HYUNDAI has finalised its WRC driver line-up for the next two seasons by announcing a new two-year extension to its contract with Thierry Neuville.
The Belgian driver completes a three-car Hyundai squad for 2017 and 2018, joining Hayden Paddon of New Zealand and Dani Sordo of Spain, who were already confirmed, WRC.com reports.
Neuville joined Hyundai from M-Sport in 2013 to lead the Korean manufacturer’s WRC return in 2014. Highlights since then have included two wins, the most recent in Sardinia earlier this year, and nine podiums, including second-place in Corsica last weekend.
But there have been troubled times too, especially in 2015 when dissatisfaction with delays to the introduction of an upgraded i20 led to a slump in performance and demotion to Hyundai’s second-tier team.
A string of good finishes in the second half of this year have put Neuville back in the spotlight for the right reasons. And while he acknowledged that moving to another team next year was an option, he said he was “delighted” to stick with Hyundai.
“Although I had alternative options available, it seemed the most logical decision to keep up the great momentum we have within this team,” Neuville said when his new deal was announced.
“We have shared very special moments together since the team’s debut in WRC. Our first win together in Germany was one of my career highlights.
“With a new car next year,and even more ambitious targets, I am excited by what this next chapter will bring.”
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “Thierry has been a great asset to our team so we are pleased to announce this two-year extension. There has been a lot of talk about Thierry’s future, which is obviously part of the motorsport game, but the fact we continue together shows the strength of our relationship.
“Now we have finalised our driver line-up with Thierry, Hayden and Dani, we can aim for a competitive finish to our 2016 season, as well as focusing on development of our 2017 challenger.”
There is no word yet from the team on its plans for test and development driver Kevin Abbring. The Dutchman has tackled four rounds of the championship with Hyundai so far this year and has further outings planned in Spain and Wales.