I SHOULD BE preparing my’ i30 N for competition, but there’ a Toyota Corolla World Rally Car being lowered out of a transporter in front of me and it’ amazing. The Twilight Rallysprint series, held at Western Sydney Dragway by the North Shore Sporting Car Club, may be a fun event, but the entered machinery is very, very serious.
The transporter in question belongs to Neal Bates Motorsport, which unloads the Corolla WRC of technical director Darryl Bush, a modified Toyota 86 for Lewis Bates, and Neal’ restored Toyota Celica ST205 GT-Four Group A, which won Targa Tasmania and the Australian Rally Championship in 1995. I could stare at it for hours.
But I don’ have time, because a trio of Hyundai i30 Ns await competition. Hyundai has been a keen supporter of the Twilight Rallysprint and has employed rally royalty of its own. Driving the lead car is Brendan Reeves, while for this round another seat is filled by Wayne Bell. Bell drove for the Holden Dealer Team in the 1970s and 80s before piloting Hyundai’ factory F2 car from 1994-1998 in various Asia-Pacific and World Championship rounds. In the third car, there’ me.
The rules of the Twilight Rallysprint are simple: each competitor has five runs, with the fastest three runs counting. Lowest combined time wins. Prior to competition, two slow-speed runs are allowed to check the course and write pace notes. Jumping in the MOTOR silly seat is Brendan’ wife Cass for a bit of intra-marital rivalry.
Given what it has to work with, the NSSCC has done a remarkable job of creating an interesting course. It begins with a sequence of 90-degree turns, continues through quicker access roads with a handful of chicanes and a roundabout for good measure before looping around to blast the wrong way up the drag strip, with an evertightening chicane the final sting in the tail. The chicanes change every round and the quickest cars complete the course in less than two minutes – even the i30N clocks 160km/h.
Our first three runs are completed on the normal Pirelli P Zero HN’ tyres. The car is standard bar some bitier brake pads that give great pedal feel but are more aggressive; it appears the i30 N now has stopping power beyond the capability of its tyres. After three runs and an improvement of 2.9sec, it’ time to bring out the big guns: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s. Hyundai is conducting a lot of tyre testing with the aim of offering a track pack’ wheel/tyre combo for circuit-going i30 N owners.
The new rubber doesn’ transform the i30 N, it just makes it a little bit better everywhere. It shows in the times. Even while getting used to the extra grip, our next run is 1.7sec quicker, the final run a second quicker again to record the 17th-fastest time. The car just feels better; it can be driven more aggressively with a more positive front-end, the inside rear lifting clear of the deck in most turns. The end result is 22nd from 84 entrants, with Brendo securing 17th thanks to his extra power, grip and talent.
Fast forward a week and we’ re at Winton with a set of shiny new Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres, rubber familiar from the HSV GTSR W1. First up, a session on the by-now second-hand standard P Zeros. The track feels a bit greasy, but after a few attempts a lap time of 1:40.7 compares reasonably well to the 1:39.6 Luffy managed during this year’ Bang For Your Bucks.
After bolting the Trofeos on, the first few laps are completed incredibly slowly. The tyres are absolutely brand new and have all the grip of sheet ice.
Once roaded and up to temperature, the i30 N once again feels ace, particularly in change of direction and through Winton’ medium-speed corners. A best time of 1:38.5 shows the value of sticky rubber, but there’ more time in the car.
By this stage BT60C’ brakes are feeling the strain, struggling to cope with one lap’ worth of heat, though to their credit they never give up.
So what’ the upshot of all this fun? If you want to track your i30 N, invest in some sticky rubber, some better pads and fluid, and enjoy taking some much more exotic scalps.
1. Extra grip
1. Post-rally blues
2. Road/tyre noise
3. Turning circle