School run to race track ... we race the Hyundai i30 N!
WIN on Sunday, sell on Monday. That's the long-held philosophy behind the marketing power of motorsport, be it from the greenest of grassroots all the way up to F1.
Some car brands may have abandoned motorsport, but Hyundai - a new performance player with its road-going N models - is properly suiting up and donning a helmet.
Not only has the i30 N had a crack at the 24Hours of Nurburgring, Hyundai's i20 WRC is current leader of the World Rally Championship.
Back at grassroots level, the hot hatch wunderkind i30N made quite the impression on debut at the infamous Noosa Hill Climb.
With yours truly at the controls I forgot the "win on Sunday” part, but I'm convinced some expressions of interest went Hyundai's way after the $40k Korean thrilled at this holiday region's twice-annual climb against the clock.
Refreshingly, Hyundai really want you to take the i30N to the track. Its five-year warranty covers non-competitive track use, so non-timed track days are encouraged.
Noosa's timed nature meant if I blew the engine here I'd be liable, but the warranty wouldn't be void for evermore, only during competition. Admirable faith in the product, I'd say.
No need to be daunted then, especially as the i30N is designed to make non-Dan Ricciardos feel like heroes.
It lacks niceties such as keyless entry, front parking sensors or leather chairs, but compensation comes with a 202kW turbo four-cylinder, electric adaptive suspension, brilliant electro-mechanical limited slip differential and an active variable exhaust system.
Throw in an aero body kit, 19-inch alloys with Pirelli P-Zero tyres, 345mm brake discs, alloy pedals and race telemetry and clearly your money is well spent on go-faster bits.
In WRC Performance Blue, the i30N cut quite a dash in Noosa's pit lane. And while my fellow racers were offloading from trailers, fitting race wheels, adjusting timing and getting covered in oil, I was sat in the winter sunshine enjoying a cup of tea.
My lazy race prep had involved remembering my helmet, driving from home to race event, putting some stickers on and removing the kids' car seats.
This easy motorsport life seemed to catch on, as a couple of young chaps and a retiree racer pawed over the i30N, making positive noises about investing in one.
Maybe it was the smile on my face after each hill climb run that convinced them. The playful i30N is, quite simply, very easy to drive fast safely, no matter your racing ability.
Its clever front diff seems to hunt out the corner apex for you and compels you to get on the power early to slingshot out again.
There's a dose of torque steer, not least when the (cost option) semi-slick tyres scrambled for grip from a cold standing start, but with a bit of heat in them they held on mightily.
The chassis displayed superb balance through Noosa's 14 tight and oft bumpy turns; its sharpness and steering the high points for me, alongside the slick manual gearbox with cheating rev-match function.
The power's enough to thrill but not terrify - a bonus when concrete walls up the 1.5km climb were a minor mistake away - and the machine-gun popping exhaust on lift-off entertained inside and outside the cabin.
The i30N's customisable NMode was a boon, as I set engine response, diff, steering and exhaust to maximum attack but left suspension in "Normal” to smooth out the bumps. No tools required here; all was managed in 20seconds through the touchscreen.
So how did it go?
As sole road-registered representative in its class, it finished midfield behind a race-prepared slick-shod Renault Megane RS250 but ahead of a few Holden Commodore 6.0-litre V8s. It also trumped some Lotus Elises, all-wheel drive Subaru WRXs and Mitsubishi Evos. Eye-opening.
After a fun-packed weekend of cheap thrills, I peeled off the stickers, threw the kids' seats back in and the Hyundai was ready for Monday school run duties once more. Now that's the best way to go racing.
AT A GLANCE
HYUNDAI I30 N
PRICE $39,990 plus on-road costs (cheap thrills)
WARRANTY/SERVICE 5 years/unlimited km including track days, 12 months/10,000km, about $1300 over 5 years (excellent for track drivers)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 202kW/353Nm or 373Nm with overboost (plenty)
TRANSMISSION Six-speed manual; FWD (textbook hot hatch)
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, auto emergency braking, lane keep assist, rear camera (good)
THIRST 8.0L/100km (quite thirsty)
SPARE Space saver (not ideal)
BOOT 381L (good)