Mon 01 Apr 2024

Hyundai boss Abiteboul named as Lappi’s new co-driver

In a surprising announcement just hours after the conclusion of Safari Rally Kenya, Hyundai Motorsport has revealed that team principal Cyril Abiteboul will step in to co-drive Esapekka Lappi for the remainder of 2024.

The news, confirmed today (1 April), will see Abiteboul accompany the Finn aboard his i20 N Rally1 car on selected rounds of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship, in accordance with Lappi’s schedule as a part-time driver for the team. Janne Ferm, who has partnered Lappi since 2010, is stepping back to pursue his passion for photography.

Abiteboul, a native of France, will certainly be kept busy. He currently serves as Hyundai Motorsport’s President in addition to his role as team principal, and will need to master the Finnish language before his first outing with Lappi, which is yet to be confirmed.

“We are facing a very particular situation with Janne [Ferm],” Abiteboul told WRC.com. “Since he bought new glasses, he wants to start a career in photography, and therefore we are faced with a situation where I have no choice but to step in as the co-driver to Esapekka.

“The only challenge is that I have to learn Finnish over the next few weeks, but I’m very much up for that challenge. After being team principal and President, I will now be the first French-Finnish co-driver.”

Abiteboul gained his first taste of in-car action at Safari Rally Kenya last week when he joined Estonian driver Ott Tänak during a shakedown run.

“We did a practice on one of the most difficult terrains here in Kenya,” Tänak said. “He (Abiteboul) prepared hard, and he even got himself a new pair of overalls and helmet for it.

“He was fully into it and, actually, in the stage it worked quite well. It seemed like he was really excited afterwards so everything makes sense.”

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