This weekend sees the FIA World Touring Car Championship’s third round, the Race of Hungary, get underway at the Hungaroring circuit just outside of Budapest.
A capacity crowd is expected to be be on-hand, with all the focus being on whether local hero Norbert Michelisz can stop Citroën’s winning run.
|2014 FIA WTCC RACE OF HUNGARY
||Date:||02-04 May 2014|
|Open Test Session||Fri 12:30-13:00|
|Free Practice Session 1||Sat 09:00-09:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 12:00-12:30|
|Race 1 (14 laps)||Sun 13:30-14:00|
|Race 2 (14 laps)||Sun 14:40-15:10|
|Lap Record||1:55.801 (2013)|
* All session times are quoted in Central European Summer Time (GMT +02:00 hrs)
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 it was the first major motorsport event to occur behind the ‘Iron Curtain’), but also because it is synonymous for its slippery surface and lack of overtaking.
The 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.
The Runners & Form Guide
Citroën has dominated proceedings since the start of the season, blitzing the field in qualifying and winning all four races to-date.
The series’ two nercomers, José María López and Sébastien Loeb, currently occupy the lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings, while teammate and reigning champion Yvan Muller is just a few points back in third. The veteran hasn’t had quite the luck of his two upstart teammates, but his experience around the twists and turns of the Hungaroring could swing the advantage back to him.
The first major change since the start of the season sees the first raft of compensation weight adjustments coming into play. With the Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs being comfortably quickest over the first two rounds – by at least 1.5 seconds a lap – the rest of the TC1 class runners will have 60kg of ballast taken off their cars to take their base weights down to 1,100kg.
That weight loss was not expected to make too much difference on the timesheets, the lower weight will help the non-the Citroëns in cornering, acceleration and tyre wear.
Having claimed a 1-2-3 in Friday’s open test session, Honda could see the weight reduction actually play into its hands whereby it might actually be able to challenge for victory this weekend. The works’ runners, Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro, each took a podium finish last time out at Paul Ricard, and will be hoping that they can do one or two spots better this time around.
But in truth all eyes will be on the black and red Honda of local driver Norbert Michelisz (pictured top), who delighted his fans two years ago with a brilliant win on home soil in his BMW. Can he deliver a repeat performance this year?
The field returns to a twenty-car grid this weekend, with Tom Coronel back on track in his ROAL Chevrolet Cruze, which had to be extensively rebuilt in the weeks following his huge startline accident at the season-opening round in Morocco. The Dutchman completed a shakedown run in the repaired car during Friday’s test session, but admitted that he needs much more mileage in order to get to grips with the new car after his previous years spent in BMW machinery.
There will also be an addition to the TC2T class ranks, with the NIKA Racing Honda Civic making its WTCC debut at the hands of Japanese driver Yukinori Taniguchi. The Swedish outfit is running a part-time campaign this year ahead of its move to the TC1 class next year with a newer-spec Honda for Rickard Rydell.
Images via FIA WTCC Media