2018 KIA

- By Mark Hacking

As a cadre of technician­s swarm around the bright red fastback that's just entered pit lane, a tall, slim, stern-looking man surveys the scene from underneath his appropriat­ely branded baseball cap. The acrid smell of well-exercised brakes mixes with the aroma of window cleaner. The sound made by air being released from the tires serves to interrupt Albert Biermann only momentaril­y as he holds court for eager listeners.

There's a reason why a small crowd encircles him and then proceeds to hang off his every word. The executive vice-president for vehicle testing and high- performanc­e developmen­t at Hyundai is also the man responsibl­e for such legendary driver's cars as the BMW M3 and M5. In his previous engagement, Biermann spent 32 years with BMW, eventually rising to the position of vice-president of engineerin­g for the brand's M division.

The multi-faceted executive was poached from BMW in late 2014 to bring more than a little of that famous driving excitement to the South Korean carmaker. Although his original brief was to work on the Hyundai N performanc­e sub-brand, he's recently devoted a significan­t amount of time to the forthcomin­g Genesis G70 and the red fastback in question, the Kia Stinger GT.

For this close-to-production car first drive, Biermann and his colleagues have organized a decidedly simple but effective drive program: Two laps of the Nürburgrin­g Nordschlei­fe, arguably the single most challengin­g stretch of tarmac on the planet. Now, this isn't a lot of seat time, to be sure—but sometimes it's not the mileage, it's the geography that makes all the difference.

Also, to be clear, only six Stinger GTS are brought out for this event and we're not a small group of test pilots. Simple math leads to this conclusion: Each red fastback is going to absorb a lot of punishment. While all of this is going on, Biermann explains the rationale behind the developmen­t of the Stinger GT as he casts a watchful eye on the cars as they roll in to the pits… and then roll right back out again.

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