Hyundai’s bid to win a third straight TCR class manufacturers’ championship in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge doesn’t rest squarely on the shoulders of one team alone. In an increasingly competitive and close-fought series, a manufacturer needs to hold the high hand, and Hyundai has an ace up its sleeve in the one-car outfit of van der Steur Racing.
In only its second year, van der Steur Racing’s Hyundai Veloster N TCR has already earned valuable points that could prove vital to Hyundai in the race for the manufacturers’ title. It’s a team that’s going places, and behind the wheel are a pair of young hard-chargers: 22-year-old Rory van der Steur and 18-year-old Tyler Gonzalez.
With only two races remaining, they sit in eighth place overall in both the teams’ and drivers’ standings, while Hyundai has a comfortable but certainly not insurmountable margin atop the manufacturers’ table. To keep that lead until the end, van der Steur Racing is looking to play a crucial role.
“These last two races are going to suit the Veloster N TCR really well,” says van der Steur of the races at VIRginia International Raceway, Aug. 27 and Michelin raceway Road Atlanta, Sept. 30. “We want a race win badly. We should’ve been there so many times already. A win would almost guarantee us a top five finish in both the drivers’ and teams’ championships, and to also deliver a victory for Hyundai would be amazing.”
So far in 2022, the team has only finished outside of the top 10 once in eight rounds. Four of those results were top-five finishes, with a best result of third at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Huge in itself, that third-place finish was also the best of any Hyundai entry, meaning van der Steur Racing’s Veloster N TCR was the car earning manufacturer points for Hyundai that weekend. It’s a result that might make all the difference in the final outcome.
“We had a great pit stop at WeatherTech Raceway. I always say our crew is one of the best at changing tires, and that was certainly one of the keys to getting on the podium,” recalls van der Steur of the podium result. “But if you look across all of our races, we’ve had the pace. We led 50 laps at Road America before a mechanical issue dropped us out of contention. At Lime Rock Park, we were in second place, fighting for the lead, and a racing incident on the second to last lap took us out. We just haven’t had the luck when we’ve needed it.”
Van der Steur accepts, rather than dwells on, those misfortunes the team has endured; it’s all part of racing. He knows that the program has what it takes to deliver, and when it comes to his co-driver, he’s all smiles.
“Tyler’s amazing. He’s very low key; doesn’t complain ever. And he’s pretty freaking fast,” says van der Steur. “I’m pretty happy when I’m faster than him, which is tough to do. It could be a toss-up between us as to who starts the races and who finishes them, but we made the decision at the beginning of the year that I’m better suited to the starts, where I can be more patient to work through slower GS class traffic, while he has more aggression for the end. Overall, when we look at average race pace, we’re generally within a tenth (of a second) of each other.”
For his part, Tyler Gonzalez feels right at home, both within the team and the Hyundai family.
“I feel like every race weekend we’ve shown the speed to win,” he says. “It’s unfortunate that small things out of our control have kept us from that. We’re all trying to move past those results and keep doing what we’re doing to move ahead.
“The team atmosphere is absolutely amazing and Rory and I are on the same page. We’re here to win, and that’s what matters most.”
There’s a prevailing sense of confidence and belief among the two drivers, and that extends to the whole van der Steur Racing team. They know they have the pace. They know they have the chemistry. They’re searching for a bit of luck, and when they chance upon it, their breakthrough moment is sure to follow.