Young Ulster driver Josh McErlean says he is confident of getting off to a winning start with Hyundai’s new i20 N supermini on next week’s Rally Monza.
McErlean tested the car for the first-time last month as he prepares to make his fourth appearance of the season in the World Rally Championship’s WRC3 support series.
Heading to Italy on the back of a podium finish on Rally Spain, the 22-year-old reckons he can repeat the feat at the controls of the Korean marque’s Rally2-spec machine.
“I think we have to look at the i20 N as a positive change,” explained McErlean. “This is a new car with a lot of potential and I am very excited to get started properly and learn more about it. I’m sure this change will allow us to build on the progress that we’ve made over the last few events.”
The 5-speed sequential gearbox found in the Rally2’s predecessor, the i20 R5, is the only component that has been carried across to the i20 N, which has been developed extensively by the likes of Craig Breen and Oliver Solberg.
Everything else has been designed from scratch by the 60-strong team based at Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, including the chassis which uses fresh suspension components and dampers for better ride and handling.
As well as sampling the latest i20, former Motorsport Ireland Billy Coleman Award winner McErlean got to compare notes with new Hyundai recruit Teemu Suninen and delve into some of the testing data with engineers.
McErlean says the time, money and manpower that has been invested in the car makes it the one to have right now. “The Rally2 car is a completely different type of car compared to the current i20 R5,” he said.
“As expected, it has improved in many areas. It’s a car that gives you confidence; it is very forgiving in terms of the car’s balance and the chassis. Let’s just say it is quite impressive.
“The test was purely to get to grips with the car and with there being limited time between now and Monza we wanted to try and gain as much information from the Hyundai Engineers as we possibly could,” he added.
“It was a productive day in the official test car as we tried to learn more about our new surroundings and understand the car’s capabilities. We’re 100% ready for Monza.”