A few months back, I was extremely excited to receive an invitation from our partners at Hyundai to attend a special event at the Nürburgring in June that would take place alongside the WTCR and 24-Hour race weekend there. I didn’t know exactly what I was in store for, but as The 24 Hours or Nürburgring is an event I have heard so much about and have long wanted to attend, I knew this was a bucket list type of experience that I was all in on.
I flew into Frankfurt from Los Angeles and then headed immediately to the track. We got to work doing some filming for our ongoing Pole Position Series on the Motor Trend Network https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37Oigtb8PvU and I got to see the legendary 12.9 mile, 55-turn circuit for the first time in person. The track is amazing, I was very surprised at how much undulation it has and that there are seemingly dozens of surface changes throughout the track, details that don’t translate nearly as much on TV. I had a chance to roam the paddock a bit and soak in the atmosphere; the track was surrounded by campsites full of enthusiastic race fans. Everything about my experience there felt like a “Big Event.”
On Day 2, I traveled to Alzenau to visit Hyundai Motorsport’s global headquarters where our Veloster N TCR cars are built, as well as Hyundai’s World Rally Championship contenders. With 400 employees on-site and facilities that stand up to any factory I have visited, F1 included, it is easy to understand why we are so proud to be aligned with a brand with such a massive commitment to motorsport at a global scale. It was great to spend some time with the group that designs and manufactures our race winning Hyundai’s.
Day 3 we were back at the Nürburgring, where I spent the day with several of our Hyundai partners like Thomas Schemera, Albert Biermann, and Andrea Adamo. It is always great to have some old-fashioned, human interaction with the people that I correspond with on a regular basis via e-mail, text, phone, and WhatsApp from different continents and various time zones across the globe. I also enjoyed being an interested observer of Hyundai’s BRC SquadraCorse and Lukoil WTCR teams. Of course, I was looking to see what I could learn from the WTCR racing and procedures that I could apply here in our IMSA racing program. Hyundai won the first race of the weekend with driver Norbert Michelisz.
One of the coolest parts of the trip were the accommodations Hyundai provided. Usually, at most circuits like this you need to stay anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour away in hotels of varying quality, traversed by roads and traffic scenarios that are less than ideal. However, we stayed at the unbelievable Hyundai N Hotel which was constructed trackside at the Nürburgring. This is something I’d seen before at the 24 Hours of LeMans but never had the chance to stay in. Hyundai brought in hundreds of guests; including media and influencers from around the world. The food was top notch, and we had tons of activities and parties. Needless to say, there was not a lot of sleep with the nonstop action. There were DJs, magicians, a masseuse, an N Driving Academy experience, and helicopter tours of the circuit just to name a few. All of this in the middle of an atmosphere that mixes together a cocktail of everything motorsports should be; a wide array of fantastic racing machinery (over 200 cars), north of 100,000 spectators, camping, parties, fireworks, you name it. If it was fantastic, it was there.
Sadly, I had to depart this mecca of motorsport wonder on Saturday night and hopped on an overnight flight to Chicago. After a 3-hour drive north I was on the timing stand for Marco Andretti at our IndyCar race at Road America Sunday morning. While I was on the plane, I was able to watch IndyCar qualifying from Road America live online. I think I woke half the plane up when I cheered as my son Colton scored his first IndyCar Series pole. It is truly amazing to me how small the world can be with modern travel. To me it seems crazy to think I could leave the Nürburgring right before the start of the 24, fly to Chicago, drive to Elkhart Lake, sleep for a few hours, wake up and still see the end of the Nürburgring 24 where the Hyundai entries finished 2nd and 3rd.
Unfortunately, we had an electronic issue on Marco’s car that took us out of the race fairly early at Road America, which is the only thing that put a damper on an amazing motorsports weekend I will never forget.
A special thanks goes out to our host Aaron Zeuli from Hyundai Motor America, as well as Andrea Adamo at HMSG, and Thomas Schemera and Albert Biermann from Hyundai Motor Company. The N Brand is going nowhere but up, and all of us at Bryan Herta Autosport are thrilled to be a part of it. The Nürburgring 24 left an impression on me, and it definitely will not be my last visit there, maybe next time I will bring my helmet…