Hyundai has come along way in the last twenty-plus years. The Korean automaker has gone to great lengths to reverse the negative attitude that plagued the brand since it first arrived on American shores in the late 1980’s. The hard work has paid off with the Korean manufacturer garnering praise (disguised as frustration) from industry heavyweights like Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn at the 2011 Frankfurt Motorshow. In the process, Hyundai also created one of the most comprehensive warranties the automotive industry has ever seen. It also managed to run a halfway-successful program in the World Rally Championship (WRC) from 2000 to 2003.
Much to the pleasure of small race teams and race organizers, Hyundai recently dove head first into fringe motorsports series like Formula Drift and Global RallyCross Championship here in the United States. It all seemed to be working well for Hyundai as their racing programs helped establish credibility with American enthusiasts for the first time. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end; Hyundai announced that it would be pulling out of North American motorsports for the forseeable future. Perhaps, in an effort to properly address the reboot of the failed WRC program.
The news comes as a major disappointment. Hyundai has made significant contributions to both Formula Drift and the Global Rally Cross Championship. Over the last three years Hyundai supported Rhys Millen in two consecutive top 10 finishes, and what will likely be a top 3 finish this year in the Formula Drift Championship. It also backed Millen in building a 700 horsepower Genesis Coupe that clenched the Pikes Peak record with a time of 9 minutes, 46.164 this past August. Not to mention the automaker was part of the launch of the Global Rally Cross Championship, alongside Dodge and Ford.
However, this announcement should come as little surprise in light of recent developments. Last week at the Paris Motorshow the Korean firm announced its plans to campaign the i20 hatchback in the World Rally Championship for the 2013 season.
Rumors suggest Hyundai maybe looking to take a stab at NASCAR or Indy racing here in the United States, keeping instep with Toyota’s and Honda’s United States motorsports strategy. However, being a late comer has its advantages, and hopefully Hyundai has enough vision to see that may not be the smartest way forward in the United States, or even globally. Competing seriously against Ford, and its global brand strategy, on the world’s rally stages would be much smarter opportunity.
If Hyundai has gotten bigger and better, it may have also gotten wiser. Perhaps the bow out is an effort to leverage the experiences of Formula Drift and Global Rally Cross into a more focused shot at the WRC title.
We hope that Hyundai’s decision to leave North American motorsports is only a small sacrifice for larger ambitions. A return to top level international rallying is not only huge for Hyundai, but also vital for the WRC- a series that has struggled in recent years to convince teams to take on the astronomical costs of competition. One thing is for certain, rallying still remains one of the foremost proving grounds for both manufacturers and drivers.
Hyundai will be joining Volkswagen
and MINI as part of the new manufacturers competing in the 2013 season in its entirety.
Source: Hyundai via Autoblog