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Hyundai at the 24-Hour Nürburgring Endurance Race

2019-09-06

Leading with the high-performance N, Hyundai Motor Company leaves an outstanding 4-consecutive years of 24-Hour Nürburgring completion. The Nürburgring is infamous for being one of the world's most demanding tracks. How has Hyundai fared in the past four years of the endurance race?

Hyundai Motor Company qualified and completed the 24-Hour Nürburgring endurance race 4-years running this 2019

There are a wide array of on-road race types. Most sprint races span anywhere from 30 minutes to up to 2 hours. Races that take place over shorter periods of time are often won and lost over even the most minute mistakes. Unfaltering focus is a must. 

On the other end of the spectrum are endurance races that span over dozens of hours over hundreds of kilometers. Endurance races take many forms, but 24-hour overnight endurance races are considered one of the most demanding. Of those 24-hour endurance races, the 24-Hour Nürburgring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans are well known races, participated by teams with 3-4 drivers per vehicle driving in alternation. 

The 24-Hour Nürburgring endurance race is one of the world’s toughest races on the vehicles, drivers, and the team.

By nature, it is unlike the regular sprint race. Sprint races usually have a set distance (number of laps) that competitors seek to cover as soon as possible to place in the rankings. Endurance races have a set time during which competitors seek to cover as much distance as possible (number of laps) to place in the rankings. It tests the driver’s skill and physical limitations as well as the car’s performance capabilities and durability. 

Even completing the non-stop 24-hour competition is of great merit, attracting many automakers to participate in the endurance race to test and show off their technological capacity. With attentive eyes focus on the German endurance race, outstanding performance on the tracks can significantly boost brand awareness and preference.

The Hyundai High-Performance N, Born in Nürburgring.

High-performance N was born and bred to be a native of Nürburgring track, a challenging track nicknamed ‘Green Hell’ by professional drivers

When Hyundai unveiled its high-performance N brand strategy at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, followed by a respectable entry into the next 24-Hour Nürburgring endurance race, proving its ability to deliver high-performance on the N. Hyundai chose the 24-Hour Nürburgring endurance race as the debut and test stage for high-performance N with clear goals in mind. The Nürburgring is more than 25km per lap, more than 300m in elevation change and 170 corners, with many of them being blind corners. It is an all-around circuit notoriously unforgiving to performance vehicles out to be tested.  The track is called ‘The Green Hell’ for a rightful reason.

When the 24-Hour Nürburgring race kicks off, more than 160 vehicles are on the track, competing for position, often in the most volatile weather conditions such as rain or even snow and hail.  The sheer length of a lap means that portions of the track may be affected by different weather conditions. 24 hours of such harsh driving conditions means about 50 of the original 160 starters don’t finish. 40% drop-out rate for any race is quite steep and completing the 24-hour endurance race is in itself quite an accomplishment. 

2016 was the first year the Hyundai Motorsport Team took up the 24-hour endurance race. It was to test the performance and durability of the 2.0ℓ turbo engine designed for the N model

The high-performance N first made public appearance at the 2016 24-Hour Nürburgring endurance race. The exterior looked like a second-generation i30, but under the hood was an in-development 2.0ℓ turbo engine for the N, ready to compete in the SP3T class (aftermarket 2.0ℓ turbo). The i30 2.0 turbo completed the 2016 24-Hour Nürburgring endurance race with 91 laps, placing it 90th among 158 entrants. The fastest lap time for the i30 that race was 9 minutes 55.636 seconds. It was the first leap forward for the high-performance N. 

In 2017, the N brand’s first model i30 N underwent its final performance check at the 24-Hour Nürburgring endurance race. 

It was driven by four researchers from the Hyundai Motor Group Namyang R&D Center. Every year since then, Hyundai has put the high-performance N to the test, under the demanding conditions of the 24-Hour Nürburgring endurance race. In 2017, four researchers from the Hyundai Motor Group Namyang R&D Center raced the i30 N on the track, completing their final tempering of their first N model. Both vehicles that participated in 2017 completed the race. One vehicle completed the race with flying colors; 135 laps, placing 50th among the 160 entrants and 4th among the 12 vehicles in the SPT3T class. Between the two vehicles, the team covered 244 laps, equivalent to more than 6,000km driven at full throttle.

The 2018 24-Hour Nürburgring for Hyundai was focused on performance check for the i30 N TCR. Kang Byung Hwi joined the Hyundai Motorsport Team (seventh from the left) in 2018

In 2018, two i30 N TCR cars based on the i30 N and available for purchase, took on the challenge of the 24-Hour Nürburgring endurance race. At the time, the i30 N TCR had been turning heads as a new touring car leader, showing outstanding performance at the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR). The two i30 N TCRs successfully completed the 24-hour endurance race, just as the team had in the two years leading up to it. The two ranked 35th and 58th among 147 total entrants, taking 2nd and 4th in-class (among total 8) for TCRs respectively. The i30 N TCR which came in 35th left a particularly memorable record with a best lap of 9 minutes 9.101 seconds, shaving off nearly a minute off the high-performance mass-production N model’s 9 minutes 50 seconds. 

In 2019, a total 3 N models completed the race, proving the outstanding capacity of the N series; i30 N TCR, Veloster N TCR, and an i30 Fastback N.

This brings us to the 2019 24-Hour Nürburgring. Hyundai finished the endurance race with an i30 N TCR (94th overall, 3rd in TCR class), a Veloster N TCR (45th overall, 2nd in TCR class), and an i30 Fastback N (97th overall, 3rd in V2T mass production class), completing its 4-year running record of consecutive race completions. The Veloster N TCR completed 136 laps, the most laps completed by a Hyundai model so far, placing it 45th among 155 total race entrants and 2nd in the TCR class.

So far, we looked at the results of Hyundai’s participation in the 24-Hour Nürburgring endurance races. The finals numbers can’t tell you the full story, with so much happening during the 24 hours, and even the days and weeks leading up to the race, in and out of the complex and the race cars. Meet Korea’s very own professional racer Kang Byung Hwi who competed in the 24-Hour Nürburgring endurance race, widely recognized as one of the toughest tracks known. Follow Kang to get a closer look into the grits of what it takes to complete a 24-hour endurance race.