Race preview: Home racers Hungary for WTCR success
One of the best driver line-ups in international touring car history will battle for top honours when the Hungaroring hosts WTCR Race of Hungary next week (26-28 April).
The second event of the 2019 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO, WTCR Race of Hungary is all set for big action and a big fan following with home hero Norbert Michelisz and rising star Attila Tassi flying the Hungarian flag at the 4.381-kilometre venue, a short drive from the capital Budapest.
Michelisz, runner-up in the 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship, knows what it means to win on home soil, having triumphed in the WTCC races in 2012 and 2015. And after a difficult start to his WTCR / OSCARO season in Morocco earlier this month, he will be hoping the glory days return. “It was a very tough weekend,” said the BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse driver. “P15 in qualifying for Race 2 and 3 was not ideal, especially on a street circuit where it’s difficult to overtake. However, it was a solid performance and we scored important points. I will try to improve for Hungary but I’m in a difficult position to win the race although I never give up.”
Tassi, the 19-year-old Honda Racing-supported prospect, is still adapting to the rigours of FIA World Touring Car racing. But having raced at the Hungaroing since the age of 12, KCMG-run Tassi has track knowledge in abundance. “All the Hungarian drivers grew up on this track, especially my generation because we were racing almost every weekend there,” said Tassi. “My time in WTCR as a wildcard last year was not good but in TCR International two years ago was the best weekend of my career. I was aiming for one race win but I managed to win two. It was unbelievable and a really good feeling.”
Welcome to the #WTCR2019SUPERGRID
The #WTCR2019SUPERGRID celebrates the fact that seven WTCR / OSCARO drivers have won 14 FIA world titles plus 29 other major championships. Gabriele Tarquini, who began his world title defence with the Race 2 win in Marrakech, heads the list. Now carrying the number 1 on his BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse i30 N TCR, Tarquini broke Hungarian hearts when beat Norbert Michelisz to the Race 3 victory at the Hungaroring 12 months ago.
After missing out on the inaugural crown by three points in a seven-way title decider in Macau last November, four-time world champion Yvan Muller is back in a Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR developed by Geely Group Motorsport from China. He has four Hungaroring triumphs to his name but his much-publicised rivalry with Michelisz makes him the driver the bulk of the home fans prefer not to love.
Thed Björk partners Muller at Cyan as he bids for a second FIA world crown and heads to Hungary on a high after giving Lynk & Co an historic victory in Morocco.
Rob Huff (SLR VW Motorsport Golf GTI TCR), the 2012 FIA World Touring Car champion, is one of 12 of the 15 winners from 2018 returning in 2019, with the first of those two victories coming at the Hungaroring. Augusto Farfus, ex-World Rallycross ace Johan Kristoffersson and Andy Priaulx are all world title winners and all new to WTCR in 2019.
Esteban Guerrieri (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR) won the last race of 2018 in Macau before triumphing in the first counter of 2019 in Morocco. Macau also marked Frédéric Vervisch’s maiden success in the series. Like Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport pair Gordon Shedden and Jean-Karl Vernay, the Belgian Comtoyou Racing expert continues with Audi RS 3 LMS power this season and was on the DHL Pole Positon for Race 3 in Morocco.
Mixed in with the legends and experts are a group of exciting young guns aiming to challenge the established order. They include Mikel Azcona, who has graduated to WTCR as the TCR Europe champion, and his close rival in recent seasons, Attila Tassi, who will be the youngest driver in action aged 19 years, 10 months and 13 days when racing begins at his home event on 27 April.
Kevin Ceccon and Yann Ehrlacher are already winners in WTCR, but at 25 and 22 respectively, they remain among a list of exciting young guns that also includes Aurélien Panis, who has switched to CUPRA power for 2019 with Comtoyou Team DHL CUPRA Racing.
Dutch showman Tom Coronel partners Panis, while Daniel Haglöf from Sweden joins Mikel Azcona in representing PWR Racing, the company he co-founded. Both race CUPRA TCRs and both impressed in Morocco.
Nicky Catsburg (BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team) is new to WTCR in 2019 having won in the World Touring Car Championship in the past. ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Néstor Girolami, another newcomer, is also a WTCC race winner, while Benjamin Leuchter has a strong reputation from TCR Germany and played a key role developing the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR. Ma Qinghua brings WTCC-winning pedigree to the WTCR in a Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta having become the first Chinese to score WTCR points last season.
Tiago Monteiro starts his first full season since serious head and neck injuries ended his hopes of winning the WTCC title in 2017. The Portuguese, a Formula One podium finisher in the past, joins Hong Kong-based KCMG to race a Honda Civic Type R TCR. Monteiro’s former team-mate, Norbert Michelisz, is another title contender for BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse and a big fan favourite in Hungary.
All you need to know about WTCR Race of Hungary
Located less than 20 kilometres northeast of Budapest, the Hungaroring is famed for hosting the first Formula One grand prix behind the old Iron Curtain in 1986. Ever-present on the F1 calendar since, the Hungaroring has also become a popular venue for world touring car racing, particularly since the emergence of Norbert Michelisz as a local hero and especially following his pole-to-flag victory in 2015. Resurfaced for 2016 with re-profiled kerbing to boot, the track blends tight turns and fast sweeps while its valley location makes for an initial descent before a climb back up to the high-speed Turn 4.
Date: 26-28 April
Location: 2146 Mogyoród, Versenypálya 0222/2/3/6, Hungary
Length: 4.381 kilometres
Time zone: GMT +2 hours
Fly to: Budapest Airport (42 kilometres)
Race 1 distance: 12 laps (52.572 kilometres)
Race 2 distance: 12 laps (52.572 kilometres)
Race 3 distance: 15 laps (65.715 kilometres)
WTCR qualifying lap record: Norbert Michelisz (Hyundai i30 N TCR) 1m52.176s (140.50kph), 28/04/18
WTCR race lap record: Yann Ehrlacher (Honda Civic Type R TCR) 1m54.129s (138.10kph), 29/04/18
Provisional key timings:
Friday 26 April: Free Practice 1: 17h00-17h45
Saturday 27 April: Free Practice 2: 09h45-10h15; First Qualifying: 11h45-12h15; Race 1 (12 laps): 15h15; Race 1 podium: 15h50
Sunday 28 April: Second Qualifying Q1: 10h00-10h20; Second Qualifying Q2: 10h25-10h35; Second Qualifying Q3: 10h40; Race 2 (12 laps): 15h30; Race 2 podium: 16h05; Race 3 (15 laps): 17h00; 17h45: Race 3 podium
WTCR RACE OF HUNGARY 2018 RECAP
Weekend in short
*Tarquini maintains title advantage with Race 3 win ahead of home hero Michelisz *Cool Huff heads local wildcard Nagy in Race 2 thriller *Race 1 winner Ehrlacher is youngest so far in WTCR aged 22 *Four brands have now triumphed in WTCR
Weekend report: Gabriele Tarquini made it three WTCR OSCARO wins from six starts but only after Yann Ehrlacher and Rob Huff had registered their first victories of the season at the Hungaroring (28-29 April). Ehrlacher, the nephew of four-time World Touring Car champion Yvan Muller, profited from some early-race skirmishes to climb from fifth to first in the space of two corners and win Race 1 for the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport with Esteban Guerrieri making it a 1-2 for the German squad as Norbert Michelisz completed his home podium in third. After being unable to convert his pole into victory in Race 1, Michelisz had another shot in Race 3, only to make a sluggish getaway in comparison to Tarquini’s lightening start. Despite being a constant threat, Michelisz was never able to mount a challenge for victory, much to the disappointment of the thousands of home fans. Yvan Muller took third, emulating his Race 2 achievement when he followed home winner Rob Huff and Hungarian wildcard Dániel Nagy. Audi driver Jean-Karl Vernay was a point-scorer in all three races but was frustrated not to be closer to the leading pace. Thed Björk also struggled for form in his Yvan Muller Racing-run Hyundai.
Winning quote: “I knew that [my uncle Yvan Muller] was the [holder of the] record of poles and also victories at the Hungaroring,” said Ehrlacher. “It feels great already to be on the same grid and even on this list for the winning driver in Hungary. Big congratulations to the other guys, Esteban and Norbi, but I’m happy to share this with Yvan.”
DHL Pole Position Race 1: Norbert Michelisz (HUN) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 1 winner: Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Honda Civic Type R TCR
Race 1 fastest lap: Esteban Guerrieri (ARG) Honda Civic Type R TCR
DHL Pole Position Race 2: Rob Huff (GBR) Volkswagen Polo GTI TCR
Race 2 winner: Rob Huff (GBR) Volkswagen Polo GTI TCR
Race 2 fastest lap: Dániel Nagy (HUN) Hyundai i30 N TCR
DHL Pole Position Race 3: Norbert Michelisz (HUN) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 3 winner: Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 3 fastest lap: Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Honda Civic Type R TCR
TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy: Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Honda Civic Type R TCR
TAG Heuer Most Valuable Driver: Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) Hyundai i30 N TCR