Sébastien Loeb is set to make a return to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2019 with a two-year contract with the Hyundai Motorsport team, taking part in six rallies as the manufacturer chases its first title next season.
Nine-time WRC champion Loeb will share the third car with former Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo; the Spaniard will compete in eight rallies for the team.
Loeb will have a busy January ahead of his, competing in the Dakar Rally and kicking off his WRC calendar at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Rally de España winner Loeb said, “I am delighted to announce that Daniel and I will compete in six WRC events for Hyundai Motorsport in 2019, beginning with Rallye Monte-Carlo.
“Winning at Rally de España this season re-ignited my desire to continue competing at the very front of WRC. Joining Hyundai will give us a fresh challenge and one that I can’t wait to tackle.
“I have been impressed with the team’s approach and their determination to succeed. They were firmly in the title fight this season and I feel that I can bring a lot to them, together with Thierry, Andreas and Dani.
“The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is a proven rally winner, and as a crew we know can still be up there with the best, so 2019 promises to be an exciting season!”
Sordo will celebrate his sixth season with Hyundai after signing a one-year deal and while the full programme is yet to be decided, the veteran driver will get his first taste of action at Rally México in March.
“Hyundai Motorsport has really become a special team to me, so I am pleased to remain part of the WRC line-up.” said Sordo. “We have built some good memories over the years, and, alongside Carlos, I felt that 2018 was one of my most competitive seasons.
“We know that when things work in our favour we can really be strong contenders. It is important for us to learn from the difficult moments and come back stronger – that’s the aim for 2019.
“We have an exciting crew line-up with Sébastien coming on board. He brings an immeasurable amount of experience which will be a huge benefit to the entire team as we move forward.”
With the announcement of Loeb sharing the third car with Sordo, a question mark now looms over Hayden Paddon, who in 2018 shared the third car. While nothing has been announced, Hyundai Motorsport say there is an open dialogue with the Kiwi to discuss his involvement with the team next season.
Team Principal Michel Nandan was delighted to be able to confirm such a coup for the team, “Sébastien’s announcement is hugely important for Hyundai Motorsport, and we’re overjoyed that he has agreed a two-year contract.
“Sealing a deal with someone of his immense talent and calibre shows that we are an attractive and competitive proposition in the FIA World Rally Championship. Ultimately, our goal is to win the WRC title.
“We believe we have the package to achieve that, and our composition of crews for 2019 will perfectly reflect that ambition. We are also happy to retain the services of Dani for another year, extending a positive working relationship that dates back to 2014.
“With Thierry and Andreas already on the books for next season, we have an exciting mix of personalities and a complementary line-up.
“We are also still in talks with Hayden to see how we can work together into 2019. He is a great talent and a tremendous ambassador for Hyundai NZ, leading various motorsport projects.”