Hyundai Motorsport has confirmed an all-star driver line-up for the 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) season, with reigning champion Gabriele Tarquini and team-mate Norbert Michelisz being joined by Augusto Farfus and Nicky Catsburg.
The Hyundai i30 N TCR proved to be the car to beat in 2018, with Tarquini lifting the inaugural WTCR title whilst Yvan Muller finished as runner-up also in one of the South Korean machines.
With a combined total of 53 race wins in World Touring Cars, the driver line-up for Hyundai’s 2019 campaign is a particularly strong one.
Brazilian Farfus, who left the DTM at the end of the 2018 season, will return to World Touring Cars for the first time since 2010, when he raced in the World Touring Car Championship with BMW, having joined the series in 2005.
Catsburg makes a return to World Touring Cars after just one year away, having raced in the WTCC between 2015 and 2017 with LADA and Volvo.
Michelisz moved from Honda machinery to Hyundai at the start of 2018, and the Hungarian finished fourth overall in this years’ drivers standings, having taken one race win with BRC Racing.
Farfus, 35, and Catsburg, 30, effectively replace Yvan Muller and Thed Björk, who raced Hyundai cars in 2018 whilst working on the development of the Lynk & co 03 TCR for 2019, which they will campaign with Cyan Racing.
The exact distribution of the drivers in 2019 has yet to be confirmed, as has the names of the teams who will run the cars.
The drivers will get the chance to prepare for the new season next month during testing at the Algarve International Circuit in Portugal.
“The Hyundai customer team driver line-up is the first of a series of announcements which will reflect a rise in the FIA WTCR OSCARO 2019 sporting level,” said WTCR Promoter François Ribeiro. “It’s very good news to see two high-level international touring car drivers in Nicky and Augusto back on the grid.
“Both are used to highly competitive environments and will be motivated to chase their first FIA World Touring Car title. No doubt Augusto, Nicky, Gabriele and Norbi will bring an incredible mix of experience and talent to the two Hyundai customer teams.”
Both Catsburg and Farfus will be getting their first taste of TCR machinery as part of the project.
“I am really happy to return to touring car racing in 2019 by entering the WTCR,” said Catsburg. “I have seen most of the 2018 FIA WTCR races and I can’t deny that I really wanted to be a part of it in 2019.
“I have worked with Gabriele and Augusto before and Norbi I know well from my WTCC times. I honestly can’t wait to work together with them next year.
“I have not raced a TCR car yet, but Gabriele just won the championship so I am sure he will bring me up to speed quickly!”
Farfus will dovetail his WTCR campaign in 2019 with remaining part of BMW’s factory GT racing driver line-up.
“I am very grateful for my time, and my success in GT racing, but after seeing the level of competition in the FIA WTCR, I am very excited to be joining the grid for 2019,” said Farfus. “It will be a new challenge for me, as I have not driven a TCR car before – in fact the last time I raced in front wheel drive was back in 2006.
“I am excited to get to work for the Hyundai Motorsport customer teams to make sure I, and the rest of the i30 N TCR drivers in the championship make a fast start to the new season.”
Michelisz is expecting to remain at the front of the field in 2019, adding: “Everybody saw in 2018 how strong the Hyundai i30 N TCR [was]. In 2019 we should be able to race at the front again.”
Whilst defending champion Tarquini is expecting the level to go up a notch next year.
“After winning the FIA WTCR in the first year of racing with the i30 N TCR I am obviously very happy to be returning to the series to defend my title with a Hyundai in 2019,” said the 56-year-old.
“This year the series was very competitive. Next year I expect the racing to be even closer, with more manufacturers and more drivers – including my new teammates – to battle with.
“Together we can now work over the winter to prepare for next season to make sure the i30 N TCR is right at the top of the standings once again.”