BARELY two weeks after the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship season ended, new champion Ott Tänak is taking the first steps toward his title defence with his maiden test of a Hyundai i20 WRC.
Hyundai kick-started preparations for the 2020 season with Tänak’s teammate Thierry Neuville scheduled to be first into the French Alps on Wednesday to test for next month’s Rallye Monte-Carlo.
The Estonian steps aboard the test i20 on Thursday with Sébastien Loeb driving on the team’s final day on Friday.
Toyota Gazoo Racing also begins its preparations on Wednesday, with its all-new line-up of Sébastien Ogier, Elfyn Evans, Kalle Rovanperä and Takamoto Katsuta all driving the Yaris WRC between December 4 and 10.
Hyundai Motorsport director Andrea Adamo is looking forward to seeing new world champion Tänak at the wheel of the i20 for the first time, wrc.com reports.
“We are all looking forward to working with him and it’s great to get the input into the car from another top driver. We saw that when Seb [Loeb] joined us at the start of this season,” the Italian said.
Tänak requested a variety of set-up solutions before the test, but the team would ot disclose the details.
Tänak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja join Hyundai after two years at Toyota, meaning next month’s Gap-based opener will be his third new car in four years after he joined the Japanese giant from M-Sport Ford in 2018.
Meanwhile, M-Sport Ford will delay its Monte-Carlo test until January while it chooses a new teammate for Teemu Suninen, replacing Elfyn Evans.
Team owner Malcolm Wilson has an extensive choice of uncommitted drivers, including Hayden Paddon, Kris Meeke, Esapekka Lappi, Andreas Mikkelsen, Mads Østberg and Craig Breen.