The manufacturer making the biggest waves leading into IMSA’s 2020 season isn’t going racing for 24 grueling hours on Saturday and Sunday at Daytona; it can be found in the second-tier Michelin Pilot Challenge series, where Hyundai continues to grow its presence in partnership with Bryan Herta Autosport.
The defending winners of the MPC’s TCR class with the turbocharged Hyundai Veloster N are back with more cars and a new and bigger shop positioned next to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to service an expanding customer base. Considering where BHA and Hyundai started in 2018, the progression has been remarkable.
“It’s been amazing, in all the best ways possible,” Herta told RACER. “We had a great season last year with finishing first and second and to be able to see our growth as a team by adding a third Bryan Herta Autosport car for this season. Two years ago we started with two cars on our team, and now, with the ones we run and all we’ve sold for Hyundai, there’s going to be eight Veloster N TCR cars racing in 2020. One in Canada, five here in IMSA, and two in the SRO series.
“I think we’ll see four or five of the TCA cars for the SRO class that we launched at Las Vegas on the track as well. The growth is really encouraging and it’s great to see a brand like Hyundai making a real commitment to motorsport and finding success and finding value more importantly, finding value in their participation.”
On its current trajectory, Hyundai would be ripe for stepping up to IMSA’s premier series, the WeatherTech SportsCar championship, in the near future. Rumors of varying interest in the DPi prototype category have been around for the last two years and of late, Hyundai’s name has been spoken as a potential entrant in the GT Le Mans category where BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, and Porsche fight over Manufacturers’ honors.
Whatever might happen, Herta looks forward to helping the South Korean brand implement its motor racing strategy in North America.
“I feel very fortunate,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been very fortunate in motorsport many times in my career and this is the latest example of that. I think Hyundai has taken a very thoughtful and progressive approach to what they’re doing in motorsport. They had a plan and they stuck to the plan and continued to see growth — they’ve continued to go from strength to strength. So I’m excited for this season and as I said before, I’m excited for what future possibilities even could be out there, because I think Hyundai is a brand that is continuing to grow.”
Herta and BHA partner Sean Jones have struck an interesting chord with Hyundai. Where most manufacturers dictate their plans and desires to the team they’ve selected to run a racing program, the relationship with BHA has been rather different as Herta and Jones routinely assist with input on the where, what, and how Hyundai should involve itself within the sport. Most factory racing teams would love to find themselves in a similar place of trust and advisement to a major auto manufacturer.
“I think our relationship with Hyundai’s evolved into something really unique and special,” Herta added. “It’s probably in many respects due the fact that they in the U.S. are relatively new to motorsports. So, where most brands have full motorsports departments and staff, and do a lot of the planning and decision-making in-house, we’ve been growing in lock step with Hyundai on the corporate side. There’s been a little bit more of a partnership feel to what we’re doing, which has been great for us to be a part of.”