One of the questions that has been plaguing us was which car is better at the track between the two brands. Kia has had their share of successes racing their Optima and Forte under Kinetic Motrsports in Pirelli World Challenge. On the other hand, Hyundai has also delivered a fair amount winnings in their I30 N and recently their Veloster N TCR.
The only issue is that we have never driven any of them so how can we tell? We had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Wilkins, who has driven all four of them at the track at the competition level.
KCB: Because the brands [Hyundai and Kia] share the same ownership we wanted to ask you a few questions about the two in terms of Motorsports. Starting with how did you manage to move from Kia to Hyundai?
MW: “The KIA Racing program and the current Hyundai program with Bryan Herta Autosport have no affiliation. The KIA Racing program went very well and we achieved some great results in that program inclusive of a manufacturers championship. I learned a lot about racing front drive cars with success and I certainly feel that experience positioned me well for the opportunity with Bryan and Hyundai. It has been a great relationship thus far!”
KCB: You raced the Kinetic Motorsports Optima and Forte; Now you have raced the i30 N and Veloster N TCR. What are the pros and cons between each of the cars you have prepped, raced, and won in? Overall which one seemed to best suited for the track?
MW: “This is a great question and spans quite a few years actually. The Optima ran in the GTS class of the Pirelli World Challenge and competed against some vastly different hardware; namely rear wheel drive muscle cars. In terms of the class and rule differences it’s an apple and orange comparison really to the TCR class. We worked hard to make a front wheel drive car thrive in a rear wheel drive world; it was a ton of fun and we won a lot of races! The Forte Koup and I had a short relationship; I drove it once at Limerock in the wet. It was a well sorted car that had achieved a great deal of success. It had a manual gearbox and would be considered “old school” in today’s world of sequential gearboxes. The i30N TCR and Veloster N TCR are both very similar and share 85 percent of the same core components. They drive very much the same and perform at the same high level. Which one is best suited for the track? Well, the Forte won a championship, the Optima won a championship and the i30N TCR won multiple championships and we are working on a championship for the Veloster N TCR, so in my view they all have achieved a tremendous amount of success. If we are talking about road cars best suited for the track, the Veloster N is my hands down pick!”
KCB: What are the differences between the Veloster N and Veloster N TCR. I know its gutted and caged with updated suspension and safety. But what does Hyundai Motorsport in Germany do to the Veloster to make it cost 155k? I’m sure you know your way around a race car in construction and parts so any insight would be really cool!
MW: “From the driver’s seat, it is immediately clear that the Veloster N and Veloster N TCR share the same DNA. The balance and handling are remarkably similar and the emotional response both cars illicit is incredibly alike. Beyond pure emotion, the Veloster N and Veloster N TCR have two totally different purposes. The Veloster N is entirely at home as a daily driver or lapping around your local circuit. The Veloster N TCR is built by Hyundai Motorsport and compared to its road car sibling is enhanced in every way. Designed for high-level competition, the Veloster N TCR has a slew of motorsport specific components. A specialized suspension, sequential gearbox with paddle shifters, 350 hp 2.0 Litre Turbocharged engine, Life Racing ECU with data acquisition, Brembo brake kit, motorsport specific clutch/driveshafts and aerodynamic package, to name a few of the cars specifications. The Veloster N TCR is a low volume purpose built race car that is priced in line with the competition. The Veloster N TCR is fully homologated by TCR international which keeps the costs down and gives racers GT4 levels of performance for a fraction of the cost.”
In short, it’s hard to say which car is better in terms of pro sports. All of them have won races and gone against the top motorsports brands. With that said because each has been modified so specifically to their pertaining class where each had to have their own limitations in horsepower, aerodynamics, and weight that they can’t be necessarily compared at the same level.
However, if we were to look at all the cars in their stock form, there may be a strong inclination towards Hyundai for making more of sportier cars like the all new Veloster N. We can only wonder if Kia will release a more performance oriented vehicle in the future or if they will remain focused on luxury and technology.