What: Hyundai i30 Fastback N
Where: The Bend, South Australia
Conditions: Mixed, overcast
What is it?
Hyundai Australia’s first official motorsport project car. This i30 Fastback N was designed and developed specifically for the 2019 World Time Attack (WTA) event at Sydney Motorsport Park. It was built and funded by Hyundai Australia to help promote its then-new N Performance i30 hot hatch and Fastback models.
Beyond the obvious aerodynamic changes under the bonnet was a development version of the current ‘flat-power tune’ that the local operation tested in the heat of competition.
Why does it deserve a track test?
Because it was built for the racetrack. This isn’t a road registered track day car, this has been purpose-built for WTA’s all-or-nothing one-lap competition.
To that end Hyundai hired former Formula 1 designer (ex-Toyota, Williams and Caterham), Dr Sammy Diasinos to develop the aerodynamic package, which features a new front splitter and the unmissable rear wing.
At the recent N Festival at The Bend in South Australia, Torquecafe managed to convince Hyundai management to let us take a turn behind the wheel to see what this unique creation is like.
What’s it like inside?
Spartan. As is allowed by the WTA Hyundai stripped out the cabin to reduce weight and create space for a roll-cage to be fitted, although the upper half of the dashboard, including the instrument panel remain.
The steering wheel is actually the same suede-trimmed version offered as part of Hyundai’s accessories for the N models, not an after-market piece. The same can’t be said for the seats, which are Recaro racing-spec and come with a multi-point racing harness.
Climbing aboard and into the narrow, hip-hugging seat through the rollcage is no easy task, but once you’re inside the seat does move back and forth so finding the right seating position is easy.
How’s it go down the straights?
The engine isn’t the latest specification found in the latest generation i30 N, but it does have a number of upgrades. That’s because the Time Attack entry was a real-world test bed for the ‘flat-power tune’, so it has upgrades to the turbocharger and other elements to see how the changes worked on track.
That means the performance feels very similar to the current i30 N hatch and sedan, although it is maybe a touch slower down The Bend’s long front straight because it is carrying about 80kg of extra drag thanks to the aerodynamic package.
Because it pre-dates the facelifted i30 N range that introduced the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, this Fastback is fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox. As such it still feels very similar to what you can drive out of the showroom – with one exception.
The engine does feel a lot louder in this particular car because of the stripped out cabin, so you really notice the raspy engine note and the snaps, crackles and pops when you downshift, which is fitting for a track-only vehicle.
What’s it like in the bends?
While the new front splitter and massive rear wing do add some drag they also add downforce – a lot of downforce. Hyundai hired Diasinos to do the job and he is also responsible for the aerodynamic package of the outright World Time Attack winning Porsche RP968.
His aerodynamic upgrades reportedly add approximately 300kg of front downforce and up to 400kg of rear downforce. And that means this one-of-a-kind i30 Fastback N is simply stunning in the corners.
Not only does it stick like glue but it’s also incredibly responsive, allowing you to make small adjustments at almost any stage in the corner and get immediate results. Driving it back-to-back with the latest i30 N hatch and sedan you can really notice the difference all that extra downforce makes.
Through the faster corners the Fastback really feels stable and planted and even in just a handful of laps you can feel the apex speed building. It probably takes a better driver than this journalist to extract the maximum from it, but this is no doubt the quickest Hyundai N model I’ve driven to date.
Is it a front-runner or backmarker?
Obviously Hyundai can’t offer the World Time Attack aerodynamic kit as a genuine accessory, but it was great to experience the car and what Hyundai Australia is capable of when given a little bit of freedom.
It’s a shame this car has been restricted to passenger rides in recent years, because it would be great to see the i30 Fastback N back on the track at this year’s World Time Attack event in Sydney.