The main character of the 2020 season WRC manufacturer champion is the Hyundai Motors World Rally Team (hereinafter Hyundai Team); the team won the manufacturer’s championship for the second time in a row. It has been four years since a team won the championship for two consecutive years at the WRC; it is indeed never easy to win the WRC manufacturer’s championship two times in a row. In particular, this season had many variables such as season suspension and schedule changes due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Because of this, it was not easy to maintain the team’s performance stability and set up a strategy.
The reason why Hyundai Team’s 2nd consecutive championship is impressive is that it has overcome such a difficult situation. Of course, the powerful performance of the i20 coupe WRC rally car and the technical support of the Hyundai team have also helped to achieve the championship for the second year in a row. Still, there is one important factor left; it is the passion of the members of the Hyundai team who have been going through all season towards the one goal – to be a champion.
This valuable result was only possible thanks to everyone including the director and drivers, as well as the crews who supported the team from behind, with one heart and one soul. In addition, the harmony between the two groups of drivers – those who gained experience while winning the championship last season, and those who have the champion’s skills, such as Ott Tanak, was remarkable. Here are the key members of the Hyundai Team, who overcame various difficulties this season and proudly achieved the manufacturer’s champion for two consecutive years.
Director Andrea Adamo: the head of the Hyundai team who made it all possible
Q. You overcame many challenges and won the WRC champion for two consecutive years. How do you feel?
It’s not easy to articulate what I was thinking back then when we just won the championship. But first of all, I would like to say that I am so proud that I am working in a good team that profoundly supports motorsports. Both seasons have been difficult since I took over as manager, but I think I was able to become the champion for the second year in a row because the team members helped me a lot. It’s really amazing to be able to compete with these great team members and perform well. We’ve been through a hard time this season as well, but each day was incredible.
Q. What do you think is the key to winning the manufacturer’s championship for two years in a row?
The key would be one more point than the other teams (laughs). Our team members always work really hard, but who doesn’t? But anyway, I guess I should say our team members did the best. So I think the whole team members were the keys to success.
Q. We all have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – it halted the season and reduced the number of races. How did you cheer your team up for their performance while the schedule being irregular?
It was really difficult. I thought it was important to give everyone on the team on a right track. Specifically, I informed everyone about the current situation on a daily basis and encouraged them to stay motivated. Above all, I did not try to hide the truth from everyone about the situation; I always told them the truth as it was. I tried my best to make everyone see the whole picture and set clear goals, holding them together as much as possible.
Q. There were other obstacles than the COVID-19. Until the middle of the season, it doesn’t seem like the team was doing good as last year. What would be the reason?
I admit the fact that the performance was not what we dreamed of. But honestly, I cannot be sure what went wrong exactly. We were doing well until the third round, the Mexico Rally. The most important thing was to keep having a meeting with the entire team, including engineers and drivers, to improve performance, and to exchange opinions honestly with each other; and this became the game-changer. We opened up everything we had in mind, and we understood each other. I think this was one of the keys to the best results this season.
Q. The team kept staying in second place until the Italian rally, then you won the championship. How did the team manage to get to first place?
It was important to keep all the possibilities open to victory and to do your best. The team members had a common goal and always kept thinking, ‘What can I do now?’ and brought it into action.
Q. Let’s talk about Ott Tanak and other drivers who newly joined this year.
Ott Tanak is the best driver of the WRC. He got along well with everyone and gave everyone a clear direction as soon as he joined the team. I think his joining has been a success for all of us. Existing drivers such as Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo, Craig Breen, and Sebastien Loeb also showed their best in their matches. Thanks to their performance, we were able to become champions. I have no regrets about their not winning a driver’s championship, if you ask; because at WRC, winning the manufacturer’s championship is the most important thing.
Thierry Neuville: An ace who has been with the team all along
Q. As a main driver, how would you say about winning the manufacturer’s championship for two years in a row?
Winning the manufacturer’s championship is very important to our team. This season has been so difficult and full of unexpected events in many ways, but our team eventually achieved the goal. I think that our team was able to become the champion again this year because we had already won the championship last season. Once you win, it gets easier to know what to do in the next season.
Q. The team has won the championship for the second year in a row, but you personally failed to win the driver’s championship once again. Are there any regrets?
There is always something to regret. This season was no exception. There were technical issues, but I also made mistakes as a driver, and, at the end of the season, it became clear that I couldn’t win the driver’s championship. But I will always remember the opening rally at Monte Carlo – and winning second place in the Rally in Turkey and Italy twice, too. But with so many problems coming out later in the season, the winning chance diminished as well.
Q. As you said, the Monte Carlo rally was very impressive. Could you tell us the details about the situation back then, and how you feel about the rally?
When we were at the opening race, no one thought the season would end so quickly. All I was thinking was that I wanted to do well just as I did at the Monte Carlo Rally last season. Of course, the goal was a victory, and we made it. Winning the Monte Carlo Rally will be a good memory not only for me but also for the whole team.
Q. You, unfortunately, missed the championship at the Rally Turkey in Round 5 and Rally in Italy in Round 6. What was the situation at the time?
I could have won both rallies, but I wasn’t lucky enough. In Rally Turkey, I had a problem in the final stage while I was leading the rally. And in Rally Italy, I was unable to win because of two technical problems. Nonetheless, I think it was good enough to win points for the manufacturer’s championship.
Q. The season came to a halt for longer than we expected because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How did you maintain your rhythm?
Everything got complicated after the Monte Carlo rally. During the Mexico rally, the schedule was reduced and eventually canceled. After that, we had to stay home for several months. But I always tried to keep myself ready for the upcoming race. In addition, during breaks, we kept working with our teammates to further develop the i20 Coupe WRC race car. We kept ourselves busy to finish the season well, and also for the next one.
Q. Now let’s talk about the race car, the i20 Coupe. What exactly has changed this season compared to the one in the last season?
Compared to last season, there are many changes in the race car this season. As I said earlier, we worked tirelessly to improve our race car during the season’s halt. Because, like everyone else, constantly improving the race car to make it run faster is the key to becoming a champion.
Q. The next season’s schedule could change anytime because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you expect the next season?
All of us will be affected by COVID-19. It’s a very difficult time when no one can predict how the next season will go. Still, we all have hope that things will be better, and we are quite optimistic. We look forward to having a normal season in 2021.
Ott Tanak: The champion driver who greatly increased the Hyundai Team’s performance
Q. A lot of things happened in the first season after coming to Hyundai Motorsports Team. How would you describe yourself in this season?
The Hyundai team I saw from outside last season looked very strong; this is one of the reasons I joined the Hyundai team. After I joined the team, the first thing I recognized was the very strong teamwork; Hyundai is a really strong team in that way. However, this season has been difficult for everyone. Personally, it was difficult to adjust to get used to the team in the beginning. Still, we were able to recover quite well at the rally in Sweden and Mexico. There have been many things, such as a long break that the COVID 19 caused, and everything that came after that, but I am fortunate to be able to end the season with a good result of winning the manufacturer’s championship.
Q. The Mexican rally suddenly came to a halt because of the COVID-19, while you were doing so well at the end of the race. Weren’t you disappointed at this?
I was leading the Mexico rally at first, but then I made a mistake. After that, I worked hard to make up for it; it wasn’t easy, but I did my best to get it in second place. However, as everyone knows, in mid-March, when the Mexico Rally was held, the COVID 19 pandemic got worse. I think it was the right decision to stop the season and send everyone home. I have no objection to that.
Q. Can you tell me how you spent your time during the break which suddenly occurred because of the COVID-19?
During my break, I enjoyed being at home with my family. In fact, it seems I haven’t had enough time with my wife and children, and I was able to do that this summer. I enjoyed spending time with my family, and on the other hand, I tried to improve the race car. You must always be ahead of others to do better.
Q. When the season resumed, you won the Estonian rally. Considering the fact that Estonia is your hometown, what was in your mind?
Our team has a lot of experience and know-how at rallies. So, before the official game, we were able to successfully run small rallies and tests in Estonia. It felt right then, so when I resumed the season, I had the confidence that I would be able to do well with the Estonia Rally, and the actual results were good.
Q. How would you describe this year’s result, marking third, compared to your winning the Driver championship last season? And what do you expect in the next one?
Overall, this year was a difficult season to describe. It was not an ordinary championship. Still, I tried to do well in each game, and I always tried to do better. I hope next season would be normal again. The next season’s goal is to win the team’s championship, and this includes reclaiming the driver’s championship as well. We’ve learned a lot this season in many ways. Next season, we will try to win with what we have learned this year.
Craig Breen: Hyundai’s perfect safety net
Q. When the season resumed after the sudden halt because of the COVID-19, you marked the second in the Estonian rally which was not in the regular calendar. Could you tell us the details about the situation back then, and what you felt about the rally?
Everything went so weird this season before the Rally Estonia. The Rally Finland should have taken place first, but things have changed. Then the season halted, and we all had to wait until it resumes. Still, everyone adapted well after then. In the case of Rally Estonia, I personally think I had an advantage because I had a little more experience in Estonia than other drivers. I think it was more because no one could run the rally during the break. This allowed me to finish second in Estonia. Everything I prepared worked out well, and things went relatively perfectly, and good results came out.
Q. How would you describe this season? Did you have any personal goals?
Honestly, I’ve been putting a lot of effort to stand on the podium over the past few years, and I’m really happy that it turned out well this season. Everything I planned has come true, and personally, I have achieved great goals. It’s also a great pleasure for me to win the manufacturer’s championship for two consecutive seasons. In particular, I feel happier to contribute to the team’s victory this season a little more, and I feel that the bond with the team has strengthened. This year was a weird season overall due to the COVID 19, but I’m happy with the results.
Sebastien Loeb: the legend who helped win the championship twice in a row
Q. It seems that this year’s season was the craziest one in 20 years of your entire career. As one of the most experienced drivers, how do you think the COVID-19 pandemic affected WRC?
Obviously, no sport has experienced such a situation, let alone the WRC. A season with just seven rallies was for sure unique. I find that the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) and the Promoter reacted rather well by adapting the protocol so that the season could resume in Estonia in September. A title in seven races is different from a title with twelve or thirteen rallies for sure, but it was the case not only in our sport.
Q. As a living legend of WRC, what do you think is the reason Hyundai could win the manufacturer’s championship for two consecutive years?
Being the reigning World Champion team we had to defend our title of course. But the main reason is that it is a team that has been able to grow intelligently since its beginning, without skipping any steps. Now and for several years now, Hyundai Motorsport has all the arguments to play for the Manufacturers and also Drivers titles each season.
Q. You participated in the Turkish rally in 10 years since the 2010 season. Despite the long break, you came in third. Could you tell us how you feel about the Turkish rally and the joy after winning?
Having not competed on the gravel in a year and discovering for the first time Rally Turkey in its current configuration, it wasn’t given that I would have been able to fight for a podium position there. But I felt comfortable in the car throughout the weekend and happy with the pace we were having with Daniel. So I was happy at the finish to be able to bring big points for the team, even if without that puncture on Sunday morning, I could have probably finished in a higher podium position.
Q. How do you predict next season? Will you still be in WRC?
We are at the end of the adventure with Hyundai Motorsport – and what an adventure it has been! I am extremely grateful for the opportunity they gave me during these two years by offering me a partial program, totally in line with my expectations, within a very professional team and in a pleasant atmosphere. These two years have passed extremely quickly – this one having also been cut by several months as a result of the pandemic – but they will have marked part of my career, and with another manufacturer title success to which I contributed. For me, Hyundai Motorsport gave me the best WRC car I have ever driven, and I was glad I could compete at the highest level with the latest generation of WRC cars. Now, a new chapter will open in 2021 with Prodrive in Rally Raid but who knows for WRC; neither Hyundai Motorsport nor I want to completely close the book for good.
As Andrea Adamo and other players said so far, the secret of the Hyundai team overcoming various difficulties this season and winning the WRC manufacturer’s championship is clear; all of the team members cooperated and shared the same goal. As the rally legend Sebastien Loeb suggests, the Hyundai team’s strengths will last long. And one day, there will certainly be a glorious moment to win both the manufacturer and driver championships. Until that day, the Hyundai team will continue to move forward.