WTCR season build-up Q&A: Bence Boldizs
Talent-spotted by Zoltán Zengő like Norbert Michelisz, Bence Boldizs will continue to follow in the wheel tracks of his illustrious compatriot when he lines up for his second season in the WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup in 2021.
“I was dreaming about this possibility to be in the WTCR one day and fighting against Norbi. But I never thought I could have an opportunity”
Having impressed during his debut WTCR campaign after switching from rallycross, the 23-year-old from Budapest gets another opportunity with the team that gave him his first, competing once again in a Goodyear-equipped CUPRA Leon Competición, albeit under the new Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy banner.
With team-mates Mikel Azcona, Jordi Gené and Rob Huff to call on for guidance, Boldizs is well placed to build his experience, but he’s also keen to build his speed. This is what he’s had to say.
Rob Huff, your new team-mate, describes you as a “huge star of the future to keep an eye on”. What do you think when you hear that from a driver of his calibre?
“I’m really pleased to hear that. We met when we did a test at the Hungaroring recently. Rob is a really nice guy and it will be amazing to work with him, that’s for sure. But I’m in an exceptional position not just to learn from Rob, but from Mikel and from Jordi. I’m lucky to have them all in my team and I’m really pleased to learn from them. I’m probably the most inexperienced diver on the grid so to have their support is really important to me.”
Rob was surprised you’re so inexperienced, so are you surprised at what you have been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time?
“I would say I’m a bit surprised. I never thought that I can reach the Q2 in my debut season. In my second TCR race in TCR Eastern Europe last season I could finish in P2 so I could score my first podium in the TCR world. Of course, it was TCR Eastern Europe, which is obviously a great championship to learn, but WTCR is definitely another level. In six qualifying sessions in WTCR I could be in the Q2 three times and this surprised me, for sure, but I’m really happy with that and pleased. I was over the moon when I did it for the first time and when I had the DHL Pole Position for Race 2 in Hungary, that was a special moment.”
Luca Engstler, one of you rivals from the FIA Junior Driver category, describes the level of the top WTCR drivers as “crazy”. How much do you agree?
“I totally agree with Luca because their level is exceptional to be honest. They are not making any mistakes, they are super-sharp and super-fast. But I was not surprised because this is world level and they are the best in touring car racing. It’s really difficult for me to be able to fight with these guys, but I am here to fight and learn. Hopefully, in this season after the Nordschleife, I can achieve some Q2 positions and be able to fight against them.”
Do you feel you have their respect on track yet, or were they a bit rough with you as the new kid in town?
“Last year I didn’t have the possibility to fight against Yvan or Yann, but when I fought with drivers like Luca, Tiago [Monteiro] and Néstor [Girolami], especially in Aragón, I was really happy I could overtake them, have good races but with no contact between us. I don’t know if they have respect for me or not, but the fight was always clean, definitely.”
There’s obviously the famous photograph of you racing Norbert Michelisz at the Hungaroring last season. What does that image mean to you?
“That’s my favourite photo from last year − or maybe the DHL Pole Position photo from the same weekend! But I really love that photo. To be honest when I was a kid and when I was racing in Hungary in the Suzuki Swift Cup, of course I was dreaming about this possibility and to be in the WTCR one day and fighting against Norbi. But at that point I never thought I could have an opportunity to be in the WTCR and fight against Norbi. To be honest I never thought it could be possible and it would not have been had it not been for Zoltán Zengő. He called me last year to have a test and I can only be grateful to Zengő for giving me this opportunity. It was a dream come true last year and it’s so good to get another chance.”
At the time, could you believe what was happening, that you were racing Norbi in WTCR?
“When it was happening, I don’t think, ‘He’s Norbi, my local hero’. He was just another driver and I respect him and didn’t want to push him or have any contact between us, even though I could affect him a bit after the safety car period. After the race when I was watching my onboard video, I said to myself, ‘what the hell, I’m fighting against my childhood hero’. That was really unbelievable and am I dreaming or not but that was only my feeling after the race. During the race he was just another rival to beat.”
Did you speak to him about it afterwards?
“After that race no, but before the WTCR season he called me and he congratulated me to be another Hungarian in the WTCR. He told me he was really looking forward to be there and fight against each other. Unfortunately, with the COVID-19, we couldn’t really have big conversations during the race weekends because all the teams were separate from each other. But it was a really good moment when he called me and I was really happy.”
How have your winter preparations gone, are you ready for the new season?
“My winter preparation was the best so far in my career. I lost five kilos lifting weights, cycling a lot and running a lot. I was also doing a lot of preparation on the simulator. I feel really good and we also had some tests at the Hungaroring so we have some new experience with the car even if it was just at this track. I feel ready but the Nordschleife is another story. I only did six laps last year because of the problems we had with the noise of my car in the practice and the qualifying. Even though I only had six laps in my pocket it was still amazing to be there and I can’t wait to race there again at the start of the new season.”
What else have you done to keep busy during the winter?
“I have been coaching rallycross drivers from age 11 to 13. They are doing the same rallycross championship that I was racing in 2019 and I’m pleased to have this opportunity to help them.”
What’s your aim for this season?
“I am still in the learning phase and I still have a lot to learn for sure, but that’s my aim for this season and to reach Q2 many times. Because if that can happen then I will get good starting positions for the races.”
MORE ON BENCE BOLDIZS: REVISIT WTCR FAST TALK, TALENT-SPOTTED LIKE NORBI
“It’s a pleasure to be here, to race against these legendary drivers, to race with Zengő Motorsport. We all know Norbi [Michelisz] started [with this team] and right now he’s the King of WTCR. I was really happy when he won the championship, it was an emotional day for every Hungarian. We have a lot more time to prepare of course [before the first scheduled race in Austria]. We had only one test day but I really, really enjoyed it. This car is a beast and the result was quite promising by the way. We didn’t really try set-ups, we were just getting used to the car.”