The World Touring Car Cup heads to the Hungaroring this weekend on the outskirts of Budapest, where the grandstands will be packed with flag-waving fans cheering for no less than five homegrown drivers.
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 touring cars 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 2018 Event
|2018 FIA WTCR presented by Oscaro – Race of Hungary|
|Event Dates||28-29 April 2018||Free Practice Session 1||Sat 08:30-09:00|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 10:15-10:45||First Qualifying||Sat 12:30-13:00|
|Race 4 (12 laps)||Sat 15:25-15:55||Second Qualifying Session 1||Sun 10:00-10:20|
|Second Qualifying Session 2||Sun 10:25-10:35||Second Qualifying Session 3||Sun 10:40-10:50|
|Race 5 (12 laps)||Sun 15:30-16:00||Race 6 (15 laps)||Sun 16:55-17:35|
|2018 FIA WTCR presented by Oscaro – Hungaroring Weather Forecast|
|Saturday||14°C – 26°C||Sunday||13°C – 28°C|
Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (UTC/GMT + 2:00)
The Form Guide
The Hyundai i30 N TCR proved to be the car to beat at the season-opening WTCR round in Marrakech three weeks ago, and with no change in the field’s Balance of Performance calculations over the opening two events, it remains to be seen whether the South Korean cars will be as dominant.
BRC Racing Team’s pairing of Gabriele Tarquini and Norbert Michelisz, coupled with owner/driver Yvan Muller and his YMR teammate Thed Björk put in an eye-opening performance in Morocco. Björk and Tarquini shared qualifying honours, while Tarquini won Races 1 and 3.
The i30 was denied a clean sweep in the reversed-grid Race 2, when last year’s TCR International Series champion Jean-Karl Vernay claimed a lights-to-flag victory in the Team WRT Audi RS 3 LMS.
Overtaking at Morocco continued to be a near impossible challenge, and while the Hungaroring is a more traditional road circuit that does not mean that overtaking is any easier. Past TCR races staged here have shown that passing is possible, with local driver Attila Tassi taking two wins, one from the reversed grid, when the TCR International Series visited the Hungaroring last year.
Tassi is one of two local drivers awarded wildcard entries this weekend, taking the entry list to a hefty 27 cars. The teenager will be driving a Honda Civic Type R TCR for the Hong Kong-based KCMG team. The second wildcard entry is being run by Tassi’s former team M1RA which is entering a fifth Hyundai i30 N TCR for former WTCC driver Dániel Nagy.
A crowd favourite since his debut in 2011 and two-time race-winner on home soil in the World Touring Car Championship, Norbert Michelisz will be both a driver and team owner this weekend. While he is a co-owner of the M1RA team, Michelisz’s principal focus will be on his work behind the wheel of the BRC Racing Team’s Hyundai i30 N TCR which struck reliability issues that he sits a distant eighth in the Drivers’ Championship standings and over 40 points behind teammate and overall leader Gabriele Tarquini.
“I’m very excited to race in front of my fans this weekend on the Hungaroring,” Michelisz said.
“The i30 N TCR proved to be a very competitive car in in the hands of BRC Racing Team in Marrakech. Although the Hungaroring is a very different type of circuit to where we started the season we want to show the same level of performance this weekend. It is an incredibly demanding circuit, where overtaking is tricky, so I’ll try to do my very best in both qualifying sessions to start from as far ahead as possible.”
Beyond the Hyundai quintet, expect the Audi entries of of Team WRT and Comtoyou Racing to again feature in the mix. The former’s pairing of Jean-Karl Vernay and Gordon Shedden left Morocco with a decent haul of points and will be looking to go even better this time out, while Comtoyou Racing’s WTCR debut saw the Belgian outfit’s trio of cars beset with brake issues.
With the wildcard entry of Tassi, there will be six Honda Civics on the grid this weekend. Boutsen-Ginion Racing will field Tom Coronel and Benjamin Lessennes, the latter continuing his substitute role for Tiago Monteiro. The three-car Münnich Motorsport team of Yann Ehrlacher, Esteban Guerrieri and James Thompson should be in the points after strong showings by its driving trio in Morocco.
Images via FIA WTCR