As the end of the year approaches, the motorsports world usually wraps up the past season and prepares for the new one. It’s a time when car enthusiasts might feel a bit restless, missing the action. To fill this gap, documentaries themed around motorsports are often released. Hyundai Motor Company has joined this trend, offering a glimpse into the heart of motorsports through its YouTube documentary series. The recent release of the final episode of ‘HNF In‒depth’ for 2023 wrapped up the year’s exciting events.
Continuing the narrative from 2022, the 2023 ‘HNF In‒depth’ series highlighted the intense rivalry between the established ‘Solite Indigo Racing’ team, founded in 1997, and the emerging ‘DCT Racing’, established to help racing simulation drivers transition to real‒world racing.
The clash between DCT Racing, eager to prove the capabilities of simulation drivers in actual races, and Solite Indigo Racing, aiming to defend their dominant position, was fierce. The 2022 season of the [N1] Elantra N Cup culminated with Solite Indigo Racing securing the championship and DCT Racing taking the runner‒up spot.
Although DCT Racing did not clinch the championship, they achieved their goal of demonstrating the competitiveness of simulation drivers. From the 2023 season onward, they became a formidable force, viewed as a strong competitor by all teams. ‘HNF In‒depth’ captured these defining moments of the 2023 Hyundai N Festival [N1] Elantra N Cup.
The 2023 season kicked off at the Yeongam International Circuit with an intense opening race. DCT Racing’s Kim Kyu‒min made a late start, allowing eRacing Vitese Motorsport’s Park Dong‒sub to overtake. However, a collision occurred when Kim Kyu‒min tried to undercut on a corner, forcing Park Dong‒sub to retire and earning Kim Kyu‒min a drive‒through penalty. Despite this setback, DCT Racing’s Kim Young‒chan clinched first place, making up for his teammate’s error.
Just like the opener, the second race at the Yeongam International Circuit was even more thrilling due to rain. In wet conditions, tire selection and vehicle setup are crucial. Kim Kyu‒min and Kim Young‒chan led the race at first, but a mistake by Kim Young‒chan allowed Seohan GP’s Jang Jun‒ho to overtake, followed by Park Dong‒sub, setting up a battle against Jang.
After an intensely fought race, DCT Racing’s Kim Kyu‒min secured first place, with Seohan GP’s Jang Jun‒ho in second, and eRacing Vitesse Motorsport’s Park Dong‒sub in third. This double victory in the first two races positioned DCT Racing advantageously at the top of the season standings.
The third race at Inje Speedium started with subtle tension as Kim Kyu‒min from DCT Racing secured pole position, closely followed by Park Dong‒sub. Kim Kyu‒min took the lead right from the start, leaving Park Dong‒sub and Kim Young‒chan in the following positions. Both drivers, eyeing the season’s championship, fiercely competed for the top spot. Veteran Park Dong‒sub, in particular, showcased his experience and skill, maintaining a defensive yet speedy driving line.
Park Dong‒sub, a racing veteran for 14 years and the 10th member of Korea’s ‘Century Club’ for completing 100 races, has won 26 races, proving his steady performance. This veteran‒versus‒rookie battle was the highlight of the third race, ending with Kim Kyu‒min, Park Dong‒sub, and Kim Young‒chan taking the top three positions, respectively.
DCT Racing, on a winning streak, became the ‘public enemy,’ with other teams aiming to halt their victories. Races 3 to 6, all at Inje Speedium, were crucial for competitors to find their rhythm and join the championship race. Jang Jun‒ho from Seohan GP emerged as the ‘game changer’ by securing pole position in race 4. However, a collision between Jang Jun‒ho and Kang Byung‒hwi from ZIC United Racing led to Kim Young‒chan’s victory.
Race 5 saw Kim Hwa‒rang from Solite Indigo Junior adapting well to the Elantra N race car and securing the second position in qualifying. However, in the finals, pole‒sitter Kim Kyu‒min led the race, making overtaking difficult. Following Kim Hwa‒rang, the other drivers strategically adjusted their positions to avoid the handicap system.
The N1 class applies engine RPM limit handicaps based on the race result: 400 RPM for 1st place, 300 RPM for 2nd, and 200 RPM for 3rd, accumulating if a driver places high in consecutive races. If a driver subject to a handicap finishes 4th or lower or retires mid‒race, the handicap is removed. Strategic positioning is vital considering the season’s overall competition. Kim Kyu‒min’s victory in race 5 marked DCT Racing’s continuous success from the opening race to race 5, solidifying their position for the 2023 season team championship.
Race 6 was especially crucial for young drivers. Gabriele Tarquini, WTCR’s inaugural champion and a living legend of Hyundai Motorsport, attended to select participants for the 2024 Junior Driver Program. The competition was fierce as it was a prime opportunity for the drivers to showcase their potential.
In qualifying, Jang Jun‒ho secured the top spot, closely followed by Kim Young‒chan. The main race was a close battle between the two, with Jang Jun‒ho ultimately maintaining focus and confidence to halt DCT Racing’s dominance. Jang Jun‒ho’s victory was a testament to his claim as the ‘game changer,’ demonstrating his prowess in a remarkable showdown.
The double‒round races 7 and 8 were anticipated to be fiercely competitive right from the start. Kim Kyu‒min, eager to shed his engine RPM limit handicap, Park Dong‒sub yearning for a win, and Kim Hwa‒rang aiming for a victory after securing second place in race 5, all entered the qualifiers with intense rivalry. For Kim Kyu‒min, winning race 7 was crucial to confirm his and his team’s championship, while other teams were equally determined to elevate their standings.
Race 7 thus promised a tight competition among Kim Kyu‒min, Park Dong‒sub, and Kim Hwa‒rang. However, the race took an unexpected turn as Kim Kyu‒min and Kim Young‒chan had to retire due to tire punctures, and six other drivers followed suit. This led to a head‒to‒head battle between Kim Hwa‒rang and Park Dong‒sub, which turned into a tire‒wearing endurance contest. Park Dong‒sub strategically chose to finish below fourth place, aiming for a handicap‒free race 8. Kim Hwa‒rang emerged victorious, enduring the intense competition.
The massive tire punctures in race 7 set the stage for a fierce battle in race 8 without handicaps among the leading drivers. Then, a surprising twist occurred. Seohan GP’s amateur class driver Shin Woo‒jin recorded qualifying times faster than the professional class drivers, signaling an impending upset. Unfortunately, race 8 saw a series of unfortunate accidents right from the start, with Park Dong‒sub having to retire after a collision at the first corner.
Additionally, a collision between DCT Racing’s Jang Moon‒seok and Solite Indigo Junior’s Kang Seung‒young led to car debris on the track, requiring a safety car deployment. Kim Kyu‒min, seizing the opportunity during the safety car restart, won the race, confirming his and DCT Racing’s season championship.
The 2023 Hyundai N Festival [N1] Elantra N Cup concluded like a cinematic tale. Simulation racing drivers turned real‒life racers, Kim Kyu‒min and Kim Young‒chan secured first and second place in the drivers’ category, with DCT Racing topping the team category. Kim Kyu‒min also earned the ‘2023 Hyundai Junior Driver’ title, securing an opportunity to compete in the ‘2024 Nürburgring 24‒hour Endurance Race’ with Hyundai. Their journey offers hope to countless simulation racers.
The dream continues in 2024 as well, especially with the standout performances of last season’s drivers fueling anticipation for more passionate battles. Seohan GP’s Jang Jun‒ho, who halted DCT Racing’s winning streak, and Shin Woo‒jin, who dominated the amateur class and proved his mettle with faster lap times than professional racers, are especially promising. Solite Indigo Racing is ready to showcase its strength with Kim Hwa‒rang, who has perfectly adapted to the race car and clinched a win in race 7.
Hyundai N Festival is preparing for transformative changes to accommodate bigger dreams. Starting this year, a new electric car race category, ‘eN1 Class,’ will debut, marking the advent of the electric vehicle era in Korean motorsports. Additionally, races at Yongin Speedway will be added, joining Yeongam International Circuit and Inje Speedium, intensifying the competition.
Hyundai N Festival is a stage for the advancement of Korean motorsports culture, evolving into a festival where not only racers but everyone can participate and connect. Visit the Hyundai N Festival this year to support your favorite driver, and the racers, embracing everyone’s dreams and giving their all to push their limits, will surely stir your emotions.
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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