The 24h Nürburgring Shows How Serious Hyundai’s N Division Really Is

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee

Photos by Mike Schlee and Hyundai

The Hyundai Elantra N TCR at the 2024 Nurburgring 24h race

Fifteen years ago, Hyundai didn’t really have a performance division. Although the company had dabbled in motorsports, there wasn’t a stand-alone, dedicated division tasked with making high performance road and race cars.

That started to change in 2013, when the brand re-entered the World Rally Championship (WRC) with the recently formed Hyundai Motorsports. Then in 2014 the N brand was born. Hyundai purposely launched the new N division in Germany as the manufacturer knew gaining success in that market was important. If N could succeed in a place where icons like BMW M and Mercedes AMG reside, it could be successful anywhere.


Some of Hyundai's early rally cars on display, including the front-wheel drive Tiburon and the all-wheel drive Accent

By 2016, the N division started to get more serious about entering racing. The brand’s sights were set on touring cars and endurance racing. Being based out of Germany, the logical holy grail was the Nürburgring 24h race.

Racing wasn’t Hyundai’s only reason for entering the gruelling 24-hour event. The manufacturer was also using the race cars as prototypes to test future production parts. The brand figured if these parts could survive 24 hours at the Nurburgring, they should be great for customers. As well, with the testing center located near Nurburgring, it was also possible to use both the track and surrounding roads to evaluate and develop N cars.

By 2018, Hyundai really upped the brand’s presence at the Nurburgring. The brand states it's important to connect race/rally cars to customer cars, which is what the N brand is looking to accomplish. A pillar of success is seeing consumers driving their own personal N road cars on the Nordschleife during tourist lapping days.

N-tering Competition

Hyundai has found a lot of success in the TCR Touring Car class at the Nurburgring

Fast forward to today and Hyundai Motorsports has a strong TCR touring car. Based on the Elantra N, the car as well as its predecessors, have found a lot of success around the globe. One of the marquee events the brand looks to win each year is the Nürburgring 24h.

This year, Hyundai has entered three cars in the TCR class, looking to lock up a fourth straight class win. Well, more accurately, it’s Bryan Herta Autosport that are entering the cars with support from Hyundai. Each team this year has a bit of a theme. One team consists of four drivers from China, the second with three drivers from Germany, and the final car has four drivers from North America.

The North America entry includes drivers Mason Filippi, Harry Gottsacker, Bryson Morris, and Mark Wilkins. Mason, Harry, and Bryson are all young drivers just making a name for themselves. Mark is the elder statesmen of the group, having had a lengthy career already, spending the past seven years with Hyundai. Despite that, he’s a ‘Ring rookie, attending the race for the first time ever, which he considers a career highlight.


Hyundai is hoping to make 'N' a household name in terms of performance

Before any racing took place over the course of the Nurburgring 24h weekend, Hyundai’s N division revealed their next plans, partnering with Gran Turismo and attacking the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. For those unfamiliar, Gran Turismo is a highly successful video game franchise that's been around for over 27 years. The game prides itself on near-perfect recreations of vehicles for use in a variety of races.

Hyundai’s relationship with Grand Turismo started in 2015 with the Vision Gran Turismo N 2025. Over the next few years not much happened, but the two companies are back in full force now. Although Hyundai and Gran Turismo were vague on details, we're certain new cars from the brand will appear in the game. Cars like the Ioniq 5 N TA that was revealed during the same press conference.

Set to attack the 2024 Pikes Peak Hill Climb, the new Hyundai Ioniq 5 N TA is shown off at the Nurburgring

This coincides with the manufacturers factory-back return to the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Although Hyundai has been involved with the event in the past, this is a much more concentrated in-house effort. The goal is to take the Ioniq 5 N up the hill and win the production stock electric SUV category. The Ioniq 5 N TA is set to compete in the electric modified SUV category.

Starting with a regular Ioniq 5 N, the TA (which stands for time attack) has a small increase in power, a big upgrade in terms of braking, and massive aero improvements for more downforce. Although it would be easier for Hyundai to un-restrict one of the brand’s WRC rally cars, the brand chose the Ioniq 5 N to set the standard of EV performance. The goal for Hyundai is to be a leader in EV racing.


Ariel shot of the Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit

Switching back to the Nürburgring 24h race, it’s an event like no other. With such a long track and wide-class variation, special rules apply for the 24-hour race. Entrants can’t just show up and race. They need to attend a course to learn the track and rules and do preliminary races. It doesn’t matter about the amount of experience a racer has, everyone must follow this process.

One of the unique challenges includes the caution system. With such a large track, rarely will there ever be a full course caution. Instead, sections where an incident has occurred have what are referred to as a Code 60. It means all drivers can only go a maximum of 60 km/h (37 mph) through those sections. Exceed those speeds and you could be given a time penalty, be disqualified from the race, or even have your Nürburgring license revoked.

At night, the challenges facing drivers include darkness, camper's lights, and hard to see marshal signs

Even if a racer is doing great at the start of the race, the darkness of night and rain change things in a hurry. With the majority of the track winding through the rural German countryside, some sections are in complete, utter darkness. Other areas are lit by fans and can include anything like campfires, flood lights, strobe lights, and/or lasers.

Despite headlights bright enough to be seen from Jupiter, nighttime cautions are hard to see. The flags and boards can be hard to see/differentiate. Add in fog, and the race quickly becomes a penalty party, such was this case in this year’s event.

N-urburgring is Unique

With multi-class competition, it's a real back and forth affair at times during the 2024 Nurburgring 24h race

Despite all these difficulties, the Nürburgring 24h is one of those races most racers want to do. Speaking with drivers from Hyundai, the track is all about flow and sequence. Missing one section can throw off subsequent sections, while trying to get back in rhythm. There’s also the traffic. Getting a completely clean lap is quite hard when qualifying or racing.

When taking the entire field of the Nürburgring 24h into account, the TCR touring cars reside in the middle of the performance spectrum. These cars are set up specifically for the ‘ring. The have more of an understeer bias built in to increase stability and confidence. In regular TCR series, IMSA has weight added and power restricted for these cars. At the Nürburgring, there’s no extra weight and the cars can run at full power. Of course, reliability is key to endurance racing, so teams need to walk that fine line between speed and longevity.

N-route to Victory

Fog shortened the 2024 Nurburgring 24h race, but Hyundai still came out on top in class

Drivers in the TCR class need to pass and be passed. They must keep one eye on the review mirror as the faster GT3 drivers are aggressive and have incredible closing speed. The other eye needs to look forward when approaching slower traffic.

The GT4 cars are the biggest conundrum. The Elantra TCR N can out corner most of the GT4 field but give up top speed on the straightaways. If a TCR and GT4 are close together on the track, it can become a back-and-froth affair.

Until it rains at least. That’s when the Elantra N’s front-wheel drivetrain becomes a big advantage. Even in the dry, the different track surfaces are easier to tackle with FWD, add in the element of water and the Elantra N TCR starts to shine.

Hyundai scored a 1-2-3 finish in class with the 2024 Elantra N TCR Touring Car

With the 2024 Nürburgring 24h race being a rain soaked, fog shortened event, it’s no surprise that the Hyundai Elantra N TCR cars came 1-2-3 in class, sweeping the podium. What’s more impressive is that the winning car finished 42nd overall out of 127 entrants, beating plenty of more powerful, better equipped competitors.

Hyundai Motorsports and the N division have conquered rally and endurance TCR racing. It’ll be interesting to see how the brand does at Pikes Peak this year, and what’s in sotre for the future.

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Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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