The South Korean manufacturer revealed on Friday that Esapekka Lappi will replace 2019 world champion Ott Tanak as planned, alongside Thierry Neuville, while Dani Sordo and former M-Sport driver Craig Breen will share the third i20 N entered. .
Hyundai kicked off the crazy start to the WRC season by announcing it was parting ways with Oliver Solberg, who shared the third i20 N with Sordo this season.
He then found himself needing a second driver after Tanak exercised an option to end his contract with the team a year early.
As a result, Lappi will now fill the seat vacated by Tanak and contest a full WRC season for the first since his 2020 campaign with M-Sport.
The Finn was widely tipped to take the Hyundai seat following Tanak’s departure after impressing on his return to the WRC top flight this year, sharing the third GR Yaris with Sébastien Ogier, where he scored three podiums in seven rounds .
Last year’s WRC2 champion Andreas Mikkelsen was the favorite to clinch the seat until Lappi emerged as a contender.
“Life is full of surprises! We didn’t expect to get the chance to join Hyundai Motorsport and drive a WRC program with a full schedule,” Lappi said.
“It really is a dream and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; we are very happy to join the Hyundai Motorsport family.
“The team has shown in the 2022 season that they are capable of developing the car a lot during the season and have chances to win on all surfaces.
“From what I have already heard, 2023 is looking very promising. We are well aware that there is a lot of work to be done, but with Janne [Ferme, co-driver]I commit to it.
“I think we have a lot to give to the whole team. I would like to thank Hyundai Motorsport for showing their confidence in us; we will do everything we can to succeed and achieve our common goals.
Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Photo by: Tomasz Kalineski
Hyundai has spoken of a desire to recruit experienced drivers following its decision not to renew its contract with Solberg for the third car. To fulfill this objective, the team has agreed to extend its agreement with Sordo, who will now be playing his 19th season in the WRC.
“The decision to re-sign with Hyundai Motorsport was clear and easy for me; in ten years they have become a family,” Sordo said.
“It’s my team and where I belong. They offered me another season where I can share the third car with another crew, which is in line with my personal preferences. I’m motivated to support the team and other crews as much as possible.
Sordo will share the wheel with Breen following the Irishman’s departure from a two-year contract with M-Sport a year earlier.
The move will see the 32-year-old, who has endured a tough year at M-Sport, join the Alzenau-based side in a similar role he held from 2019 to 2021, which earned him four podium finishes.
“Joining Hyundai Motorsport for the 2023 WRC season is like going back to basics for me,” said Breen.
“We’ve had some very memorable results together in the past, including several second-place finishes, so hopefully I can go further.
“I have followed the progress and development of the team with interest this season, and I can see the momentum building. To have the support of a team of manufacturers like Hyundai is special, and I’m sure we’ll have many more reasons to celebrate next season.
Exact details on how Sordo and Breen will split third-car driving have yet to be announced.