Hyundai says there is no alternative that will allow Sebastien Loeb to test the team’s World Rally Car sooner than the weekend before the 2019 Monte Carlo Rally season opener.
Loeb will test Hyundai’s i20 Coupe WRC for the first time just hours after touching down on his return from the Dakar Rally, where he will compete in a privately run Peugeot 3008 DKR.
After the test, Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena will go straight into pre-Monte Carlo preparations with the recce and shakedown.
“There is no other solution, he has to test the weekend before the event,” said Penasse.
“This will make it a very interesting test, I think.
“He hasn’t driven the car yet, but he knows what it’s about – he saw what the car was capable of [on Rally] Spain, he knew how hard he had to go [to beat Hyundai driver Neuville].
“He has so much experience of this event, he’s won it a hell of a lot of times and he’s always been competitive there. His lack of time in the car won’t be a problem.
“And don’t forget, the Monte is a very specific event with very little testing available.
“We saw in Mexico this year, when he had been away for a while, he was able to come back and be on the pace.
“He will give away some advantage to some other drivers who have had more time in their cars and more experience, but I think he will be fine.”
Penasse added Loeb’s arrival would come as a boost to the team, which is still searching for its first WRC title.
Hyundai returned to the WRC in 2014 and progressed well in the first three years, finishing fourth, third and second in 2014, ’15 and ’16. Since then, however, momentum has stalled – this season represented the team’s third-consecutive runner-up finish.
Penasse continued: “Sebastien coming to the team, his experience, his confidence and his competitiveness, this will help everybody.
“He adds value to the team and he has a real aura around him and this will help the people around him next year.
“We have been close to winning the championship, this year we were still in the fight in the final morning of the season.”