Hyundai shows how to build a performance brand at the N Festival
Hyundai is new to the performance car world, but knows how to do it right.
WE’VE JUST FINISHED road and track-testing a Hyundai i30 Fastback N, and we’ll have a full writeup on that adventure soon, along with a tech explainer of what needs to be done to turn a hatch into a hot hatch.
Suffice to say that Hyundai’s N car is a serious motorsports vehicle, and there’s more to come. Hyundai is also active and successful in motorsports, chalking up a World Rally Championship constructor win and locally a win in the inaugural Touring Car Championship.
Sure, most other manufacturers can produce a sports car and then go win a championship too, so that’s unremarkable. What to my mind is more impressive is the Hyundai N Festival.
What is the Hyundai N Festival?
Hyundai took over Wakefield Raceway and invited every N owner in the country to attend for a free day of track driving, then added to the show with concept cars, the Drift Bus, tech talks, rides in N racecars and more. I can’t think of any other comparable event – Toyota ran a Festival of 86 for a while, but there wasn’t any track driving at that event. BMW, Audi, and others have regular driver training/experience teams, but that’s not a bring-your-own car hot lap session, and they charge for it although you do get a free basic session with a new BMW M car.
So it was pretty amazing to see over 100 N cars turn up in one place, and then be allowed to run on track together under the supervision of local race/track outfit Trackschool. And not only that – it was a timed event, as you can see here. But wait, there’s even more – owners could take passengers for runs too! Carmakers just don’t do this, but Hyundai did, and the Australian N Festival was also the world’s first!
Despite the fact that around 80% of the drivers were track novices, the day went smoothly with only a couple of minor off-track excursions we noticed, and certainly no damage or silliness.
And talking to some of the owners, the world “thrilled” doesn’t even begin to describe their joy and excitement at the day. Any track day is good, but when you’re on track with identical cars, driven by people who are also enthusiasts… then it’s a whole new level of enjoyment, particularly as it was free!
I’m liking the way Hyundai is not just talking up the N brand, but actually doing things like offering a track warranty, running the Festival, setting up N tech days, and getting involved in the Touring Car Championship, even creating the super cool Drift Bus. Those actions speak a thousand times louder than any advertising campaign.
It was also really good to see the enthusiasm for the cars and fellowship from the owners, and burgeoning aftermarket support. Could we see the N cars become one of the go-to sportscars with a huge enthusiast following, like the Mustang, MX-5 and 86? The product is certainly good enough, and with Hyundai throwing their considerable weight behind the N brand I think we could well see the rise of Korean car culture, especially considering Kia’s entry with the Stinger.
Hyundai say that “for 2020 we already have plans to expand the number of customer N-activities, but given the overwhelming success of last weekend’s inaugural Hyundai N Festival we may have to think even bigger. In addition to N-track days and N-tech talks we will also be inviting owners to join us in the Touring Class at next year’s Targa Tasmania. And of course, we can look forward to the second annual Hyundai N Festival.”
It’s an exciting time to be an N owner, you’re buying into more than just a car!