Following a highly successful first year in the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR), Hyundai Motorsport have revealed the four drivers who shall go on to represent them in the 2019 campaign.
Last year, the South Korean marque’s i30N TCR was the car to beat. As such, customer team, YMR, were victorious in the teams’ championship battle. However, the outfit led by Yvan Muller will not return to defend their title with Hyundai in 2019. Instead, Muller and his 2018 team-mate Thed Bjork will join the Cyan Racing operation, swapping their Hyundais for a pair of new Lynk & Co cars.
In their place, Augusto Farfus and Nicky Catsburg have been brought in to fly the flag for Hyundai. These new recruits are no strangers to World Touring Car competition, however.
Farfus was a stalwart in the series for Alfa Romeo and BMW during the mid-2000s, before BMW moved their motorsport operations away from the World Touring Car Championship, as it was known at the time. Catsburg, meanwhile, has also impressed in the series, having raced for Lada and then Volvo as recently as 2017. Both drivers are still under contract with BMW though, so a dual campaign with BMW’s GT programme is rumoured to be likely, although not yet confirmed.
Having spent a year away from the series, during which the competition undertook a host of changes to its technical regulations, Nicky Catsburg was eager to get back involved and try his hand at this new generation of touring cars: “I can’t deny I really wanted to be part of WTCR in 2019. I have not raced a TCR car yet, but Gabriele just won the championship so I am sure he will bring me up to speed quickly.”
Farfus, who hasn’t raced in the series since 2010, was also buoyed by the level of performance that drivers and teams showed last year, saying: “After seeing the level of competition in the WTCR, I am very excited to be joining the grid for 2019.”
But, while Hyundai welcomes two new drivers onboard, they have also retained two from their 2018 campaign. Gabriele Tarquini, who won the 2018 Drivers’ Championship, will return again in 2019 to defend his crown. The reigning champion will also be joined by his 2018 team-mate, Norbert Michelisz, who will be looking to improve upon a season of mixed success last year.
The four drivers will be attributed to two customer teams for the upcoming campaign, however those teams have yet to be announced.
Overall though, Hyundai can be confident of further success in the new season with this star-studded driver line-up. To put it into context, there are 53 World Touring Car race wins between the quartet, who shall begin testing next month at the Portimao circuit.
Francois Ribeiro, head of Eurosport Events, was delighted to welcome Farfus and Catsburg back to the pinnacle of touring car racing: “The Hyundai customer team driver line-up is the first of a series of announcements which will reflect a rise in the FIA WTCR OSCARO 2019 sporting level. It’s very good news to see two high-level international touring car drivers in Nicky and Augusto back on the grid. Both are used to highly competitive environments and will be motivated to chase their first FIA World Touring Car title. No doubt Augusto, Nicky, Gabriele and Norbi will bring an incredible mix of experience and talent to the two Hyundai customer teams.”