test, that means continuously 30-40km of stages in hard conditions.
What can you do before the end of the year, with decisions about the homologation paper needing to be made very soon?
I think it will be difficult to do much more. On every test we are trying to cover more mileage but it is difficult. And it has not been possible to make any tests outside Europe.
Any chance for winter testing?
We will try to do some tests for Sweden. It is difficult because when you try to do it in December you are lucky if you have snow, or you are not lucky the weather for the rally could be different. So it is just a gamble. For sure next year will be a big test session for us. Then it will be a matter to improve step by step the performance during the year and also help with the feedback we get from this car to work for 2015.
Are you already working on the new car for 2015?
We have not started yet. I don't know yet when we will be ready. I have some dates in mind but first I have to see how the engineering is going.
...How much is similar between the 2014 car and 2015 car?
The 2015 car will start from a completely clean sheet of paper. As for whether it will have the same Global design engine as the 2014 car, well, we will see.
As you would be testing two types of car at the same time, will you run a second test team just for the 2015 car?
No it will be the same testing team, maybe the testing team will be a bit bigger.
Michel Nandan, the man charged with bringing success to Hyundai's 2014 WRC campaign
Why did Hyundai decide on i20 for the 2014 car?
The decision was taken in Korea before the team was set up in Europe. It was chosen because it is small, the ideal size. The i20 was already there with the right dimensions. It hasn't been decided which model will be the basis for the 2015 car.
If you were free would you have chosen another model than the i20?
I don't think so. It is quite a compact car.
You have three drivers engaged for testing the 2014 i20 WRC car (Bryan Bouffier, Juho Hanninen and Chris Atkinson) but who will be the rally drivers in 2014?
Sorry I have nothing to say about drivers. I suppose we have had six or seven possible drivers who have already come to see us in Alzenau. For 2014 we have said we want one competitive driver and one young driver. For 2015 we will need two drivers who can win. For me it is interesting that I do not think any team, except maybe Citroen, has really given young drivers the chance to develop. Maybe M-Sport has been good but have not given them the chance to go testing as well. Testing is all part of the necessary package. Certainly from 2014 we will need to have one permanent driver for every rally, the second driver could be changed but it makes sense always to have the same two drivers. I understand that the FIA's World Rally Championship Commission is going to think about these rules for the future.
Two cars on WRC events in 2014 or more?
We start with two cars, maybe later a third car. We will look at the possibility. We have no chance to run a third car outside Europe. When we are able to build a third car we will look at the idea.
Considering the short term intended life span of the 2014 car, how many cars will you actually build?
It is planned to build eight cars of the 2014 model maximum, including test cars. We have two test cars at the moment. You can have extra cars if you run a B-team.
Considering the many wild ideas at the FIA, what do you think about the latest last-stage shoot-out idea?
I am not in favour of deciding the rally only on the Sunday. Personally I do not think it is the spirit of rallying. For sure, anything that can help people better to understand rallying by TV, why not, but I am not sure that this way is good.
Concerning the current reverse seeding and running order selection procedures?
Under the current reverse running order system, what is not good is that the best guy starts in the best position so the gaps get bigger. In racing they are looking for ways to stop the same guy winning every time, by handicap, seeding or whatever, just to generate a fight. For me the best solution in rallies is that the drivers always start according to their championship position on every day. Maybe you are not always in a good position on the road, but ten years ago drivers could handle that. This would obviate the need for tactics and team orders.
How long is Hyundai guaranteed to be in the WRC?
I think in Hyundai's mind it will be more, but so far as regulations are concerned it has to be minimum three years 2014, '15 and '16. In 2017 we would start another three year cycle, if the regulations are the same. VW and the others build a new car in 2015 for three years.
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