Mark Wilkins ready to put the New Hyundai Elantra N TCR through its pace at Daytona

IN HIS FOURTH SEASON WITH BRIAN HERTA AUTOSPORT AND LOOKING TO REGAIN IMSA MICHELIN PILOT CHALLENGE CHAMPION STATUS

Today, Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA) with Curb Agajanian officially reveals the new contender from Hyundai Motorsport at Daytona International Speedway. The Roar marks the World debut for the Hyundai Elantra N TCR which is assembled at Hyundai Motorsports headquarters in Germany.

In fact, the car arrived very recently to the race shop and the team had a small window of opportunity to complete a very brief shakedown at Palm Beach Raceway before heading for Daytona International Raceway.

Mark Wilkins was on hand for the team to put initial track mileage on the new car.

“The car has just recently arrived from Germany and it was our first chance to complete a very light shakedown and make sure there were no issues. We had a good day and learned a lot along working with our friends at Hyundai Motorsports. The cars were great and we’re excited to get to the Roar and get going on Friday,” commented Mark.

Having driven the Hyundai Veloster TCR for the past couple of seasons, Mark gave us some insight as to the the Hyundai Elantra N TCR.

“It’s very similar, although a different chassis. It’s a continuous development where there are some components that are carried over from the Veloster N and some of it is new. A very different car than the Veloster N but from a driving standpoint it shares a lot of the great characteristics that we came to love about the Veloster N that made it such a successful car. I think the Elantra N will be quite good and Hyundai Motorsport has done a great job in the development of that car. Which they had done with the previous I30 and Veloster N TCR.”

Bryan Herta Autosport have entered two Hyundai Elantra N TCR for the 2021 season. One will be driven by Parker Chase/Ryan Norman and Mark is teaming up with Harry Gottsacker.

“One consistent thing for me is that Harry Gottsacker will be my teammate again in 2021 and I’m really excited about that. He did a great job last year as he won most poles in the class and generally put on a great performance all year. We want to move it up from being runner-up in last year’s Championship to winning top honours this year. We have a lot of things that are new and it’s nice to have the same driver pairing and that allow us to focus on working with some new people within the team and a new engineer.”

The Roar usually takes place in early January with the actual race taking place towards the end of the month. From a driver point of view, Mark seems to like this year’s schedule as IMSA had to work around travel limitation and the pandemic.

“Honestly, it’s nice for me especially with the challenges with the pandemic and the traveling. I actually drove to Daytona from Toronto since I am to be spending a couple of weeks here in Daytona. Hyundai Canada let me drive a Sonata N Line which turns out to be a fantastic car for a road trip and I take this opportunity to build on social media content at the same time. For the team, it is most challenging as it is difficult to be away from the shop for so many days. They also can’t go back, should we have any issues, to work on them at the shop.”

It seems Mark has developed a liking of driving to some of the race tracks instead of flying. He has done so for several of last season’s races. And it looks like it is to continue to some extent this season as well.

“It is a combination of things that led me to drive to some of the tracks. Yes, COVID-19 is a factor in that. In a way, it was to have a safer approach to traveling and being more secluded, lowering the risks and Leah (Mark’s wife, NDLR) felt more confortable with that. To be honest, it also reignited my passion for driving and I don’t mind long road trips as I have done many in the past. Between COVID-19 and the kids at home and me being home a lot, I felt it was a nice way to get out and enjoy driving. And with Hyundai’s new products, I’ve been able to drive the Palisade, Sonata Hybrid, Veloster N and now the Sonata N line. It is a great opportunity to enjoy their great product and have some fun talking and sharing some of the adventure of the drive on social media.”

“Hyundai has great product they are trying to get out to show people and as our following has grown and the owners of N and N line product has also been growing we have developed a great relationship with a lot of the owners. They said to us how much they appreciate what we do for the brand and how we are showing off on-track and part of that is the connection between road car and race car. So when Hyundai has a cool N product to showcase for the public, I am equally as enthusiastic about those new road car offerings as I am about the Motorsport program. So, yeah, I will certainly be driving to any of the races that are close.”

As soon as Friday comes, Mark will be focused on preparing for the first race to take place on January 29th for the 4 Hours BMW Endurance Challenge At Daytona.

“Rumour has it that there will be 16-18 TCR that will show up for the first race. That would be great but I feel there will be somewhere around 15-16 cars. This weekend will be about continuing to build the synergy within the team as we do have several new team members but also ironing through some challenges and learning about the car and getting into a groove. I think the car will be good. A lot remains to be seen as to how we compare to other competitors and also the Veloster N which are pretty strong. We will stay focused on working up the pace.”

Being a brand new car, IMSA will take a close look at the Elantra N performance.

“It will be a information gathering session for IMSA as they do not know the car. We do have a general idea where we are going to be and having some shared components with the Veloster N, so that could be IMSA officials best source of informations. I am sure they are going to look closely at the car and go from there.”

Image: Patrice Marchessault / PMstills Photography

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