The motorsport season 2021 has begun. Last year, the global COVID-19 pandemic halted most motorsport events. Participants, however, are preparing for the season thoroughly, and they are already heating up the arena. The Customer Racing of Hyundai Motorsport GmbH (HMSG) is also ready to boost the new season with new race cars and new drivers.
HMSG’s new race cars are the Elantra (Avante) N TCR, which will play an active part in the TCR competition, and the Veloster N ETCR, which will compete in the Electrified version of Touring Car Race (ETCR). HMSG first released the Elantra N TCR before the opening of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge held in the United States in January 2021, and successfully completed a test drive of the Veloster N ETCR. Meanwhile, Oliver Solberg, a rookie driver who will join the Hyundai Motorsport, is expected to rock the World Rally Championship (WRC). Let’s take a look at HMSG’s new race cars and the rookies who will be trending in 2021.
Rising star of TCR, the Elantra N TCR
Before we talk about the Elantra N TCR, it is necessary to learn about two core activities of HMSG. They are divided into two parts: the Hyundai’s manufacturer program that participates in the WRC, and the Customer Racing that produces and sells racing cars. And speaking of these cars, there are TCR race cars, such as the i30 N TCR and the Veloster N TCR, and the i20 R5 rally car that competes in national and regional championship. HMSG’s Customer Racing department not only sells race cars but also provides various parts and services to their customers – other racing teams – around the world.
The Elantra N TCR is a new model co-developed by HMSG and Hyundai Motor for the TCR teams around the world. Based on the 7th generation Elantra, the 2021 North American Car of the Year, the Elantra TCR completely renovated the exterior, body, powertrain, suspension, and brakes to meet the the TCR regulations. HMSG indeed boosted expectations of TCR fans through the Elantra N TCR online showcase in last September.
The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, an American touring car race, was the debut stage of the Elantra N TCR. Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA), whose headquarter is in the United States, purchased the Elantra N TCR. Their relationship with HMSG began in 2018. And since the 2019 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, the BHA team has used the Veloster N TCR to win the driver and team championship for two consecutive years. In particular, the team is a defending champion, winning 7 out of 10 rounds last season and taking 1st through 3rd places overall in the driver category.
The BHA team used each two Elantra N TCR and Veloster N TCR before the opening ceremony held at the Daytona International Speedway on January 29. And together with the other three teams, including Copeland Motorsports, and their four Veloster N TCRs, the audience could watch eight HMSG cars out of 17 TCR race cars race together in the opening race.
The opening match of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge was an endurance race in which two drivers circled a 3.56 mile (about 5.73 km)-long lap 104 times within 4 hours on the Daytona International Speedway. In an endurance race, it is important to strategically perform refueling, driver and tire change, but the durability of the race car to survive long and severe driving without difficulty is the most important of all.
After the long four-hour opening race, the BHA team took 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 9th place. The Veloster N TCR, which took 3rd and 4th place, once again proved its powerful performance. One of the most anticipated, Elantra N TCR, also made a successful debut by finishing its very first race. The BHA team will show off its performance as the champion team this season with these two mighty race cars.
The Veloster N ETCR, the new lead in the electric car race
The Veloster N ETCR was one of the main race cars in the opening race of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. HMSG unveiled the Veloster N ETCR on the circuit just before the race began and conducted a test drive in front of numerous motorsport people. The Veloster N ETCR is an eco-friendly electric race car developed by HMSG in 2018 to participate in the Pure ETCR, an electric touring car race to be established this year.
The Veloster N ETCR is a high-performance electric vehicle that uses a 65kWh battery and an 800V high-voltage system to emit a powerful output up to 500kW (about 670 horsepower) on the rear wheels, and has been tested for circuit driving since September 2019. The Veloster N ETCR was unveiled to the public at the launch ceremony of Pure ETCR, which was held in Copenhagen, Denmark last October – but this is the first time it showed a full-scale circuit drive.
Augusto Farfus Jr. took the steering wheel of the Veloster N ETCR on the Daytona International Speedway. Having experienced numerous touring car races for nearly 20 years, he is a driver who started working with HMSG in the i30 N TCR at the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) in the 2019 season. Augusto Farfus Jr., currently working as a designated test driver for the Veloster N ETCR, confidently showcased the powerful performance of the Veloster N ETCR during the test drive that day, attracting numerous motorsport professionals.
The newly established Pure ETCR this year is scheduled to have five rounds starting on June 18 until October. The final round is scheduled to be held on October 15 at Inje Speedium in Korea. HMSG is undergoing final checkups of the Veloster N ETCR before the race. To this end, the team recently hired Jean-Karl Vernay as another test driver to perform the final checkup of the Veloster N ETCR with Augusto Farfus Jr.. He is a driver who has successfully gone through numerous TCR races, including placing the 3rd in the WTCR last year. He is expected to play a big role in perfecting the Veloster N ETCR.
Oliver Solberg, a 20-year-old but powerful rookie to shine at the WRC
As with most sporting events, the hottest person is either the team leader or a highly skilled star player. Therefore, finding a star-player-to-be and nurturing them into a top-notch player is the biggest task of all sports teams. Oliver Solberg, who joined HMSG this season and participates in the WRC-2, is drawing a lot of attention for this reason.
Oliver Solberg is the son of Petter Solberg, a Norwegian rally driver who won the 2003 WRC World Champion title. Although he is a young driver, born in 2001, his skills are not immature at all. He has won a number of European rallies including Rallycross and has also championed the Latvia Rally for two consecutive years. He has been in the WRC since 2019 and received significant attention last season by ranking fourth in the WRC-3.
Oliver Solberg took the wheel of the i20 R5 this season and proved himself when he finished third at the Arctic Lapland Rally Finland on January 14. He then participated in the WRC-2 of the Monte Carlo Rally, the first round of the WRC, which took place on January 21. Despite his breathtaking speed at the beginning of his debut, raising expectations that he would stand on the podium, he went off the track due to an unfortunate accident and had to retire at the last stage.
Oliver Solberg drove the i20 Coupe WRC rally car for the Arctic Rally Finland in the second round of the WRC on February 26, which is the upper-tier model than the i20 R5. This was HMSG’s decision to offer rising stars the experience of driving their top-notch race car of the WRC. Oliver has put in performances on the snow and ice-covered roads for three days, securing 7th place.
More Hyundai Motorsport flags expected in 2021
Although we could not watch TCR in Australia last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the opening race was successfully held this season from January 24 to 26. New drivers Josh Buchan and Brad Shiels, whose team is the 2019 champion-winning HMO Customer Racing, ranked 5th and 8th respectively in the i30 N TCR this time.
Although 2021 has just begun, Hyundai Motorsport already keeps bringing good news in the United States, Europe, and around the world. More and more new drivers are choosing Hyundai Motorsport, and new race cars are making a very successful debut, not to mention the current race cars with outstanding performances – and all these indeed mean that Hyundai Motors is building a strong foundation in the motorsports field.
Recently, HMSG has revealed the new i30 N TCR based on the facelifted i30. Since its debut back in 2018, and after going through more than 180 races, the i30 N TCR is ready to mesmerize more teams with its new looks – and 2021 will be their year.