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It is easy to draw a parallel between Hyundai’s “N” sub-brand and BMW’s “M” subsidiary. Hyundai uses the same formula: tuning a high trim version of production models for superior performance. The N division is headed by Albert Biermann, retired vice president of BMW’s M division. And the divisions’ names are both a single letter. They’re even next to each other in the alphabet, for goodness sake. But you can make as good a case for a parallel with Toyota’s Gazoo Racing. And I’ll bet that isn’t by accident.

Akio Toyoda was Toyota’s Vice President–and heir to the family. After the automaker cancelled its final front-engine, RWD sports car, the company’s head test driver, “Nürburgring Meister” Hiromu Naruse had some stern words for Toyoda. He said no executive who didn’t know how to race should be making decisions for an automaker.

To Akio Toyoda’s credit, he volunteered for lessons with Naruse. He completely fell in love with racing. He even petitioned the board of directors to start a Toyota Factory Works race team and send him to the Nürburgring 24 Hours. They said no.

So Naruse and Toyoda two men flew to Germany with a volunteer racing team, bought a pair of Lexuses, and competed anyway. Akio Toyoda drove under an alias. They named their team after a car auction website he had been running as a side hustle: Gazoo.com. And thus, Gazoo Racing was born.

Gazoo Racing grew so popular that it eventually became the official Toyota Factory Works team. Akio Toyoda became the company’s president and insisted on producing multiple front-engine, RWD sports cars. GR is still a badge you can find on many special edition Toyota models tuned for performance driving. Why? Because the VP of a Japanese company was brave enough to fight the Germans on their own soil.

Hyundai car racing on the track.
N Division racing at Nürburgring 24 Hours | Hyundai

And that brings us back to Hyundai N. What does the “N” stand for? The Namyang district in South Korea where Hyundai’s R&D department designs “N” cars and the Nürburgring, where they all get tested. That’s right, Hyundai took a page out of Toyota’s book and established a “European Technical Center” within eyesight of the Nürburgring to put its N cars through their paces.

That’s not all. Hyundai is positioning itself as a major contender in the Nürburgring 24 Hours. For 2024, it’s bringing its largest team to date. The N division is entering three Elantra N TCR cars. Another team with some manufacturer support will be racing an i30N Fastback in the VT2 FWD class.

Obviously, Hyundai isn’t against learning from BMW’s M division as it perfects its own N division. But it also has its sights on Toyota’s Gazoo Racing. Often metaphorically. But at the Nürburgring 24 Hours, it will be chasing Toyota’s Gazoo Racing–and BMW’s M cars–literally.

Next, read more on Akio Toyoda’s secret Gazoo Racing quest, or learn about Hyundai’s glow up in the video below: