The TCR International Series visits Hungary for the first time
For the first time since it was launched three years ago, the TCR International Series visits Hungary and will race at the famous Hungaroring.
Built in 1986 near the village of Mogyoród, the circuit hosted the first Formula One Grand Prix to be held behind the Iron Curtain and since then the Hungarian GP has always taken place there. Its layout has been modified twice; in 1989 to remove the chicane after Turn 3 and then again in 2003, when the pit straight was extended and Turns 1 and 14 were modified.
The combination of different kinds of corners and the elevation changes, makes the Hungaroring one of the most interesting and demanding modern racetracks from a driver’s point of view.
The Hungarian event also marks the first time the TCR International Series supports the DTM.
Success ballast for Comini, Borković and Colciago
With a couple of third places at the Salzburgring, Stefano Comini took the leadership in the standings, but also won the maximum Success Ballast for Hungaroring.
Comini was the highest scorer in Austria, with 30 points, only one more than Dušan Borković, the winner of Race 1, who scored 29. Therefore Comini will carry 30 kilos of Success Ballast against Borković’s 20.
Colciago, who won the second race, was the third best scorer and will be given 10 kilos of ballast (Thomas Jäger actually scored the same amount of points, but won’t be racing in Hungary).
As a result, Comini’s Audi RS3 LMS will weigh 1360kg (1285kg minimum weight + 30kg Success Ballast + 45kg Balance of Performance adjustment), while Borković’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta will have a running weight of 1305kg (1285kg + 20kg SB) and Colciago’s Honda Civic 1315kg (1285kg + 10kg SB + 30kg BoP).
The Austrian races shook up the standings
Jean-Karl Vernay was only one of the drivers who had close encounters with the barriers at Salzburgring’s Turn 9, although his incident was far less disastrous than Tassi’s, Ficza’s and Huff’s.
However, when the Frenchman’s Volkswagen Golf GTI went off on the last-but-one lap of Race 1, it not only sidelined him for the second race, but also cost him the leadership in the Drivers’ standings that he’d held since the event in Bahrain.
By finishing third in both the Austrian races, Stefano Comini became the new leader for the first time in the current season. The Swiss’ tally of 125 points is only three points better than Roberto Colciago’s, while Vernay has slipped down to third position, twelve points behind his former teammate.
Despite the high speed shunt in which he destroyed his Honda Civic during Friday’s testing, Attila Tassi was able to take part in the rest of the weekend at the wheel of a new car that was hastily trucked from JAS’ workshop in Italy. This helped the young Hungarian to arrive at his home event while lying fourth in the classification, with a gap of 27 points.
Michelisz is the guest star for his home event
After celebrating on the podium at the Salzburgring as the M1RA team owner, Norbert Michelisz will be the guest of honour for this weekend’s TCR International Series event at the Hungaroring.
For his home race meeting, he will be at the wheel of a Honda Civic Type-R run by his own M1RA team alongside regular drivers Roberto Colciago and Attila Tassi.
One of the most highly-rated Touring Car drivers, Michelisz has already raced the TCR-spec Honda, taking part in several rounds of last year’s TCR Benelux series in which he claimed six victories.
“I have two goals for this weekend. The first one is to help Attila Tassi and Roberto Colciago in scoring as many points as possible. Both of them are fighting for the championship and M1RA’s main goal is to be successful as a team. I will be a guest driver in the event, so my personal interests are less important. On the other hand I would also like to have a podium finish in front of the Hungarian fans. This would be the best way to give something back them in exchange for their fantastic support,” Michelisz said.
Work in progress: Leopard Racing and M1RA
Two teams are working hard to make up for the damage obtained at the Salzburgring.
Hungary-based M1RA returned to its workshop with the aim of assembling a brand new Honda Civic for Norbert Michelisz’s debut in the TCR International Series.
The plan for Michelisz’s participation in the Hungaroring event was seriously endangered when Attila Tassi crashed on Friday during a test session at the Salzburgring. In fact, Tassi’s replacement car was originally intended for Michelisz. However, as there was not enough time to build another car, it was decided to rent a TCR Civic from another team.
Leopard Racing had an even worse weekend in Austria, as both Rob Huff and Jean-Karl Vernay crashed at Turn 9 during Race 1, a few minutes from each other.
Vernay’s Volkswagen Golf was extensively damaged, however it can be repaired. And the team is currently working on stripping and rebuilding it in a temporary workshop near Budapest.
Huff’s Golf, on the other hand, suffered from terminal damage so a brand new car for him has been dispatched from SEAT Motorsport in Martorell, Barcelona. It is due to be delivered to the team overnight between Wednesday and Thursday, which will leave less than thirty-six hours for the team to complete it and check everything before Huff will sit at the wheel for the first practice on Friday afternoon.
The ‘Michelisz effect’ attracts a number of Hungarian drivers
You could call it the ‘Michelisz effect’. In fact, there is no doubt that Norbert Michelisz’s successful career has triggered an avalanche of young Hungarian drivers in different Touring Car series.
It is no wonder, then, that eight locals will make up the majority of the TCR International Series field at the Hungaroring. Two of them are regulars Attila Tassi and Ferenc Ficza, while another is Michelisz himself.
Zengő Motorsport enters one KIA and four SEAT cars
The Zengő Motorsport team intends to do things in a big way at home and has entered no fewer than five cars: one KIA cee’d and four SEAT Leóns.
The KIA will be in the hands of Ferenc Ficza, one of the drivers who escaped spectacular high-speed shunts at the Salzburgring. In the first Hungarian race, Ficza will drop to the back of the grid thanks to an engine change that occurred before the Austrian event.
The four SEAT cars will be driven by Dániel Nagy, Csaba Toth, Csaba Mór and Anett György.
Nagy is the most experienced of the group, having raced for the team in the FIA World Touring Car Championship. He has also already made an appearance in the TCR International Series, two years ago at the Red Bull Ring, when he created a surprise by posting a brilliant third fastest lap in Qualifying.
Unicorse to run a Giulietta for Márk Jedlóczky
The Unicorse Team will run a Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR for Márk L. Jedlóczky.
After successfully playing handball, 18-year old Jedlóczky began his racing career in 2014 with three victories from the four slaloms in which he took part. In 2015 and 2016 he competed in the Hungarian FRT Series, a mix of slalom and rally events on asphalt, finishing as vice-champion last year.
During the current season he had his very first experience in TCR cars, driving a Zengő Motorsport SEAT León in the opening event of the FIA Central European Zone Circuit Championship at the Hungaroring, where he dominated the class D6-5 in qualifying and both races.
István Bernula drives for Botka Rally Team
A second KIA cee’d TCR will be run by Botka Rally Team for István Bernula.
The team, managed by Levente Kazinczky, was among the first to place an order for the STARD-built KIA and has just received the racing car.
István Bernula is the driver who will have the honour of driving the Korean car in its maiden race meeting. Besides racing mostly in Hungary, the 34-year old Bernula has already gained some international experience in the Suzuki Swift (2nd in 2014) and Lotus Exige European cups. Bernula has been a triple Suzuki champion, once in Europe (2015) and twice in Hungary (2015 and 2016).
Norbert Michelisz on pole for his home races with Vernay second and Tassi third
Norbert Michelisz’s pole position at the Hungaroring was eagerly anticipated, especially since he had been fastest in both the Free Practice sessions.
Unsurprisingly, Michelisz did not let his fans down. After being stripped of the fastest lap in Q1 and finishing behind Jean-Karl Vernay, Hungary’s sports hero responded by setting a new lap record for the TCR cars of 1:52.740.
For a brief moment there was an all-M1RA front row for Race 1, as Attila Tassi had posted a provisional second fastest lap behind his ‘boss’, but Vernay spoiled the party with a lap of 1:53.354.
Mat’o Homola placed his Opel Astra fourth, ahead of Pepe Oriola’s SEAT and Roberto Colciago in the third M1RA Honda. Rob Huff and a brilliant Stian Paulsen ranked seventh and eighth, while Daniel Lloyd had his ninth fastest lap disallowed for not respecting the track limits.
This promoted the WestCoast Racing duo of Gianni Morbidelli and Giacomo Altoè to ninth and tenth, which means that they will fill the front row on the top-ten reverse grid for Race 2.
Qualifying was extremely disappointing for the Audi and Alfa Romeo drivers, as none of them managed to even make the cut for Q2.
After a frustrating start in Practice 2, Ferenc Ficza completed his first laps in the brand new Zengő Motorsport KIA cee’d. It was, however, just a shake down for the Korean car that has still to show its potential.
Qualifying 1: Vernay beats Michelisz
Vernay was the very first driver who was able to be faster than Michelisz since TCR action began at the Hungaroring. The Frenchman and his Volkswagen Golf posted a fastest lap of 1:53.030 in the dying moments of Q1. On his last lap, Michelisz improved as well, but not enough; he settled into second position with a lap of 1:53.209.
The Hungarian actually posted the fastest lap (1:52.847), however it was disallowed for exceeding track limits. A number of other drivers were hit by the same penalty for the same infringement.
Tassi was third with a lap of 1:53.067 that had provisionally placed him on top of the time sheet after Michelisz’ penalty and before Vernay’s final effort.
Møller and Paulsen did a great job, advancing to Q2 for the first time, while Vesnić was soon sidelined by a technical problem.
Among the top drivers who did not make the cut were Nash (13th), Vervisch (14th), Kajaia (16th), the points leader Comini (17th) and Borković (18th), meaning that there were no Audi, nor Alfa Romeo cars in Q2.
The following drivers went through: Vernay, Michelisz, Tassi, Oriola, Altoè, Lloyd, Homola, Huff, Møller, Colciago, Morbidelli and Paulsen.
Qualifying 2: Michelisz set pole position
Homola was the fastest after the first flying laps, with a time of 1:53.495. However the ten-minute segment was red-flagged around halfway, when Møller made a mistake while braking into Turn 1 and crashed into the barriers.
When action resumed, less than five minutes were left on the clock, meaning that the drivers had the possibility to complete only two timed laps.
Michelisz was immediately able to post a time of 1:52.740 that gave him pole position; on his last lap Tassi was clocked at 1:53.406 and provisionally climbed to second, but Vernay improved to 1:53.364 and demoted the young Hungarian to third.
Qualifying update: Homola excluded from Qualifying
Mat’o Homola had all of his qualifying times cancelled by the Stewards following the report of the Technical Delegate that found the Opel Astra did not conform to the homologation paper.
Should the car be modified to return within conformity, Homola will be allowed to start in Sunday’s races from the back of the grid.
Two drivers will also be demoted to the back of the grid because of engine changes: Frédéric Vervisch (who had qualified 14th) and Ferenc Ficza (23rd). Ficza should have paid the penalty in the previous event at the Salzburgring, but couldn’t because he destroyed his car in a crash during the Free Practice.
What the fastest drivers said after Qualifying
Norbert Michelisz (first): “It’s an amazing day, very nice to be on pole at my home track, in front of my fans, and driving for the first time a car of my team… I was quite emotional about it since yesterday. It’s being a wonderful experience and I want to thank all the people in the team, I am so proud of them. The car behaved well, although we still have some understeer, but if you make the fastest lap, you can’t complain. Tomorrow, in the races, I will try to help Attila and Roberto, if I can, but of course, in a sportive way and without messing around! This is my main goal, to help the team scoring points, although I don’t hide that a podium finish in front of my crowd would be great.”
Jean-Karl Vernay (second): “First of all, I would like to say how great it is to have another top-class driver such as Norbert in the series. The presence of guys like him or Rob Huff is really a plus, also for us drivers. Today’s result makes me very happy, as it comes as a nice reward after the very difficult week the team had. Last Sunday, at the Salzburgring, we finished with two wrecks instead of two cars and I too wasn’t in a very good shape… To be able to be here with two cars in perfect conditions and me relatively fit is simply great. This is a good track for the Golf and one I like a lot, so tomorrow the objective will be to score as many points as possible. I don’t think we will be in a position to beat the Honda cars, which are very fast, especially at the start, but if I can score as many points as Colciago and Comini, it will be good.”
Attila Tassi (third): “We did a few changes in the set-up of the car that worked well. I did a little mistake in Q2, which sent me off the limits, and my time was disallowed, but all in all, I am pretty satisfied. Tomorrow, I hope in a good start and a good race, it is not entirely true that you can’t overtake, there are a few places where you can do it, but I will not share my secrets… Racing at home, after the big shunt in Austria, and alongside Norbi is very special, but I do not feel more pressure than usual. It’s good to have Norbi… out of the car, that’s one serious rival less, but it is also nice to have him racing, as he can contribute a lot with his feedback and knowledge.”
More quotes after Hungarian Qualifying
Ferenc Ficza: “I really took the day as a shake-down, but the 4-5 laps I could do in Qualifying were very interesting to get a first impression about the car, which is very positive. It behaves well and has a lot of power, I think there it has a high potential.”
Davit Kajaia: “Both Dušan and I missed Q2 and there was little more we could do. This, with all these slow and medium corners, is the worst track of the season for the Giulietta…”
Stefano Comini: “With so much more weight because of the BoP and the Success Ballast, the car is simply undrivable and even dangerous. It feels like a tank, not a car!”
Attila Tassi wins twice and leads the standings
Attila Tassi turned 18 recently and couldn’t have hoped for a better way to celebrate his birthday. In fact, the Hungaroring event turned into a triumph for him, the M1RA team and Norbert Michelisz who played the double role of team principal and driver.
Tassi broke his duck and claimed his first victories in the TCR International Series, which enabled him to jump from fourth to first in the Drivers’ classification with a margin of six points ahead of his teammate Roberto Colciago.
Michelisz accomplished his mission of ‘bodyguard’ in both races, protecting Tassi’s shoulders in Race 1 and Colciago’s in Race 2, and stealing previous points from Jean-Karl Vernay twice. The Frenchman tried everything to overtake Michelisz, but in the end had to settle with a third and a seventh that earned him enough points to stay in touch with the two leaders, 13 points behind Tassi and seven behind Colciago.
As for the other title contenders, Stefano Comini had a nightmare weekend, struggling to stay on the pace with the full Success Ballast onboard, and scored only one point, dropping from first to fourth in the standings, 25 points behind Tassi.
Pepe Oriola returned to the podium by finishing second in Race 2 and so climbed to fifth in the standings with a gap of 42 points.
After scoring his first points last week in Austria, Jens Reno Møller performed brilliantly in the second race, leading for 10 out of the 14 laps and finishing third, claiming a podium place for the first time. His and Stian Paulsen’s results (the Norwegian was eighth in Race 2) proved that in TCR the smaller teams can actually fight on equal ground with larger and richer outfits.
Race 1: Tassi wins as Michelisz’s plan is successful
Norbert Michelisz proved that he’s not only a superstar driver, but also a fine strategist. After setting pole position yesterday, he made it clear that his aim was to help his protégé Attila Tassi to win his first race and to claim a podium result for himself.
His plan was a complete success!
The icing on the cake was Roberto Colciago’s fourth place that propelled the Italian driver to the top of the standings, while the previous leader, Stefano Comini, did not score and so dropped to fourth.
Tassi, Michelisz, the whole M1RA crew and the many spectators couldn’t hide their emotion when the Hungarian anthem was played on the podium.
There was a lack of position changes among the top drivers, while a number of battles raged for the other positions and several drivers were warned for repeatedly infringing the track limits.
After starting from the back of the grid because of a technical infringement in Qualifying, Mat’o Homola completed a strong recovery to finish 10th; Ferenc Ficza obtained an encouraging 16th position with the debutant KIA cee’d of Zengő Motorsport, although he was later dropped to 19th by a 30-second penalty for a grid position infringement.
Grid: Vervisch (engine change) and Homola (technical infringement) are both demoted (from 14th and 4th) to the back of the grid; Ficza is also dropped (from 23rd to 24th) because of a penalty received in the previous event.
Warm up lap: Bernula’s KIA remains in the pit lane as the team is working to solve a gearbox problem
Start: Michelisz and Tassi make a great start and Michelisz allows Tassi into the lead; behind them, Colciago and Vernay swap third position a couple of times
Lap 1: Vernay keeps third ahead of Colciago and Oriola; Ende retires with differential problems
Lap 2: Vernay is threatening Michelisz’s second place; Huff follows in sixth position and is chased by Lloyd and Nash; Borković pits after contact with Comini, then rejoins
Lap 3: Paulsen drives on the gravel and pits after a contact with Morbidelli; Huff stops on the track with a pierced radiator
Lap 4: Homola recovers to 12th, Ficza to 16th
Lap 5: Morbidelli is chasing Nash who is 7th
Lap 6: Kajaia defends the 10th place from Vervisch and Homola
Lap 8: Colciago and Oriola run two-abreast while fighting for 4th; Vervisch stops on track with a differential problem
Lap 9: Comini and Møller fight for 12th; Demoustier, Ficza and Nagy are immediately behind them
Lap 10: Demoustier overtakes Møller for 13th
Lap 11: Altoè overtakes Morbidelli for 8th
Lap 12: Homola overtakes Kajaia for 10th
Lap 13: Nagy overtakes Ficza for 15th
Lap 14: Tassi claims his maiden win ahead of Michelisz and Vernay
Driver quotes after the Hungaroring Race 1
Attila Tassi (winner): “I am really happy. To win my first TCR International race here at home, in front of my home crowd, is just a dream come true, the best feeling I had so far in my career. I took a good start, and clearly, Norbi protected my… shoulders, I only had to focus on the corners and preserving the tyres, without having to look into the mirrors. In the last couple of laps, I started having some brake and understeer problems, but kept everything under control.”
Norbert Michelisz (second): “It all went according to the plan, but I must stress that Attila really won this race on his own merit, taking a perfect start. He completely deserved this first win, and he has done tremendous progress this year. I know exactly how he must feel at this very moment, and I also feel emotional about it, it’s like winning myself. During the race, I just tried to leave Attila some breathing space, but I had to make every effort to cover the lines and defend my position from Jean-Karl, who was faster in some portions of the track. Now, we should avoid over-celebrating, there is another race later and we need to stay focused.”
Jean-Karl Vernay (third): “It was a pleasure to fight with Norbi, really a great moment. I took a good start, but not good enough to pass the Honda cars, which are so fast at the start. Still, I could pass Colciago, we fought for a couple of corner, but I managed to stay ahead. I am happy with this result, as the objective was precisely to score some heavy points.”
Roberto Colciago (fourth): “It’s not a bad result under the circumstances. Something changed in my car after three laps, there was a sudden drop of performance, we don’t understand why. It has nothing to do with success ballast.”
Race 2: Another win for Tassi and podium for Møller
Attila Tassi completed his and M1RA’s perfect home weekend by claiming another victory and so became the first TCR International Series driver to score two wins in the same weekend since Pepe Oriola in Bahrain last year; a feat that drove the Hungarian fans crazy and propelled the 18-year old Tassi to the top of the standings.
Jens Reno Møller was the other hero of the race, as he led for most of the 14 laps and eventually finished third; the first podium result for the Dane that came out of the blue considering that he crashed his Honda Civic yesterday during the Qualifying, which forced his team to work until 5:00am.
Oriola was clearly determined to score as many points as possible in order not to lose contact with the points leaders; he was able to move up from fifth to second, overtaking Colciago, Altoè and finally Møller on the last lap.
Norbert Michelisz completed his job, by finishing sixth and keeping Jean-Karl Vernay at bay for the whole race, which helped his teammates Tassi and Colciago to build a margin over the Frenchman in the standings.
Two other drivers deserve mentions: Giacomo Altoè and Stian Paulsen. Even younger than Tassi, Altoè did his best to obtain his first podium; eventually he finished immediately behind the top three, but showed he has the speed and maturity to become a top driver. As for Paulsen, he finished eighth and so finally scored his first points in the International Series.
Grid: Nagy’s SEAT is missing due to an oil leak from the engine
Start: Møller sprints from the pole position, followed by Altoè and Tassi who jumps from eighth position to third; there is a series of contacts as the field negotiates Turn 1 and as the dust settles, the count of wrecked cars consists of Kajaia’s Alfa Romeo, Morbidelli’s Volkswagen and Lloyd’s SEAT
Lap 1: the safety car is deployed
Lap 4: the race resumes
Lap 5: Michelisz overtakes Paulsen for 6th; Huff overtakes Demoustier for 12th
Lap 6: Tassi overtakes Altoè for second; Oriola overtakes Colciago for fourth
Lap 7: Altoè defends his third place from Oriola; Homola overtakes Demoustier for 13th
Lap 8: Comini overtakes Huff for 11th; Borković retires with power steering failure
Lap 9: Comini, Huff and Homola have a close fight for 11th with a few contacts; Ende retires with electrical problems
Lap 10: Tassi closes the gap from Møller to three tenths
Lap 11: Tassi takes the lead from Møller; Vernay tries in vain to overtake Michelisz
Lap 12: Oriola overtakes Altoè for third; Vervisch stops on the track with a broken suspension; Vesnić retires with brake problems
Lap 13: Oriola overtakes Møller for second
Lap 14: Tassi claims his second victory of the day, from Oriola and Møller who finishes on the podium for the first time
Driver quotes after the Hungaroring Race 2
Attila Tassi (winner): “It’s unbelievable what was happening this weekend! I could never expect such a day and I am really happy. I turned 18 last Wednesday and this was really a great present! I took a very good start, but there was a slight contact with Altoè in turn 1, and my steering got a little bit damaged. Still, I could pass him shortly after and then started chasing Møller when he made a small mistake. I am now leading the standings, which is great, but it doesn’t mean much, as the fight is so close and the leader keeps changing…”
Pepe Oriola (second): “I really wanted to finish on the podium after some recent disappointments, and I am very happy with the result and with my race. We changed something in the car between Race 1 and Race 2 and it proved effective. Being able to overtake Colciago, Altoè and Møller on such a track was not bad at all. My only problem was at the restart after the safety car, I was caught a little by surprise, as the radio was not working. It was also a good result for staying in the fight for the championship, which will go on to the very end. Still, today’s hero is Attila, I want to congratulate him warmly, and I know what it is to clinch one’s first success at a very young age, he has a bright future ahead. We also welcome him in the selected club of drivers that have won both races of a same event, we aren’t so many!”
Jens Reno Møller (third): “Twenty-four hours ago we were looking at a severely damaged car and almost packing to go home… now we are on the podium, it has been a fantastic comeback, so I am obviously very happy. We just told ourselves that we could not let go the opportunity of starting from the pole in Race 2 and we decided to have a try on fixing the car… We are a small privateer team, with five guys that worked until 5 am to repair everything and did it wonderfully. I took a great start and tried to build a gap, I think I did quite a good job. Tassi could only pass a few laps from the end, when I did a small mistake at turn 12. By then my tyres were dead, and eventually also Oriola passed, but third is a great result, given that our target is the European trophy finale in Adria…”
Giacomo Altoè (fourth): “It has been a tough race, I never sweat so much, but it’s a good result, actually the team’s best this season, although it is a little bit disappointing to miss the podium by so little. At the start, I had to keep Tassi at bay and dived very early into first corner. The back of my car slid and I hit him slightly, luckily with no damage for either. Oriola’s pressure was really heavy for most of the race and I could resist up to the moment my tyres were ok. The car has improved a lot, the tests we did at Adria before the Salzburgring actually helped to understand many things about the Golf. The improvements were not so evident in Austria, because of the long straights, but were much more visible here, and we are very confident ahead of Oschersleben, which should suit the Golf.”
Ferenc Ficza is positive about the KIA’s potential
Despite only taking delivery of the brand new KIA cee’d TCR early on Saturday, Ferenc Ficza demonstrated the car’s future potential by finishing 15th and 14th after twice starting from the back of the grid.
In fact, the Korean car had stopped during its very first lap in yesterday’s Free Practice due to a broken throttle cable. Therefore, Ficza was finally only able to drive the KIA for the first time during Qualifying and treated the session as a shake down. He qualified 23rd and lost another position on the grid due to a penalty from the previous event.
In both races, the young Hungarian was able to recover, although another penalty for a grid position infringement dropped him from 15th to 19th in Race 1.
The second race saw him again climbing up to 14th, which would have earned one point for KIA in the Model of the Year Trophy should the car not have been racing under a temporary homologation form.
“I was able to complete both races, which was an achievement in itself considering that we missed both free practice sessions and the car only turned a wheel for the first time during Qualifying. There is still a lot of work to do; the set-up has to be done from scratch, and I hope that we will have the budget to do some testing, but the car has great potential. It feels completely different from anything I have driven so far, but I am really impressed,” Ficza said.
The series will resume at Oschersleben’s Motorsport Arena, Germany for rounds 13 and 14 on July 8 and 9.
As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as the members of the TCR Talk Facebook Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from the series.
Until next time, all the best!