Bryan Herta believes Hyundai’s expanding lineup of ‘N’ brand vehicles will provide “more opportunities” for additional motorsports programs in the future.
The Korean manufacturer, which entered North American sports car racing in the TCR ranks in 2018, has moved into IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge this year with the new-for-2019 Veloster N TCR.
While currently the only Hyundai sold in the U.S. to carry the ‘N’ performance badging, the Veloster is set to be joined by other soon-to-be-launched models that could form the basis of potential GT3 and GT4 cars or even a DPi program, which Hyundai is known to have been evaluating.
Herta, who serves as Hyundai’s partner team in North America, is hopeful the expanded performance car lineup can fuel additional motorsports programs in the years to come.
“The N performance brand, this is not a one-off with one vehicle,” Herta told Sportscar365
“Right now in the U.S., it’s the Veloster N, but there will be more N models coming out.
“As they fill in the performance side of their business, you need to prove it on track, so that will provide more opportunities to go racing with different Hyundai models and we’re excited what those opportunities could be in the future.”
When asked if he sees an expansion to GT or DPi more likely, Herta said he could see arguments for both potential scenarios.
Sportscar365 previously reported Hyundai had been evaluating a DPi program although the status of that remains unclear.
“I think both (GT and DPi) can do different things for the company,” Herta said. “Where we’ve positioned ourselves is that we want to be there for Hyundai when they want to go racing.
“We don’t have a strong push to do something over another thing.
“Right now, where they want to race in TCR, so we’re going to try and put the best TCR cars on track that we can.
“If two or four years from now they said, ‘Hey, we want to go do a GTD or GTLM project or we want to do a prototype project.’ Absolutely, we’d be very interested in doing that with them.
“We’re trying to set ourselves up to be able to do [bigger projects].
“We already have experience in the IndyCar series, we’re racing here in sports cars. The core of our team here had done Rallycross previously.
“I love all forms of motor racing so I’m really open and excited to look at any challenge.”
Hyundai COO: Motorsports “Expands the Brand”
While TCR has marked Hyundai’s foray into into North American motorsports, Hyundai Motor America Chief Operating Officer Brian Smith already sees great value in its involvement.
“Performance plays a special role with any brand,” Smith told Sportscar365.
“We’re not a pure race company. So it’s a real addition, it expands the brand and makes people start thinking differently about Hyundai than they have in the past.
“That’s been the value of it. We want to have a really successful, competitive race package that anybody could afford.”
Smith said the endurance format that IMSA provides is something that brings value to the company.
“When you start showing that a car can go out and win a race for a 30 or 40-minute sprint, that’s great,” he said.
“But when it can go out and start to win in two, four, six and eight hours, that starts to really show people that this is not a flash in the pan or a first-year effort.
“I think IMSA is the best for sports car racing and I’d like to keep the partnership going.”
Herta Excited on ETCR Prospects
Hyundai’s recently announced Veloster N ETCR, which could be seen in North America with IMSA’s proposed ETCR championship, has excited Herta on the prospects of potentially working with cutting-edge technology.
“You have to have your head in the sand to not think that electric race cars, outside of Formula E right now, is going to be a thing. It’s happening,” Herta said.
“Every major category is talking about it, if not fully electric, some form of hybridization or adding electric power.
“An opportunity to do that would be a really new and interesting challenge to learn something we haven’t done before.”