Hyundai is returning to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) after the company unveiled a rally version of the i20 at the Paris Motor Show. The WRC is considered one of the world's toughest motorsport series, and the vehicle has been engineered to overcome the extreme terrains and weather conditions that competitors face.

Following its withdrawal from motorsport in 2003, Hyundai's long-term goal was to set up an in-house WRC team in Europe and develop a performance rally car, resulting in the WRC i20's debut in Paris.

 "The World Rally Championship is recognized as one of the most dramatic sporting series on Earth. It's a spectacle filled with excitement and dynamism - the perfect embodiment of the Hyundai brand," said Mark Hall, Hyundai Motor Europe Marketing Director.

Hyundai's past involvement in the sport began in 1998, when it competed in the F2 class of the WRC for two seasons. In 1999, the team announced it would step up to the top class in 2000, rallying a fully-developed WRC car based on the three-door Accent, which competed until 2003.

"The WRC also offers the most technologically-diverse challenge for an automotive manufacturer. Our participation will demonstrate Hyundai's engineering excellence and durability, and will also help to enhance our road-going vehicles in future," added Hall.

The move is seen as a very positive one for the series as it is now left with three manufacturers namely Citroen, Ford and MINI. The series has been dominated in the past eight years by Citroen with French driver Sebastian Loeb behind the wheel and is on his way to his ninth consecutive championship this year.

"We are delighted to welcome Hyundai back into our rallying family. This is a great boost to our championship and underlines the faith global manufacturers have in our sport, despite the difficult economic times we all face," said Jean Todt, President of the FIA.