2012 WTCC Race of Hungary Preview

After last weekend’s hugely popular visit to Slovakia, the World Touring Car Championship travelling circus crosses the border into Hungary, which – with two hometown drivers – is guaranteed to be a crowd-puller when the cars get racing at the Hungaroring Grand Prix circuit.

As usual, RichardsF1.com will be reporting from the sidelines, and we’ll bring you all of the action and gossip from Budapest as the action gets underway. Let’s take a look at our mega race preview…

The Circuit

Hungaroring Circuit Map
Date: 5-6 May 2012
Lap Length: 4.381km
Race Lap Record: 1:57.552, Norbert Michelisz (BMW 320TC) – 2011
Event Schedule: Free Practice Session 1 Sat 09:00-09:30
Free Practice Session 2 Sat 11:15-11:45
Qualifying Session 1 Sat 14:00-14:20
Qualifying Session 2 Sat 14:25-14:35
Sunday Warm-Up Sun 08:45-09:00
Race 1 (12 laps, 53km) Sun 11:20-11:50
Race 2 (12 laps, 53km) Sun 14:35-15:05
Past Winners: Alain Menu (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T) 2011 (Race 1)
Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T) 2011 (Race 2)

Having played host to the Formula 1 circus since 1986, the Hungaroring is an iconic venue on the F1 calendar (not least of which because the inaugural race took place behind the ‘Iron Curtain’), but also because it is synonymous for its slippery surface and lack of overtaking.

The touring cars proved that overtaking is possible at the HungaroringThe much bigger braking distances needed for World Touring Car Championship machinery have rendered overtaking concerns to be rather trivial, but the undulating track certainly presents its own challenges.

Its slow-speed corner sequences play into the strengths of a car with good traction and handling, while also rewarding those that can preserve tyre wear.

Rewind to 2011

The Hungaroring was a late addition to last year’s World Touring Car Championship calendar after the sudden cancellation of the Race of Morocco at Marrakech, and it marked the first time that the championship paid a visit to the country.

With homegrown driver Norbert Michelisz in the field, over 60,000 fans flocked to the circuit to watch the BMW driver challenge the front-running Chevrolets. The Hungarian qualified sixth-fastest for the opening race, and helped trigger a bit of first-lap chaos to move into second, where he chased race-winner Alain Menu across the line.

Hometown hero Michelisz makes a mess of his BMW in Race 2Race 2 was even more dramatic. A heavy shower lashed the circuit just minutes before the race started, and the race was thrown into chaos as the pack funnelled down to the Turn 1 hairpin.

Michelisz went from hero to zero in an instant, attempting a wildly optimistic move at Turn 1 and merely succeeding in cannoning into Kristian Poulsen’s BMW.

Conditions became impossible and the race was red-flagged while they waited for conditions to improve, and in the end it was Yvan Muller who claimed his first win of the season, kick-starting a run to the championship title that would ultimately prove unstoppable. Chevrolet team-mate Robert Huff finished an outstanding second after a disastrous qualifying session that had seen him fail to make the top-ten shootout for pole on Saturday.


The Players

This weekend sees a 22-car field tackling the Hungaroring’s twists and turns, and there have been a of notable changes in the week since the drivers last drove in anger at the Slovakia Ring.

One of the big news items was Isaac Tutumlu’s sudden departure from the Proteam Racing outfit, with the Spanish driver electing to return to the Porsche Supercup championship, one of the support categories for the European Formula 1 races. Proteam will field a single BMW 320TC this weekend for regular driver Mehdi Bennani.

This weekend also sees the return of Russian carmaker LADA, which is entering a single WTCC-spec LADA Granta challenger for touring car ace James Thompson. The Englishman will contest this round and the upcoming Race of Portugal before the outfit returns to the championship full-time in 2013.

LADA makes its return to WTCC competition after a two-year absenceThe all-new Granta replaces the Priora model, which last competed in the World Touring Car Championship in 2009 (pictured).

The Granta is armed with a bespoke 1.6-litre turbo engine developed by French firm ORECA, the same outfit that has developed SEAT’s new (and very competitive) turbo engine.

Aside from this, the field remains unchanged from last weekend’s event in Slovakia. Once again, FIA European Touring Car Cup driver Fernando Monje will be missing in action for SUNRED Engineering.


2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Entry List (Race of Hungary):

No. Entrant Car Driver  
1. RML Chevrolet Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Yvan Muller FRA
2. RML Chevrolet Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Robert Huff GBR
3. Lukoil Racing Team SEAT SEAT León WTCC Gabriele Tarquini ITA
4. Lukoil Racing Team SEAT SEAT León WTCC Aleksei Dudukalo* RUS
5. Zengõ Motorsport BMW BMW 320 TC Norbert Michelisz* HUN
6. Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW BMW 320 TC Franz Engstler* DEU
7. Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW BMW 320 TC Charles Ka-Ki Ng* HKG
8. RML Chevrolet Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Alain Menu SUI
11. Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Alex MacDowell* GBR
12. Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Pasquale di Sabatino* ITA
14. Team Aon Ford Ford Focus S2000 TC James Nash GBR
15. ROAL Motorsport BMW BMW 320 TC Tom Coronel NED
16. ROAL Motorsport BMW BMW 320 TC Alberto Cerqui* ITA
18. Tuenti Racing Team Sunred SR León 1.6T Tiago Monteiro POR
20. Special Tune Racing SEAT SEAT León WTCC Darryl O’Young* HKG
22. Special Tune Racing SEAT SEAT León TDi Tom Boardman* GBR
23. Team Aon Ford Ford Focus S2000 TC Tom Chilton GBR
25. Proteam Racing BMW BMW 320 TC Mehdi Bennani* MOR
26. Wiechers-Sport BMW BMW 320 TC Stefano D’Aste* ITA
27. Zengõ Motorsport BMW BMW 320 TC Gábor Wéber* HUN
69. TMS LADA Sport Lada LADA Granta WTCC James Thompson GBR
74. Tuenti Racing Team SEAT SEAT León WTCC Pepe Oriola* ESP

 * Denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor. Entry list is subject to final FIA confirmation.

Facts, Stats & Predictions

With Chevrolet having claimed victory in both races at the Hungaroring last year – along with seven of the eight races held so far in 2012 – it’s a brave fan who would bet against the blue cars being a force this weekend.

Its three drivers – Yvan Muller, Robert Huff and Alain Menu – head the Drivers’ Championship standings and are covered by just 28 points, so it’s still a very open battle where one slip-up could completely change the points race.

Despite everyone expecting BMW to really be the leading team at the Slovakia Ring, the German carmaker will be disappointed with its showing last weekend, failing to even achieve a podium finish despite front-row starts for Norbert Michelisz and Stefano D’Aste.

All eyes will be on local favourite Norbert MicheliszAll eyes will be on Michelisz – who claimed an excellent podium here last year and set the track’s lap record – to see if he can deliver another fine result on home soil.

Michelisz’s main threat from the BMW ranks will again come from Tom Coronel, who will be keen to bounce back and earn a heft dose of points to keep himself in the title hunt after an unhappy weekend in Slovakia, where he left with a single fourth-placed finish after a disastrous run in qualifying.

SEAT’s improvement continues to impress everyone, with the Lukoil squad claiming a Gabriele Tarquini-led 1-2 last weekend, with the Italian battling to a near-win in the second race.

Granted, it has enjoyed the luxury of unlimited engine changes with its new ORECA-developed turbo powerplant in the opening rounds, but that ‘free pass’ is set to come to an end, so it will be interesting to see how its engines cope under more strenuous reliability requirements.

Chevrolet is finding itself seriously threatened by the improving SEATsThe hard-racing Tarquini will again lead the Spanish’s carmaker’s charge at Hungary, but one must not discount the ever-improving Aleskei Dudukalo and teenage sensation Pepe Oriola, who currently leads the Independent Trophy standings. Also, let’s not forget Tiago Monteiro, who qualified well up the order last weekend despite being saddled with the uncompetitive SUNRED turbo engine. He’s been desperately unlucky this season, and will be hoping for a clean run in both races on Sunday.

Ford is another outfit continuing to improve, and it made another forward step by getting both cars into the second phase of qualifying for the second race running. There’s no reason to question why James Nash and Tom Chilton couldn’t make it a hat-trick at the Hungaroring.

This promises to be another fascinating instalment of World Touring Car Championship action. As always, make sure you visit RichardsF1.com for all of the latest news and analysis from Budapest!

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.