The FIA World Touring Car Championship’s first European race occurs this weekend at the Hungaroring, where the series will make its fifth visit to the tight and twisty circuit on the outskirts of Budapest.
The event is the home race of Norbert Michelisz, who will be chasing his first race victory since October 2013 in the Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic, but it will be the all-conquering Citroëns who will again be the most fancied having won all four races to-date this season, although they will now be 60kg heavier than their competition.
|2015 FIA World Touring Car Championship MOL Group Race of Hungary|
|Date||01-03 May 2015||Lap Length||4.381km|
|Open Test Session||Fri 18:30-19:00||Free Practice Session 1||Sat 09:00-09:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 11:30-12:00||Qualifying Session 1||Sat 14:30-14:50|
|Qualifying Session 2||Sat 14:55-15:05||Qualifying Session 3||Sat 15:10-15:30|
|Race 1 (14 laps)||Sun 13:30-14:00||Race 2 (14 laps)||Sun 14:40-15:10|
Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (GMT + 02:00)
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 comparatively more 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 Form Guide
With defending champion José María López having won two of the first four races of the season and teammates Sébastien Loeb and Yvan Muller claiming the two reversed grid races in Argentina and Morocco, the Citroën trio head into Hungary in the top-three positions in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
Last year’s Race of Hungary saw Citroën in a similarly undefeated position, but Gianni Morbidelli put an end to the French carmaker’s unbeaten run by winning the reversed-grid Race 2 in his Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet. The new high-downforce aerodynamic regulations had rendered overtaking a much tougher ask than in previous years, and so the Italian was able to fend off Tiago Monteiro’s Honda for the entire race, while the the Citroëns were trapped behind Tom Coronel’s ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet.
An added challenge for the field’s five Citroën runners is that they will start with an additional 60kg of performance ballast apiece, this being the first round of the season where the WTCC’s compensation weight adjustments start to kick in. Having been comfortably fastest of the four car makes across the preceding two rounds, the gap to the C-Elysées could be trimmed this weekend.
The Hondas have been closest to the Citroëns’ pace – factory drivers Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro currently lie fifth and sixth respectively in the standings – and the Japanese marque has been busy in the fortnight since the previous round in Morocco. The Civic WTCCs will have a heavily upgraded aero package, which was successfully tested at the Nürburgring Nordschleife earlier this week.
The LADA team has also had a busy fortnight, although much of its work was spent in the team’s garages conducting major repair and rebuild work thanks to the Race 2 collision between teammates Mikhail Kozlovskiy and Rob Huff.
The latter needed to have the spare car built into race specifications, while also repairing Kozlovskiy’s Vesta TC1 and running its other car at the Nürburgring Nordschleife in readiness for next month’s Race of Germany.
The grid for this weekend’s pair of races is expected to be just 17 cars. NIKA International confirmed it will withdraw from this event as a result of Rickard Rydell’s ongoing throiditis treatment, while fellow Honda runners Proteam Racing are expected to be without a driver thanks to the sudden departure of Dušan Borković.
Image via FIA WTCC Media