Hyundai aiming for positive start to title defence in Moroccan heat

by James Bowers
BRC-Tarquini2019-WTCR

In 2018, the Hyundai i30 N TCR was the car to beat, with Gabriele Tarquini taking the drivers’ championship and YMR taking home the teams’ trophy in the inaugural season of the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR).

Over the winter, the YMR crew has become part of the Cyan Racing Lynk & Co project, however BRC Racing are back once again to represent Hyundai, having doubled the amount of cars which they shall field. Indeed, BRC will split their resources between two teams during 2019, in order to comply to new WTCR entry regulations. The BRC cars shall therefore be run under two separate banners. Namely, these banners will be the BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse team, and their fellow Lukoil-sponsored counterparts, the BRC Hyundai N Lukoil Racing Team.

The BRC guys won’t simply be making up the numbers either. Back again for a second season with the team is reigning champion, Tarquini, and hugely popular Hungarian racer, Norbert ‘Norbi’ Michelisz. On top of that, BMW factory drivers, Augusto Farfus and Nicky Catsburg have also joined the BRC Hyundai project. So, for the second year in a row, all four Hyundai drivers will be in with a real shot of becoming champion at the end of the season.

However, things may not be quite as simple as you’d expect for a package that was so strong in 2018. For example, it was well-documented during testing that the BRC crew are not at all happy with the Balance of Performance measures placed onto their cars by the WTCR governing body. The intentions behind this were to create relative parity amongst the 22 homologated models of TCR car that are used worldwide, however BRC feel as though the handicaps awarded to the Hyundai are a step too far.

But, with the start of the season just a few days away, it’ll soon become apparent whereabouts the Hyundai fits into the 2019 performance hierarchy.

The Circuit Moulay el-Hassen street course in Marrakech has once again retained its place on the World Touring Car calendar, with the Moroccan track hosting the opening event of the season for the sixth year in a row. Last time out, the tight course proved to be a happy hunting ground for Hyundai as Gabriele Tarquini went on to win two of the three races that weekend.

BRC Racing Team Principal, Gabriele Rizzo, is hoping for more success this time out: “We’re looking forward the first event of the 2019 WTCR season. Morocco is a great challenge for the drivers who have to negotiate the tight, wall-lined turns – any mistakes will be punished accordingly, such is the unforgiving nature of the circuit.”

“Consistency at every round will be the key to success once again in the championship battles this year. Our driver line-up brings experience, consistency, and speed, all of which will be crucial to our bid for the titles this year. We by no means underestimate the task ahead of us: our competitors have also been hard at work over the winter to improve. We’ll try to push each other all season long and give the fans some great on-track battles.”

BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse driver, Gabriele Tarquini, said: “Morocco was a happy hunting ground for us last year, and I’m hoping to repeat our performance from 2018. It’s a great track to start the season: it requires concentration and precision from us drivers. I’m confident this season will be as competitive as last year as we look to defend the drivers’ title: the line-up on the grid is impressive. I can’t wait to get back into my Hyundai i30 N TCR!”

Tarquini’s team-mate, Michelisz, endured a comparatively tough opening weekend in 2018, but the Hungarian is eager to get going again this year nonetheless: “I enjoy racing in Morocco and the challenge of the Circuit Moulay El Hassan. The whole team has been working hard over the winter break to ensure we continue our momentum from last year. We have some new faces on the grid this year and the level of competition promises to be very high.”

BRC Hyundai N Lukoil Racing Team driver, Augusto Farfus, is about to embark on his first World Touring Car event since 2010. The Brazilian said: “I’m looking forward to the challenge of my first FIA WTCR race weekend. It was an exciting series to watch last year, and it was clear the Hyundai i30 N TCR was one of the best packages on the grid. Now I’ve had the chance to test it, I’m ready to hit the track and show it’s still at the top of the class.”

And last but not least, Catsburg also gave his thoughts on what lies ahead for the team in Morocco. Catsburg last competed at this level of touring car racing with Volvo in 2017, however that was under an entirely different set of technical regulations. The Dutchman said: “This is my first experience of TCR racing – before my first test, I had never driven a TCR-specification car. It is different to anything I’ve raced before, but I was able to quickly find a rhythm. I think my driving style will suit FIA WTCR – so I can’t wait for my first taste of competitive action in Morocco.”

In a rather unprecedented turn of events in modern history, UK-based fans will be able to watch the opening round of the WTCR on BBC’s online streaming services; the Red Button and BBC iPlayer.

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