Hyundai WRC team boss delivers significant statement – “Not about being behind closed doors”

The World Rally Championship is undergoing a transformation.
Cyril Abiteboul.
Cyril Abiteboul. Photo by: Vincent Thuillier/Hyundai Motorsport GmbH
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The International Automobile Federation (FIA) proposed a radical change at the beginning of the year, which, if implemented, is set to take effect as early as next season. It includes significant changes concerning the current Rally1 cars.

However, the existing WRC teams, Hyundai, Toyota, and M-Sport Ford, have resisted and drafted a joint letter requesting that no major changes be made for the “interim years” of 2025-26, as this would only lead to a significant increase in costs. Instead, the teams hope that efforts will focus on the 2027 regulations and making them attractive enough to draw in new manufacturers.

There is also a desire to reform the format of the WRC series, which has already seen changes. Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul has several ideas on how to improve the visibility of the sport, which he feels is fading. The Hyundai boss emphasizes that it is unnecessary to pull surprises out of the hat regarding technical rules for the next two years; instead, growth should be sought through other means.

“I think we need to be a bit more open-minded and more open to change. We need a diversity of formats, having some places where we have very long rallies, and some places where we have very short rallies, making sure that we’ve got content factories that can distribute content for these events,” Abiteboul says.

“We don’t consume sports through linear TV anymore. This is a linear sport for linear TV. It’s a culmination of two challenges in today’s world. I mean, in today’s world, you need sports that are much more compact, and a broadcasting strategy that is much more compact.”

The French rally boss is ready to thoroughly shake up the structures.

“I would totally reinvent the business model we have today, which is too dependent on organisers and too dependent on TV broadcasters, and therefore the sport is structured around these two aspects,” Abiteboul summarizes.

“I would bring back some elements of free TV. I would bring back some element of free content distribution on YouTube and much more than what we do. I would bring back much more data.” 

In recent years, the WRC has been accustomed to rally routes being built around fixed service parks. According to Abiteboul, it would be beneficial to return to the old ways in this regard.

“I would also, frankly sorry to say, get rid of the service park in the way that it is structured now. I’m really nostalgic for the times when everyone was traveling with people, exploring the city, getting in contact with local communities, going local all in all,” the Hyundai boss says.

“That’s how we get closer to the people. That’s what it’s really about. We are not about being behind closed doors. This is against rally. Rally is about being out there in the wild with everyone, with you guys, with the drivers.”

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