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HYUNDAI will take another step in its FIA World Rally Championship program when three of its new i20 R5 cars debut in the Tour de Corse-Rallye de France late this month.

The R5 has been developed as a customer car with wide eligibility, including in the Asia Pacific region, and two of the three entries will be from private competitors.

The third will be entered by Hyundai Motorsport for official test driver Kevin Abbring, who has done much of the car’s development work.

Hyundai says Rallye de France on 29 September-October 2 will be an opportunity to show the broad appeal of the R5 class and the New Generation i20 R5.

Stéphane Sarrazin and Jacques-Julien Renucci are past winners of the rally, but the weekend will mark their first appearance in the WRC service park this season. The experienced Sarrazin, currently a regular driver on the FIA World Endurance Championship and Formula E grids, captured ninth overall on the event last season, competing in WRC-spec machinery.

Aboard the other customer R5 will be Fabio Andolfi, whose entry will be run by HMI and ACI Team Italia, supported by ACI Sport, the national motorsport body in his home country.

Dutchman Kevin Abbring has completed almost all of the 5000km of testing conducted during the i20 R5’s seven-month development process.

The Hyundai Customer Racing department will travel to the Tour de Corse aiming to prove the car’s pace against the more established manufacturers in the WRC2 class. It also will showcase the level of support that customers can expect, with the attendance of a dedicated engineer and specialist technicians.

Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “With the competitive debut of the New Generation i20 R5 this year’s Tour de Corse-Rallye de France will be the biggest event in the history of Hyundai Motorsport.

“The foundation of the Customer Racing department was an important expansion for the company and we will have an unprecedented six Hyundai Motorsport built entries at the start of the rally.

“For the first time we will compete with a car other than our WRC challenger. In taking on the R5 category and the WRC2 championship we have targeted one of the most competitive areas of modern motorsport.

“Due to the tight deadlines which have been a constant part of this project we are still awaiting final confirmation of the car’s homologation for competition from the FIA. However, with preparations in the workshop well advanced the New Generation i20 R5 should be ready to compete in France.”

The 2016 edition of Tour de Corse-Rallye de France features 10 stages across the length of the island from the Service Park in Bastia. With 390km of stages scheduled, the event is one of the longest on the 2016 WRC calendar.

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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