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Hyundai gains momentum with high-performance cars

Carmaker aims to launch Ioniq 5 N this year for EV racing series

Feb. 5, 2023 - 17:58 By Byun Hye-jin
Mikel Azcona (front row, right), the champion of the 2022 World Touring Car Cup, poses with privious title winners and Hyundai Motor Group's N Brand executives at a press conference held in Seoul on Wednesday. (Hyundai Motor Group)

With the automotive industry underscoring technology as a key driver of growth, high-performance brands under leading car manufacturers are becoming the testbed to enhance their car models’ driving features, ranging from speed to durability.

Hyundai Motor Group, South Korea's No. 1 carmaker, is also gaining momentum with its performance line, N Brand, by testing its popular models in tour car racing, a motorsport that uses modified versions of mass-produced cars.

“The biggest opportunity and challenge of N Brand would be making cars for track racing and everyday sports cars,” said Till Wartenberg, head of N Brand Management Motorsport, during a press conference held in Seoul on Wednesday.

The carmaker held the media event to mark its motorsports achievements made over the past decade since the dedicated team was made back in 2012.

Hyundai’s Rolling Lab, a transportable laboratory that tests innovative auto technologies, headed the launch of the Veloster N electrified model in 2021. The car model won the eTouring Car World Cup, an EV racing series, in Italy in July.

It rolled out two N Vision 74 concept cars -- one battery-powered and the other with hybrid power combining a battery motor and a hydrogen fuel cell last year as well.

This year, Hyundai will debut its electric vehicle model Ioniq 5 under N Brand, as the first electric racing car that uses its Electric Global Modular Platform.

Challenging the tour car racing series dominated by combustible engine cars, Hyundai Motorsport, the carmaker’s global motorsport unit, has laid out strong ambitions to expand its footing into EV racing.

“In a move to make electric racing cars as fast as vehicles with traditional engines, we plan to adapt to different regenerative braking and driving styles,” said Wartenberg.

As for combustible engine car racing, the carmaker vowed to keep on participating in the Touring Car Racing World Tour, slated for this year, which took over the previous WTCR that lasted from 2018 to 2022.

Hyundai Motorsport won the double title -- best driver and best team -- in the last WTCR series in November. Mikel Azcona, who won the best driver title, drove the Elantra N, a high-performance model of the Avante sedan.

When WTCR kicked off in 2018, BRC Hyundai, the automaker’s outsourced racing team based in Italy, took the double title with the i30 N sedan.

“Up to 70 or 80 percent of our racing performance comes from the original mass-produced cars,” said Gabriele Tarquini, 2018 WTCR Champion and BRC Hyundai’s technical director. “Award-winning (racing) cars should be manufactured with a well-received vehicle like the i30 N and Elantra N, which have a sharp hood and run at high speed.”

When asked the reason behind how Hyundai overcame a hefty Balance of Performance last year, Chang Ji-ha, head of Driving Experience and Motorsport at N Brand Management Motorsport said “in the case of the Elantra N, we enhanced features less regulated by BoP such as braking and the balance of the vehicle.”

BoP refers to a regulation that adjusts limits on a vehicle’s parameters to maintain parity with competing cars.

Founded in 2012, Hyundai Motorsport won the first and second place at the World Rally Championship’s German ADAC Rallye. In 2019 and 2020, it won the best manufacturer title at WRC.