A great opportunity for Canberra drivers as Hyundai shows what their new N performance cars can really do
When you think of high-performance cars to take out onto a racetrack, Hyundai might not be the first name to come to mind – but their N performance series of vehicles is changing that, and rightly so.
Having written about cars for almost six years – and as the owner of a car that’s built for the track – it was becoming a rather significant point of shame that I’d never set foot (or should that be, set wheel?) on a racetrack until recently.
Just in time, the team at Hyundai kindly invited us to attend their first-in-the-world N Festival, conveniently held at nearby Wakefield Park.
If you ever feel the need for speed, it’s a handy reminder that Wakefield Park Raceway – as good a track as you’ll find for drivers and spectators anywhere – is just over an hour’s drive up the highway from Canberra towards Goulburn. Check out the website to learn more about their frequent practice days for cars and bikes as well as any other upcoming events. It’s very pleasing to see a major manufacturer not forgetting that Canberra exists as well, and providing us with opportunities that are a little closer to home than Sydney or Melbourne!
For my first visit to Wakefield, Hyundai had put on an exceptional event, taking over the entire raceway with a wide variety of things to see and do – from concept cars and the now-iconic Drift Bus, to food trucks, retail stalls, and informative talks from experts including technical specialist Geoff Fear and Hyundai’s factory-backed rally driver Brendan Reeves.
There was plenty happening to keep you busy for the entire day – but as they should be, the cars and the track were the real stars of the show.
The aim of the event was to give owners of the popular Hyundai N vehicles a rare (and even more impressively, free!) opportunity to hit the track, either going flat-out to try and set the best time of the day, or just have fun with a passenger on board. Either way, everybody from complete novices to seasoned experts all got the chance to really enjoy their performance vehicles and see what they could do under the watchful eye and guidance of some of Australia’s top drivers.
Hyundai had lent us an i30 Fastback N for the day, and we made sure we got there early enough to nab a garage in which to keep our car and other belongings for the duration in relative cool and comfort.
If you haven’t done a track day before, take my word for it, it’s pretty exciting, even if you’re not a driver or car enthusiast.
From getting the chance to see some of the best drivers in the country up close and personal, to being able to walk through places you’d only ever see otherwise on television, like pit lane.
It’s hard to describe the incredible sights, sounds and smells of motorsport, from the ever-present heated rubber, fuel and oil, to the roar and squeal of engines as they fly past you at speeds that are hard to fathom.
Part of the fun is keeping an eye on the track to join in the chorus of gasps when the cloud of dust indicates someone has skimmed off the edge of the track. You soon learn who the quickest drivers are, and the ones to watch (and they’re not necessarily the same, because really fast is more smooth).
It’s even more fun if your mates are out there on the track, or you’re getting ready to get behind the wheel yourself.Hyundai seems to be really setting the standard in showing how to maintain a relationship with your customers, and making sure they get the very best out of the vehicle they’ve bought from you. Even the very experienced motoring journos at the track couldn’t think of another time there had been the remarkable combination of a manufacturer-sponsored track day, for free, with timing provided for laps, and passengers allowed.
And the huge number of thrilled and very enthusiastic owners that attended on the day – well over 100 vehicles in total, some coming from as far away as Queensland to check out the track and compare notes with fellow N owners – suggests their customers are really appreciating it as well.
There wasn’t a face without a smile on it all day. The general vibe was that the people there, all different ages, backgrounds and skill levels, were absolutely loving it.
Thanks to good organisation, there was plenty of track time for everyone, and I had the opportunity to do several sessions myself, as well as drive with a passenger (who may never ride with me again …), and ride along with a very experienced driver and trainer who showed us how it’s really done.
The Wakefield track is challenging enough to be very interesting, with a couple of straights, and plenty of sweeping and sharp turns – some tight enough to get at least one wheel off the ground as you shift the car’s weight forwards and to the side when entering a corner, a technique known as ‘trail braking’. A whole day on the track like this gives you plenty of time to warm up, practice, test your skills and then push yourself a little.
When you get it right, you can feel it through your entire body. Likewise, when you get it wrong.
The golden rule of track time is that you can and will come off the track at some stage, and I’ve now ticked that box – and possibly tested my cardiac fitness! – after approaching a tough corner with a little too much speed and confidence. Apparently, it’s a common mistake; you learn how to carry a bit more speed through the previous corner, which means you arrive at the next that much quicker, which in turn means you need to brake earlier than you did before. And if you don’t do that, well … you’re welcome, spectators.
We finished up the day exhausted, drained of adrenalin, hopefully as slightly improved drivers, and with plenty of good stories to share.
Follow the N Performance Facebook page if you’re interested in learning more. It’s worth noting that many very experienced and knowledgeable people, who know way more about fast performance cars than I do, are telling me these cars are very, very good.