To the Nth degree...
The dark-horse hot hatch is leaving our long-term stable – but not before we meet its world championship touring car sibling. By James Taylor THIS IS THE last report on life with our i30N long-term test car, and it really is a fond farewell; you know a car’s doing something right when your mood lifts every time you climb into the driver’s seat. But I never imagined I’d find myself getting into the passenger side alongside touring car racing legend Gabriele Tarquini. Let alone that I’d be doing so to learn a circuit before climbing into the driver’s seat of his Hyundai i30N TCR race car. Turning into a funny sort of day, this. A few weeks before our i30N Performance is due to leave, I’m sat in an identical car in the pitlane at the Circuito Tazio Nuvolari in northern Italy. The only difference is that the steering wheel is on the other side, and Tarquini is sat behind it, pushing the switch for track-friendly N mode and disabling the ESP.
The experienced Italian was recruited by Hyundai as lead test driver to develop a racing version of the new i30N for the burgeoning TCR global touring car racing class, with testing beginning in spring last year. And then the i30N won the first race it entered, in Tarquini’s hands.
‘The road car was already finished when I first drove it,’ he explains, ‘but I was very happy when I did – I knew we had a good base to work from.’
A slow-ish warm-up lap and then he’s straight on it, not to showboat, but to give me the most accurate idea possible of braking points at full pace, and gear choices, which are broadly the same in the road car as the racer. As you’d expect, he makes everything look inspiringly easy: ‘It’s all in the timing. You must brake late, carry on with the brakes until apex, then when you reduce the steering come back on the power progressively.’
We swap seats, and of course my timing’s not quite as good as his, like a hobby musician on stage after a maestro, but I’m impressed with the i30N. This is the first time I’ve driven one properly on a track and suddenly it all makes sense; N mode’s adaptive damper setting, far too firm for the road, makes for just-so body control on track, and the heavyweight steering brings a sense of rock-solid stability under braking. In the spirit in which it was conceived, the i30N’s warranty covers trackdays. Best get to a circuit as soon as possible.
Then it’s the step up to the i30N TCR. It looks fantastic, all purposeful square stance, outboard aero flicks and aggressively cambered rear tyres on show through its openended box arches.
I’m belted into a superbly comfortable carbon race seat in front of a moulded facsimile of the road car’s dashboard, a blank space where the instruments would ordinarily be and a digital read-out mounted on the exposed steering column in their place. The pedalbox and floor-mounted ballast on the empty passenger side say racing car, but it’s still clearly an i30 shell, still a road car beneath the tune-ups. TCR racing is all about cost-effective, production-based cars, and this racer is actually far closer to our long-termer than it is to the carbonfibre WTCC specials the new formula superseded.
Drop from the in-built jacks, press the starter button and a resonant burr fills the whole car, the stripped-out cabin alive with noise and vibration. Thumbs up from the team, pneumatic paddleshift engages first, hill-start revs in anticipation of a racing clutch that turns out to be no less friendly than the road car’s, head for pitlane exit, and floor it.4
Mr Tarquini runs through economy, boot space and cupholder location
If you’re going to try a cheeky move up the inside of a racing legend, thisis the moment...
Hyundai’s warranty includes trackdays, but not a wholerace series