Prepare for a blast as WTCC heads to Hungary
Race preview : FIA WTCC Race of Hungary
The FIA World Touring Car Championship’s all-action global tour stops off in Hungary next week when thousands of Norbert Michelisz-worshiping fans – and their air horns – hit the Hungaroring for international touring car racing at its finest.
Following the spectacular slipstream thriller at the super-fast Monza last month, it’s off to another famous grand prix venue from 12-14 May. But while the speeds won’t be quite as high as they were in northern Italy, WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Hungary is set to deliver some truly memorable on-track drama and excitement. And a national hero will be in the thick of the fight.
Norbert Michelisz, the original online gamer turned real-life racer, is the man most of Hungary will want to win. Driving for the factory Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team, Michelisz is a driver with revenge on his mind after his bid to take the lead of the Opening Race at Monza ended in retirement following a clash with Mehdi Bennani. The Moroccan, a winner in Hungary last season, will serve a five-place penalty for his part in the incident, while Michelisz will be desperate to claim the victory that got away last time out.
“I would have won quite easily if Mehdi hadn’t turned in on me,” said the 32-year-old Pécs resident. “That cost me the race. Now it’s really important to keep the head down, to work in the same rhythm, with the same kind of approach as before. If we do that we will be a very strong contender for the title and there is still a long way to go.”
Michelisz has won at home in the WTCC twice before, following up his 2012 victory with a euphoric drive to glory in 2015, a performance that helped to secure a step up to the factory Honda team for the following season. “To win your home race is such a nice feeling and there is a nice pattern actually because 2014 wasn’t good, I won in 2015, last year was not so good, so hopefully after a bad year a good one will follow. I know the competition will be strong but all the good drivers are looking for good competition because, in the end, if you are successful with high-level competition then it gives you an extra boost.”
*With four different winning drivers and types of car from the opening four races, much is expected at the Hungaroring with all the action broadcast live around the world and on free-to-air Hungarian TV channel MTVA.
*The WTCC Race of Hungary weekend is always a big hit with vocal local fans, whose kit list includes air horn, customised national flag and anything bearing the number five, Norbert Michelisz’s race number.
*Tiago Monteiro, Michelisz’s factory Honda team-mate, heads the World Touring Car Championship for Drivers by 15 points over Polestar Cyan Racing’s Thed Björk with Björk’s Volvo-driving colleague Nicky Catsburg third and four points ahead of Michelisz. Rob Huff holds a one-point WTCC Trophy lead over Tom Chilton.
*Michelisz will get his own TV channel of sorts during the WTCC Race of Hungary weekend. In a first for the WTCC, a dedicated ‘Norbi Cam’ will follow his progress onboard in both races live on the FIAWTCC Facebook page.
*The WTCC’s established feeder series, the FIA European Touring Car Cup, tops the support bill with three Hungarian young guns in action: Norbert Nagy, Zsolt Dávid Szabó and Anett György. The KIA LOTOS Cup completes the event undercard.
THE WEIGHT IS ON!
The compensation weight carried by World Touring Cars, which is designed to equalise performance using a time-based calculation, will be adjusted for WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Hungary. The updated compensation weight list appears below: Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1: 0kg; Citroën C-Elysée WTCC: 50kg; Honda Civic WTCC: 80kg; LADA Vesta WTCC: 0kg; Volvo S60 Polestar: 80kg.
THEY SAID WHAT?
Thed Björk (Polestar Cyan Racing): “I like the Hungaroring. I like the challenges of it. It’s really nice to have a big city like Budapest so close. It’s completely crazy to see the Norbert fans there and what they are doing but it’s also nice as a racing driver to feel this atmosphere of course. I have good memories from the track and I look forward to going back there. Last year I had to leave directly from the track to go to the airport. At 18h00 I came directly from the track, parked the car and shut off the engine. At 19h20 I took off with a normal plane from the airport so it’s so good it’s close to the airport because my son was born that night and my wife and son are coming this year.”
Norbert Michelisz (Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team): “Racing in front of the Hungarian fans is amazing. It’s always huge pressure in the week before the races. But as soon as I jump out of the car after the Main Race I cannot wait for the next year to be back in the car racing in front of my fans. It’s the most special feeling I have racing at home. I have so many nice memories since my first podium there in 2011, since my first race win in 2012. I remember the great feeling, just moments and memories for the lifetime. I hugely appreciate all the support I have from my Hungarian fans because it’s really special to have these people standing behind me. No matter what happens they are 100 per cent there and supporting me. It gives me an extra boost many times and extra energy, especially when things are not really going my way.”
Rob Huff (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport): “The Hungaroring is one of the most challenging circuits we do because it’s so complex. It really is probably one of the circuits that has the biggest variants of corners. We tend to go to either fast tracks or slow tracks, the F1-style big open tracks or the little street circuits so to go to the Hungaroring, which is a real combination of all those aspects put together, is a real challenge for the driver especially with the set-up of the car. It’s a circuit I love and I’ve always done well at. I won there in 2013 in the SEAT with ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport and then obviously last year I was pushing for the lead against José María López when, unfortunately, I got a drive-through penalty. And then there’s Budapest, a place I like that much that when I went testing at the Hungaroring earlier this season I cancelled my flight home and stayed for an extra two days.”
Dániel Nagy (Zengő Motorsport): “I pushed hard in the last race at Monza to prepare for Hungary and scored my first world championship point. But Hungary is going to be the most important race for us this year and I would like to give a really big performance. We are competing with last year’s Honda so it’s going to be hard for me although I have very good mechanics, very good engineers and the important thing is the guys at Zengő Motorsport are believing in me. I try to continue to progress and score as many top 10 finishes as possible. Maybe if the rain comes and something happens with the other guys we can score some bigger results.”
More on WTCR