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Hyundai prepares for WEC hypercar program, WRC long-term future uncertain

All signs point to Hyundai joining the WEC Hypercar class and collaborating within the 24 Hours of Le Mans inside the following three years.

The South Korean manufacturer is preparing to develop a hybrid LMDh prototype for a program that can likely include the GTP category within the IMSA SportsCar Championship, Motorsport.com has learned.

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However, it’s unclear when this modification will likely be introduced, which has been made possible by a two-year extension of the LMDh and Le Mans Hypercar regulations in WEC and IMSA until the tip of 2029.

Sources suggest the LMDh model developed by Germany’s Hyundai Motorsport could begin racing as early as 2026, the ultimate 12 months of the present technical regulations of the World Rally Championship, by which the corporate has been fielding its factory programme since 2014.

Hyundai Motorsport CEO and team principal Cyril Abiteboul wouldn’t confirm that a prototype programme was currently being assessed, saying only that the brand was “exploring different categories” and desired to “clearly demonstrate its ambitions in the sport”. Asked about speculation linking Hyundai to the WEC, he said:

The former Caterham and Renault Formula 1 team boss has suggested that an announcement from Hyundai Motor Group, the world’s third-largest carmaker by sales, outlining its plans for the WRC and its long-term future will come sooner or later. Motorsport.com understands it could possibly be as early as September.

“The right person will make the announcement at the appropriate time,” he told Motorsport.com when asked about Hyundai’s future motorsport plans finally weekend’s Rally Poland.

“I didn't say it specifically, that we have a few things to announce. The first thing we'll announce, but we want to do it properly, is our plan in the WRC.”

He added that the corporate also plans to “clarify” its future ambitions.

Hyundai Vision GT

Hyundai Vision GT

Photo: Gran Turismo

Hyundai's participation in WEC or IMSA (or each) in 2026 would mean that development work on Hyundai's prototype and the interior combustion component of the hybrid powertrain has already begun.

Hyundai is thought to have chosen French constructor ORECA as its chassis development partner: the LMDh should be based on the core of one in every of the stillborn next-generation LMP2 prototypes, which were originally on account of arrive in 2023, when licenses for ORECA, Dallara, Multimatic and Ligier to provide P2 machines were prolonged in early 2020.

ORECA already has experience in LMDh: it supplied the core of the Acura ARX-06 and Alpine A424, which race in IMSA and WEC respectively. Hyundai would more than likely produce the LMDh engine in-house, just like its WRC engines.

Motorsport.com has also learned that Hyundai is in touch with the Chip Ganassi Racing team, which is able to part ways with Cadillac at the tip of the 2024 season.

Ganassi is predicated in Germany, from where it manages its WEC programme, and a cope with the American racing giant would enable Hyundai to compete in each series with the identical team.

Hyundai has long been concerned with entering the sports automotive market, possibly under the Genesis luxury brand.

She is thought to have sat on several relevant FIA technical working groups, including the group examining the introduction of hydrogen into the WEC, which is currently scheduled to run until 2028.

Hyundai is thought to be really concerned with racing within the WEC and Le Mans using hydrogen and has been producing a fuel cell automotive, the Nexo SUV, since 2018.

It looks just like the conventionally fuelled LMDh could herald a switch to hydrogen when the following WEC/IMSA rules cycle begins in 2030.

What does this mean for Hyundai's WRC program?

Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport

It is unclear whether the move into sportscar racing will affect Hyundai's involvement within the WRC, although talk of a WEC program has sparked rumours within the Rally Poland service park that Hyundai could leave the WRC.

However, given the brand's potential within the automotive sector, it could theoretically run programmes within the WEC and WRC.

If Hyundai does determine to go away the WRC, leaving before 2026 – the ultimate 12 months of the present regulations – seems an odd alternative for several reasons. Its commitment to the WRC was further underlined earlier this 12 months by the project to effectively homologate the brand new i20 N Rally1 automotive, which is on account of be introduced next 12 months.

That plan was abandoned amid uncertainty over the WRC's technical regulations after the FIA ​​proposed changes for next 12 months, resulting in a U-turn after manufacturers vehemently opposed the move. Now with the regulations running until the tip of 2026, a part of the 2025 automotive's design has been salvaged and is anticipated to be implemented next 12 months via the usage of homologation jokers.

Since joining Hyundai, Abiteboul has been a key player in spearheading changes to the WRC to extend its appeal and return on investment for manufacturers. This 12 months, the FIA ​​and WRC Promoter have unveiled a vision for the long run that features several initiatives to enhance the promotion and positioning of the championship.

Asked about Hyundai’s future following the FIA’s decision, Abiteboul said: “We will proceed to implement our plan for this 12 months and next 12 months and can concentrate on the long run, which is 2027. We are really keen to know where the game is heading from a business and technology perspective so we will see where that appears for us.

“Of course, I wouldn't deny that since we've pushed the sport in this direction, it would be strange if we didn't maintain our involvement in the sport.”

The FIA ​​plans to announce latest technical regulations for 2027 and beyond in December, which the organisation hopes will provide stability and relevance, allowing it to retain existing brands while also attracting latest manufacturers.

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