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USA

How Hyundai is “showing up” for America at the Nurburgring 24 Hours

The Hyundai Motorsport America team had to overcome many challenges to make its Nurburgring 24 Hours debut this weekend, but it’s finally looking forward to representing the USA in the iconic German endurance racing classic.

#831 Hyundai Motosport N / Target Competition Hyundai Elantra TCR: Harold Gottsacker, Mason Filippi, Michael Lewis, Taylor Hagler

Photo by: Markus Toppmöller

Bryan Herta Autosport will make its debut at the Nurburgring with its Elantra N TCR car, and is set to battle the European competition on track. Hyundai is also seeking its third straight victory in the TCR class in the event, and the BHA entry will run alongside returning victors Mikel Azcona (Spain), Marc Basseng and Manuel Lauck (both Germany).

Herta’s special project of sending an all-American team to the event began in 2019, after attending the event as a guest with Hyundai. It was supposed to happen in 2020, but the Team USA launch was put on hold due to COVID restrictions.

“We're so excited about it happening,” Herta told Motorsport.com. “It's one of those iconic sports car races that gets mentioned, along with the other famous events like Daytona and Le Mans, so to have our drivers from here competing in a Hyundai Elantra and TCR car, and really having a chance to win in their class, I think it’s amazing. We're really proud and excited about it.” 

 

The Hyundai driver lineup includes Taylor Hagler, Michael Lewis, Mason Filippi, and Harry Gottsacker – all familiar names in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series in the factory-backed squad.

Filippi says he’s “grateful” for the opportunity to represent the brand and his country. 

“This is my favorite track in the world,” he says. “It is so challenging. It's so many different dynamics. It's raining on one side of the track, it's dry on the other side. I just find that to be so unique and an aspect of racing that you don't really get anywhere else in the world.  

“And this opportunity means so much to me, because it's like racing at Le Mans and all these major races. And we get to compete there with the brand I've been with for so long. It's awesome to represent Hyundai and USA over there.” 

Before the USA Hyundai team was eligible to compete in the 24-hour race at the Nurburgring, they had to overcome some logistical challenges like fitting in practices and obtaining licenses.  

Herta says: “The logistics of it has been difficult, getting them back and forth, because we've got a regular race season going on.

“So, we've had to do things like fly the drivers to Germany, then they flew back for three days, raced at Sebring, then got on a plane the night of the Sebring race, back to Germany.” 

 

The former racer and IndyCar team owner also pointed out how grueling the licensing process was on the drivers’ schedules.

“It's a big commitment that the drivers have made,” he adds. “I think they'll have made – some of them five, and some of them six – trips to Germany in total, to go through all the training courses  and races that are required just to get your license to be able to drive the Elantra N TCR car in the Nurburgring 24.”

Filippi says there’s also an eye-opening culture shock in terms of how the races are run in Europe: “It’s just so different from our racing, right? There's no cautions, nothing like that. So you really have to focus on hitting your marks.

“You can't blow a code 60. You can't blow a code 120. There's all kinds of flags, you're going so fast and you're in battles and everything. So okay, how do I do this, but as a racer, do I just want to chill out?

“You know, you want to push it. And it was cool to push yourself, but that's when you start to get in that mindset of like, oh, wait, I have to get my license first. Right! That's the first goal here.” 

 

As the only American team in the TCR class at the race, Filippi feels the pressure of doing a good job on track while representing his home country.

“We're showing up here for the Americans,” he says. “And, as an American, you want to just represent the country well, you want to represent Hyundai USA well, and so you really want to show up with force there.”

For Herta, the Nurburgring represents something more than just a competition on one of the most famous circuits in the world. It’s a chance to inspire others through the challenges the team has faced to make it this far.

“I just love that Hyundai keeps challenging us and giving us these amazing opportunities to do new and exciting things for us in motorsport,” he says. “They've given us a chance to have, not one, but two paralyzed drivers compete and winning races, to have a two-time female driving champion, and now to compete in the Nurburgring 24.

“To be able to do these things, to challenge us in ways that are really inspiring for others, it’s really great.”  

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