The race weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca couldn’t have gone better for Hyundai.
The IMSA manufacturer partner served as title sponsor of the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship, Sunday’s main event for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with signage around the track serving as a strong reminder. On Saturday, Hyundai entries swept the podium in the Touring Car (TCR) class of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race, the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120. Leading the charge was a 1-2 finish by the Hyundai Elantra N TCR introduced to competition this season.
It was a fitting result, seeing as the evening before at WeatherTech Raceway, the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N – the latest of the company’s N brand high-performance passenger cars – enjoyed its North American unveiling in front of an eager group of Hyundai executives, car owners and “N-thusiasts.”
The crowd cheered as the Elantra N sped up the track’s front straight before returning to pit lane so attendees could get a closer look. Even Mike Evanoff, Senior Manager of Product Planning for Hyundai Motor North America, who’s attended numerous car launches, had chills.
“I’m really stoked about this,” Evanoff said. “I’m trying to contain myself but this is really cool!”
With Hyundai’s mission to “transfer motorsports knowledge to our production models,” the track-ready 2022 Elantra N offers a multitude of enticing advances. From a “sense shift” that automatically recognizes when the car is at the track and selects the optimal gear to execute the “perfect” shift; to an app drivers can download that saves and analyzes speeds, lap times, G forces, throttle and brake pressures, and allows drivers to compare their data with others. There’s even a sound equalizer allowing owners to customize the engine sound in case they enjoy hearing that throaty pop-pop-popping as they drive.
The N line derives its name from two places: Namyang, the Hyundai research and development center in South Korea, and the Nürburgring, site of Hyundai’s European Technical Center and the famous testing and racetrack in Germany. Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian brought the manufacturer to the Michelin Pilot Challenge in 2019 with resounding success, winning four TCR races, finishing 1-2 in the class championship and missing out on the manufacturer title by a single point while running the Veloster N TCR.
BHA went one better last year, winning seven races, sweeping the top three in the standings and adding the important manufacturer crown. Through eight races this year, BHA again holds the top three spots in the championship – fielding two Elantras and a Veloster – while also serving as the customer support team for four more Veloster entries.
It’s why, Hyundai’s Evanoff said, WeatherTech Raceway was the ideal location for the 2022 Elantra N unveil after a planned launch at the New York International Auto Show was derailed by the show’s cancellation.
“The N brand is really kind of born on the track and that transfers to the road car,” Evanoff said. “Through our partner here in the United States, Bryan Herta Autosport, I think we’ve really shown that the Elantra N TCR (launch) just makes perfect sense to have it on the West Coast. A lot of our corporate (people) can attend so it’s kind of like a home race.
“With IMSA and the TCR class in the Michelin Pilot Challenge, these are road-going-based cars,” Evanoff added. “Body and weight is similar, though there are chassis modifications and obviously suspension. But it’s still based on a 2-liter engine – makes more horsepower but it’s still the same configuration – and it’s front-wheel drive.
“I think the fans can really identify with this. You can relate to it and go buy it the following week at your local dealer. And I think these cars definitely deliver based on all the engineering that’s been put in them. They’re intended for track duty off the showroom floor. That really ties the two together nicely.”