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Excelr8 Team Principal, Oliver Shepherd, on the team’s new Hyundais

Oliver Shepherd, EXCELR8 Team Principal, spoke this week on the challenges of bringing the Hyundai brand to the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship for the 2020 campaign, with the team building a pair of NGTC-spec I30 Fastbacks over the course of the off-season.

Why did you choose the Hyundais?
“There are a few answers to this, with the first and main point being that Hyundai is currently quite involved with motorsport as a whole as part of its brand, and it’s not yet been a part of the BTCC grid. This is a great opportunity commercially to build a fan base and potentially also links with the manufacturer further down the line.

“Technically the car has some properties which suit the NGTC design very well, such as the overhangs and the wheelbase. It’s very similar in size and dimension to the new-spec Honda Civics that we’ve seen were so successful across the course of this year. And the aerodynamic properties of the base car are pretty good as well. That will allow us to build a front-wheeldrive platform that’s more progressive than what we had this year with the MGs.”

How big a task will it be building two brand new NGTC i30s?
“Ask me that when we’ve finished! It’s definitely not to be underestimated, but at the same time it’s not unachievable. The key thing is to get the chassis working properly. Parts like the suspension are controlled and the engine is controlled, so it’s about making sure you get the bits that you have some freedom to develop as good as they can be. We’ll be focusing on the aero package, the weight and the centre of gravity, making sure elements like those are as strong as they can be to give us the best base.”

Will any of the components used on the MGs be transferred across, such as engine development or running gear?
“Yes, in short. We’re looking to transfer a meaningful amount of components. It makes sense to move the control parts like the suspension straight across to the new cars. Things like the engine and cooling packages we’ve developed with our partners across the course of this year will also come into the Hyundai – it may need some modification, but the technology will certainly be in the new cars.”

How much data from this year can be used with the new cars, or will it be a process of starting over from scratch?
“Quite a lot, we hope. At the start of the year we got some good base data for the MGs when we took over the running of them from previous teams. We’ll have a combination of using that and what we’ve learned from this year to create our baseline for setups and performance goals for the start of this programme. It’s those small areas and changes that make the big differences. We’ll be looking to get 80 per cent of the way there with what we have already, and fine-tune the rest as we go.”

What’s the timescale for the build?
“Having the chassis and with work already underway in preparing them, we’re hoping it won’t be a last-minute thing. We don’t have the resources of a team like West Surrey Racing or Team Dynamics, but we’ve already made a good start. We’re aiming for two complete cars up and running by mid-February, with a full testing programme in time for March.”

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