No, this isn't a NASCAR announcement, but this year Hyundai will compete in the closest thing to the original concept of racing "stock" cars by entering the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car Racing class. The company will field two Hyundai i30 N TCR race cars with Bryan Herta Autosport, which in turn will place two team drivers at the helm: Michael Lewis and Mark Wilkins. Their first race will be the season opener at Circuit of the Americas on March 24-25.
What's an i30 N, you ask? Well, i30 is the name our Elantra GT hot hatch goes by in Europe and elsewhere, and N is to Hyundai what M is to BMW. This new line is even being developed by Albert Biermann, who the Koreans plucked away from his job as engineering VP of BMW M Automobiles. His team has been tuning the i30 on the N rburgring for a few years, investing at least 20,000 kilometers of durability testing. The Veloster N unveiled in Detroit is to be North America's first retail offering from Hyundai N, but the i30 N TCR is more thoroughly vetted for racing and just became available to touring car racing customers in Europe for the equivalent of $159,000 in December 2017.
Like early NASCAR racers, TRC cars use the original body shell (though additional welding, reinforcing, and modifications are allowed) and the original drive layout, meaning the i30 N TCR features front-wheel drive. The 2.0-liter direct-injection turbo/intercooled engine is also closely related to the stock variant but fitted with a Life Racing control computer, BMC air induction kit, and other modifications that add about 75 more horsepower for 350 total. The gearbox is a pneumatically actuated six-speed sequential racing unit with paddle shifting, a multidisc motorsport clutch, and heavily reinforced half shafts.
Chassis upgrades include special Brembo six-piston front, two-piston rear monobloc calipers chomping 15.0-inch front and 10.9-inch rear vented discs via Pagid pads. Goodridge braided hoses and fittings ensure that none of the braking pressure gets lost to hose swelling. The electric power steering is ditched for a purely hydraulic setup, the dampers are adjustable, and the 10.0-by-18.0-inch wheels are by Braid. The body structure is reinforced and has a high-tensile-strength steel roll cage welded in for additional reinforcement. Some of the body panels are replaced with composite pieces in an attempt to come as close as possible to the mandatory minimum (horsepower determined) racing weight of 2,827 pounds including the driver.
The season will consist of six double-header race weekends for 12 rounds total, ending up at Watkins Glen in New York on August 31-September 2. It will be interesting to find out whether winning on Sunday translates to selling (Veloster Ns or Elantra GTs) on Monday.