|Hyundai i30 N TCR WTCR drivers begin 2019 preparations with Portuguese test
Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing’s preparations for the 2019 season got underway at the Algarve International Circuit in Southern Portugal earlier this week. The department’s engineers welcomed the four drivers who will pilot the i30 N TCR in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup to the three-day test, allowing Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus their first laps in a TCR-specification machine.
- The four drivers who will race for Hyundai Motorsport customers in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup next season began their preparations with a test in Portugal
- Three-days of running gave Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus their first chance to drive the i30 N TCR, ahead of their debut WTCR seasons with Hyundai Motorsport customers
- The name of the customer teams, as well as the exact driver line-up in the two-car teams will be announced in the New Year in the build up to the 2019 season.
The track time on the opening day was shared between 2018 WTCR winner Gabriele Tarquini and his 2018 BRC Racing Team teammate Norbert Michelisz. With their experience of the i30 N TCR they were able to work through a number of checks, analyzing different combinations of damper and spring settings to confirm the previous bench testing carried out by the Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing engineers.
With the handling fine-tuned for the undulating Portimão circuit both Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus got their first experience behind the wheel of the car over the following days. Both drivers, who will make their WTCR debuts with Hyundai Motorsport customers in 2019, completed their planned schedules in the car as they got to grips with the fresh challenge to come.
The pair were very positive in their first impressions of the i30 N TCR, highlighting the strong performance and the balance of the chassis. Catsburg likened the handling sensations to the WTCC machine he has previously competed with, while Farfus was able to easily adapt to the front-wheel-drive TCR package, after a recent career forged exclusively in rear-wheel-drive machinery. The pair were quickly up to pace in their first runs on the track, with lap times steadily coming down as they added to their knowledge of both the car and circuit.
Preparations for the drivers, as well as for Hyundai Motorsport’s TCR customers in WTCR and elsewhere, will continue throughout the winter ahead of the start of the new season. Further testing for the WTCR-bound quartet is scheduled for the early months of the New Year, as the teams who they will compete for are finalised.
Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing Deputy General Manager Andrea Adamo said: “In 2018 the FIA World Touring Car Cup was extremely competitive, and everyone expects next season to be even closer. 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.”
Gabriele Tarquini said: “After a break following the WTCR season finale at Macau it was good to be back in the Hyundai i30 N TCR on a circuit. Neither I, nor the team working on the car, can afford to stand still during the winter – it is important to keep developing the chassis, and my understanding of it as a driver. We were able to work through some important checks to back up the R&D work that has been done in the workshops by engineers, to make sure that translates into an improvement on track. The test was also a nice opportunity to work with Nicky and Augusto, and pass on some of the knowledge I have from developing and racing the car to help them get up to speed as quickly as possible.”
Norbert Michelisz said: “It’s important to take advantage of any opportunity to learn a little more about the Hyundai i30 N TCR. The testing meant that we could back-up the effort of the engineers in the workshop, and provide some more detailed feedback on the changes to the set-up. Portimão was the perfect place for this. With the large number of elevation changes it’s a track where you work the suspension more than many circuits. Now we have the knowledge from the test to add to what we learned through last season, so we can continue to improve the performance of the car for the start of next year. It was also a good opportunity to test alongside Augusto and Nicky, and start to work together for the customer teams.”
Nicky Catsburg said: “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, my first drive in a TCR. 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.”
Augusto Farfus said: “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. 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!”