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GP Week : Issue 172
“It had always been mine, and I think Hyundai’s, ambition to get to this level. I felt Hyundai started rallying by accident, but the results they achieved in Australia, and in particular the Asia- Pacific series, were quite outstanding for their time, and for the type of car they were running. “When the Asia-Pacific series started falling away and the world championship continued to gain strength every year, the world championship had to be the direction to go. The Koreans knew that rallying would give them the chance to obtain a lot of technology. Being based in Europe gave them more direct and faster access. If they had not come to Europe at that time it would have taken much longer to get the level of feedback they wanted. It was the right time for Hyundai to come into the picture technology-wise, even if a little late sporting-wise, given how many manufacturers had by then become involved.” In the USA, turbocharged four-wheel- drive free-formula Hyundais were winning rallies from 1995 through to 2008 but not so much of these cars were the same as the equipment used on the world championship cars! The cars were run by John Buffum’s Libra Racing company based in Vermont. They began their rallying liaison with Hyundai in August 1994 and set about building a competition car out of the Elantra. They fitted the rear suspension from the Galant VR-4 and the front suspension from a Ford Escort Cosworth, the 5-speed gearbox came from a VR-4 and the normally aspirated engine came from a Mitsubishi. Libra fitted a Mitsui turbo with an intercooler from an Escort, mounted horizontally above the water radiator. This was the layout used by Paul Choiniere in the SCCA championship series in 1995 and 1996, then for 1997 the equipment was mounted into a Tiburon (Coupe). In 1998 there was an engine change. A 2-litre turbocharged Beta power unit was supplied by Korea and that year the car was further modified with a large intercooler mounted in front of the water radiator. Choiniere won the US drivers’ championship in 1995 through to 1997 and Hyundai took the makes’ series from 1996 through to 1998. Hyundai were solid supporters of the world championship from 2000 to 2003, even though they were never able to achieve their ambition of a podium finish. The best results were fourth places in Australia 2000 and Great Britain in 2001 but in New Zealand 2001 they enjoyed three stages of complete glory when Kenneth Eriksson led the event outright! It was the first time a Korean car had led a WRC event. There was of course a story behind this, all to do with tactics related to running-order regulations. Even though other cars overtook them later in the event, leading the event had been the reward for being in the right place at the right time. Let’s hope this will again be the right place and the right time for Hyundai! WRC >>> FEATURE ABOVE: Rim of the World (SCAA 2002). Higgins/Gibson, Hyundai Tiburon. RIGHT: Tempest Rally, 2004 – Higgis/Barritt win the British Championship, Hyundai Accent WRC. (Images: Martin Holmes Rallying) 36 GPWEEK.com // 36 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: