Photo: Hyundai

Hyundai new boys enjoy successful maiden test

Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus have turned their first laps in the Hyundai i30 N TCR that they will campaign when they join the World Touring Car Cup grid.

The pair joined current champion Gabriele Tarquini and Norbert Michelisz for the three-day test at the Portimao circuit as Hyundai continued preparations for the 2019 campaign, when the quartet will represent the Korean manufacturer with two customer teams.

BRC Racing and Yvan Muller Racing were the two customer teams in 2018, although the latter has now become part of the new Lynk & Co Cyan Racing programme for 2019.

Tarquini and Michelisz completed the early running in the car before both Catsburg and Farfus were given the chance to sample TCR machinery for the first time, with the pair quickly up to speed in their new surroundings.

“In 2018 the FIA World Touring Car Cup was extremely competitive, and everyone expects next season to be even closer,” Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing Deputy General Manager Andrea Adamo said. “Our customers enjoyed a superb first year with the Hyundai i30 N TCR, but we need to work harder now to make sure that they remain at the top of the category.

“This week not only helped the four drivers who will compete in WTCR in 2019, but gave us more information that we can pass on to our customers to allow them to get the maximum performance from the car when they make their own tests and start racing next season.”

Catsburg, who returns to the top level of touring car competition having focused on GT racing in 2018, admitted he was impressed with the i30 N TCR and was excited about the prospect of racing the car next year.

“When I first drove the Hyundai i30 N TCR I could immediately tell it was a different type of car from what I have raced before,” he said. “However, the handling characteristics were still very familiar from the front-wheel-drive cars I have competed in before. You have to push it in a similar way to get the performance from it.

“It’s clear that Gabriele did a great job with developing the car, and that Hyundai Motorsport and their customers have created a very strong package. I’m looking forward to getting to learn more about the car in testing over the winter, and of course to racing with the Hyundai customers next year.”

Farfus meanwhile will return to front-wheel drive racing for the first time in more than a decade after his long career with BMW but said he felt comfortable from the moment he hit the track.

“It was 2006 the last time I was racing at front-wheel-drive car, but from my first laps in the Hyundai i30 N TCR I felt comfortable, and able to push the car,” he said. “Before my runs on track both Gabriele and Norbi were able to give an idea of what to expect from the balance of the chassis, and their experience was really valuable. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I was able to get up to speed.

“It’s very nice to start the Christmas and New Year break with a successful first test and a positive feeling about the car, which I can take into 2019, and to the customer team in FIA WTCR. I already get the feeling that it’s going to be good season!”

Further testing for the WTCR-bound quartet is scheduled for the early months of the New Year, when the teams that will run the cars in the series are revealed.