- In less than a year, Hyundai Motorsport's i30 N TCR has gone from track testing to race winner, further boosting the young company's credentials as a high performance master.
The i30 N TCR is Hyundai Motorsport’s first car to be designed for circuit racing, and the only officially endorsed TCR project from the South Korean manufacturer. Based on the New Generation i30, it was designed to take advantage of the best qualities of the road-going model, which went through a rigorous testing plan that included laps on the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife race circuit.
Built to compete in the growing number of TCR championships around the world, it continues the growth of Hyundai Motorsport. The company was established in 2012, and consists of the rally-winning WRC team, now contesting its fourth season, and the Customer Racing department.
To ensure it can compete in both the sprint and endurance championships where TCR specification designs are eligible, the i30 N TCR is powered by a two-litre turbocharged engine connected to a six-speed sequential, paddle-shift gearbox, and fitted with a 100-litre fuel tank. It continues the work started by the Customer Racing department with the New Generation i20 R5 rally car, helping to showcase the high-performance side of Hyundai to a wider audience.
To develop the best touring car, Hyundai Motorsport hired one of touring car’s greatest drivers in the shape of Gabriele Tarquini. During a 25-year career driving for manufacturer teams in both national and international series at the highest levels of touring car competition, the Italian has won three championships, including the World Touring Car Championship in 2009.
As lead test driver, Tarquini worked closely alongside the engineers and designers of the Customer Racing department based at the team’s headquarters in Alzenau, Germany. This included circuit tests at the Misano World Circuit in Italy, Spain’s MotorLand Aragon track and the Circuit de Valencia, which hosted a round of the inaugural TCR International Series season in 2015.
With their long front straights, technical infield sections and sweeping penultimate corners, all three circuits were chosen for their mix of high and low speed corners. This allowed the test team to perfect the balance of the chassis in a variety of situations, as well as the configuration of brake materials and damper settings.
Before the i30 N TCR made its debut in the TCR International Series at the Zhejiang Circuit in China in October, it was confirmed that Tarquini would stay on to drive competitively in one of a pair of cars entered in the event. He was joined by Swiss driver Alain Menu, a 20-year career veteran who has won the British Touring Car Championship with two different manufacturers.
The development programme and the choice of drivers proved inspired when the race-ready i30 N TCRs took to the track in China. Although the twisting technical layout was unlike anywhere the i30 N TCR had tested, Tarquini and Menu produced the two fastest times in qualifying.
Even more spectacularly, the i30 N TCR proved to be the only car capable of lapping the 3.2km Zhejiang circuit in under 1:33, with Menu’s session-leading time of 1:32.811 nearly half a second faster than the next best manufacturer in the field. Despite TCR International Series rules forcing both cars to start race one from 13th and 14th on a circuit known to make overtaking difficult, the i30 N TCR’s speed and handling propelled Tarquini to a sensational debut victory.
So superb was the performance that both cars were made to run with an almost unprecedented 40kg of additional weight, as well having the engine power turned down, for the second race. Even at such a disadvantage, Menu and Tarquini still completed clean overtakes all around the circuit and powered their way to finish fourth and sixth respectively.
Just three weeks later, the i30 N TCR and Tarquini achieved an astounding win in the final race of the TCR Europe Trophy at Italy’s Adria International Raceway. Tarquini also provided the i30 N TCR with its first ever pole position in Race 1, setting the best times in both parts of qualifying.
Once again, this was achieved with the car subject to extreme Balance of Performance rules, carrying 40kg of ballast and with engine power and turbo boost restricted to 95% - a serious handicap at the 2.7km Adria circuit, which demands heavy braking into, and strong acceleration out of, its numerous slow corners. Even so, in Race 2 Tarquini still stormed to the front from 10th on the grid – at one point passing three cars in a single move – to take the chequered flag and continue the i30 N TCR’s superb record on the track.
Following this success, Tarquini I30 N TCR was forced to carry an incredible 50kg of ballast at the season finale at Dubai Autodrome, with Menu's car burdened with 40kg and both cars subject to a a 5% reduction in engine power. Yet even after a steward's decision demoted Tarquini to the back of the grid, he still charged from last to third in the opening race, only to suffer a puncture in the closing laps.
In the second race, it was Menu's time to shine. Demoted to the rear of the grid after being forced out of race one early with damage from contact, he still battled his way into the top ten and finished fifth by the time the chequered flag fell. A sign of the i30 N TCR's strength and speed, Tarquini was able to collect the fastest lap despite being spun out by another driver in the opening corners.
The brand new, ready-to-race car is now available to customers at a base price of €128.000, with further competitive options offered to customers purchasing multiple cars. i30 N TCR customers will also be able to call on the support of the dedicated team of Customer Racing engineers based at Hyundai Motorsport’s headquarters in Alzenau, Germany, 30 minutes from Frankfurt.
Those planning to take on the long-distance championships where TCR designs are eligible can purchase the Hyundai Motorsport developed ‘Endurance Kit’. In addition to the performance-focused parts fitted to the i30 N TCR as standard, this option includes ABS, night lamps and an external refuelling fitting.
Hyundai Motorsport delivered the first i30 N TCR chassis to customers at its headquarters in early December, marking a significant milestone in its involvement in circuit racing. Management, including Team Principal Michel Nandan and Customer Racing Manager Andrea Adamo, greeted representatives of the KMSA team from South Korea and Italian squad BRC Racing Team, and took part in the ceremony to formally hand-over the cars.
The car’s livery brings together the N logo and Hyundai Motorsport’s traditional colours, with the ‘Performance Blue’ that forms its base part of the identity of the N line-up. Paying tribute to the liveries of Hyundai Motorsport’s WRC cars, the same shade is available on Hyundai’s forthcoming i30 N high performance production car.
Designed to be equally at home on the road and the track the i30 N underwent a significant amount of its testing at the Hyundai Test Centre at the Nürburgring. The N name carried by both the i30 N TCR and the i30 N’s design is partly inspired by the track, together with Namyang in Korea, home to Hyundai’s global R&D Centre. The N logo represents a chicane, challenging for both the race drivers of the i30 N TCR, and those at the wheel of the i30 N.