Photo: Hyundai

Hyundai boss hits out at ECU exemptions

Hyundai Motorsport boss Andrea Adamo has voiced his criticism over the new ECU rules introduced in the World Touring Car Cup for this season – even hinting that the Korean company could consider pulling out if changes are not made.

“If people don’t want to have Hyundai here because we won last year and did a good job, no problem – then we will disturb no more,” said the Italian team boss in an exclusive interview with TouringCarTimes.

Hyundai have suffered a dismal showing so far at this weekend’s WTCR season-opener in Belgium, with three of its four cars failing to even make it out of Q1 in qualifying on Saturday.

Reigning champion Norbert Michelisz was the only Hyundai driver to progress into Q2, although once there the Hungarian lapped comfortably slowest on his way to P12 on the grid – more than a second off the leading pace.

Instead, it’s been the Comtoyou Racing Audis of Nathanaël Berthon and Gilles Magnus that have led the way for most of the weekend, with WTCR rookie Magnus topping practice and Q2 and Berthon going on to claim pole position in Q3.

The dynamics of the Zolder weekend have led Hyundai to increasingly voice its discontent, with a submissively upset Adamo believing the manufacturer has been unfairly treated in new Balance of Performance and ECU regulations.

A new standardised ECU, supplied by Magneti Marelli, was introduced in WTCR this year, but some teams requested a waiver from the FIA Touring Car Committee as they argued there was not enough time to integrate it with their cars.

In a bid to maintain grid numbers, that was accepted, with the Renault Mégane RS TCR, Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR and Audi RS 3 LMS allowed to keep last year’s ECUs but picking up compensation weight instead.

Speaking to TouringCarTimes, Adamo has now hit out at the side-stepping made from the ECU regulations on the back of Audi’s strong form this weekend.

“It is clear what is going on,” said the Hyundai principal. “The situation is written on the wall. I suppose the idea was to have everyone with the same ECU, and it’s now not the case.

“For sure we paid a lot of money to try to get the Magneti Marelli ECU to work, and others did not.”

The Hyundai i30 N TCR cars have also gone from 97.5 to 95 % in BoP engine power for this season, the lowest level of any TCR car.

“Check the BoP,” said Adamo when asked to evolve on why Hyundai is struggling. “If you are a good journalist you can check that yourself and watch the result on the track, and I think there is the reason.

“If they think it’s good, we will go on like this. We will manage this season eventually according to what I see. The drivers are not happy at all, I can tell you that.”

Adamo even went as far as hinting that Hyundai could be re-evaluating its commitment to the series if changes aren’t made.

“What is clear is I have to understand how much people want to see Hyundai in WTCR. If people don’t want to have Hyundai here because we won last year and did a good job, no problem – then we will disturb no more.”

Asked if he thought the issues experienced at Zolder could be partly track-specific, Adamo brushed off the idea.

“Regardless of the track we should never be more than one second behind the others. Clearly, it’s the first race where WSC is trying to put together the new ECU, it’s not easy for them, it’s also not fair to have put them in this situation. But the plan was to have everyone on the same ECU and it is clearly not the case.”

A disgruntled Adamo left Zolder on Saturday evening, saying “the best thing I can do right now is go home and have a bike ride”, and thus will not be present for the first two races of the season on Sunday.

Marcello Lotti, who heads up the WSC organisation responsible for TCR technical regs, responded to Adamo’s comments in the paddock on Sunday morning:

“Andrea is with us from the first appearance in 2017,” Lotti told TouringCarTimes. “I think he knows very well that we welcome Hyundai, and we want to welcome Hyundai now and in the future.”