The FIA World Touring Car Cup heads to the Hungaroring this weekend on the outskirts of Budapest for the second round of the 2019 season, where the grandstands will be packed with flag-waving fans cheering for no less than three homegrown drivers.
|Location||Mogyoród, Hungary||Circuit Length||4.381 km / 2.722 mi|
|Opened||1985||First WTCR Event||2018|
|Direction||Clockwise||Race Lap Record||1:54.129 – Yann Ehrlacher (2018)|
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 less significant, 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.
|2019 FIA WTCR / Oscaro Race of Hungary – Provisional Schedule|
|Event Dates||26-28 April 2019||Free Practice 1||Fri 17:00-17:45|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 09:45-10:15||Race 1 Qualifying||Sat 11:45-12:15|
|Race 1 (12 laps)||Sat 15:15-15:45||Race 2 & 3 Qualifying (Q1)
|Race 2 & 3 Qualifying (Q2)||Sun 10:25-10:35||Race 2 & 3 Qualifying (Q3)||Sun 10:40-10:50|
|Race 2 (12 laps)||Sun 15:30-16:00||Race 3 (15 laps)||Sun 17:00-17:35|
Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (UTC/GMT + 02:00)
Rewind to 2018
Gabriele Tarquini made it three WTCR wins from six starts by the end of the Race of Hungary round to extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings, but only after Yann Ehrlacher and Rob Huff had registered their first victories of the season at the Hungaroring.
Ehrlacher, the nephew of four-time World Touring Car champion Yvan Muller, profited from some early-race skirmishes to climb from fifth to first in the space of two corners and win Race 1 for the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport with teammate Esteban Guerrieri dutifully following in his wheeltracks to make it a 1-2 for the German squad as Norbert Michelisz completed his home podium in third.
After being unable to convert his pole into victory in Race 1, Michelisz had another shot in Race 3, only to make a sluggish getaway in comparison to Tarquini’s lightning start. Despite being a constant threat, Michelisz was never able to mount a challenge for victory, much to the disappointment of the thousands of home fans.
Yvan Muller took third, emulating his Race 2 achievement when he followed home winner Rob Huff and Hungarian wildcard Dániel Nagy (pictured below). Audi driver Jean-Karl Vernay was a point-scorer in all three races but was frustrated not to be closer to the leading pace. Thed Björk also struggled for form in his Yvan Muller Racing-run Hyundai.
The Hungaroring Form Guide
While one of the best driver line-ups in international touring car history will battle for top honours when the Hungaroring hosts WTCR Race of Hungary, local fans will only have eyes for their home heroes Norbert Michelisz and rising star Attila Tassi who will be flying the Hungarian flag.
Michelisz, runner-up in the 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship, knows what it means to win on home soil, having triumphed in the WTCC races in 2012 and 2015. And after a difficult start to his WTCR / OSCARO season in Morocco earlier this month, he will be hoping the glory days return.
“It was a very tough weekend,” said the BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse driver. “P15 in qualifying for Race 2 and 3 was not ideal, especially on a street circuit where it’s difficult to overtake. However, it was a solid performance and we scored important points. I will try to improve for Hungary but I’m in a difficult position to win the race although I never give up.”
Tassi, the 19-year-old Honda Racing-supported prospect, is still adapting to the rigours of FIA World Touring Car racing in his first full-time season of top-tier touring car racing. But having raced at the Hungaroing since the age of 12, KCMG-run Tassi has track knowledge in abundance.
“All the Hungarian drivers grew up on this track, especially my generation because we were racing almost every weekend there,” he said. “My time in WTCR as a wildcard last year was not good but in TCR International two years ago was the best weekend of my career. I was aiming for one race win but I managed to win two. It was unbelievable and a really good feeling.”
Images via FIA WTCR Media