With one event to spare, Gilles Magnus has been crowned the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) Rookie of the Year at Motorland Aragón today.
The 21-year-old, who is financially supported by the Royal Automobile Club Belgium (RACB), first made his début in TCR machinery last year in the TCR Europe series. Arriving as the 2018 Belgian Endurance Champion, Magnus immediately made an impact in TCR Europe, scoring a podium finish on his debut weekend at the Hungaroring.
Magnus went on to finish sixth in the 2019 standings, and was set to team up with Comtoyou Racing once again for a second assault on the European championship this year.
However, when the WTCR unveiled a revised Europe-only calendar due to Covid-19 difficulties, Magnus found himself fast-tracked to the world stage.
Once again, he made an impressive début in the early rounds of the year, even going on to claim a brace of outright podium finishes at the Slovakiaring. Since then, the youngster hasn’t let off the pace, and always looked like he would be the natural recipient of this season’s rookie honours.
Reflecting on the weekend, Magnus said, “I think we can be happy with winning this title before the end of the season, it shows how dominant we were in this class and that’s a positive thing.
“We showed our pace and we showed that even as a rookie we can be at the front, so I think that’s really important.”
Despite the accolades, Magnus leaves the circuit with some frustrations about what he might have left on the table, with Sunday not quite going how he had planned overall.
“As for today, today was not the day we hoped for,” he explained. “For sure race two was really terrible in the end. I think we made some wrong decisions and we’ll be back here in two weeks, so we’ll have to see what went wrong, analyse it and move on.
“We tried something [on the set-up] which didn’t work out. I knew in race two that the pace wasn’t enough to win the race [from pole position] in race three, so I knew we had to try something and change something. That’s what we did but the wrong direction I think.
“In the beginning the pace was there, but the degradation was too big and at the end the pace just wasn’t there anymore.
“I also got the message to let Nathanaël [Berthon] by. We’ll have to speak about that because I wouldn’t have done it in these circumstances, but anyway we’ll talk about that internally as a team.”
Fully aware of the investment that RACB have made in him, Magnus wanted to thank them in particular for helping him make his mark at such an elite level.
“I can only be grateful and thankful that they [the RACB] gave me this opportunity and that they are still supporting me,” he said. “Because without them, I wouldn’t be here at all.
“So thanks to the guys for some great support, they do really great things with Belgian young guys like me to give them opportunities they otherwise would never have, so thank you guys!”