All weekend, the odds for victory in the Estoril feature race seemed to be stacked in Honda’s favour. The smart money would perhaps have been on one of the team’s three more experienced FIA World Touring Car Cup stars to take the chequered flag, but instead, it was young Attila Tassi who claimed his first ever victory in the championship.
Whereas his stablemates picked up trouble along the way, Tassi ran a clean and rapid race in order to take a well-deserved first win, particularly after successfully repelling the pressure from a train of three Hyundais.
However, had it not been for a hugely unfortunate mechanical failure, this race likely would have been won by Tassi’s team-mate Tiago Monteiro, who had a comfortable lead at the time.
Had the Portuguese driver taken the win on his home turf, he would have left Estoril with a sizeable lead in the championship standings. As a result of that not quite transpiring, the mood within the Münnich Motorsport garage is likely to be very mixed this evening, as was reflected by Tassi after the race.
“It was not see easy to achieve it! But firstly I’m really disappointed to not stand here on the podium with Tiago [Monteiro], as we are speaking about it for so long now,” he said.
“After he had the problem, I don’t know how many laps we had left, but it felt like forever as I had a radio problem.
“I didn’t have any information about the pace or anything, and then I saw the Hyundais were catching up pretty quick, so I was only focusing lap by lap on my exit for the main straight to not give an opportunity to them.
“So yeah, each lap I was giving 110%, and finally it paid off so I’m very happy. Thank you for ALL-INKL for amazing work, and for Honda, it’s just been an amazing weekend.”
Indeed, Tassi had to fight hard to hold onto that first place after Monteiro’s demise, as Jean-Karl Vernay was looming behind to capitalise in the leading Hyundai. For Tassi, this particular battle served as a positive memory of seasons gone by.
“We had this back in 2017 in the International Series when we were fighting for the championship,” Tassi explained. “So we just spoke about it. It’s coming back to old days where each race we were fighting each other bumper to bumper.
“But it’s fair racing. I’m very happy and really enjoying when we are racing each other.”
Since the pair of them stepped up to the World Cup from the early days of the TCR International Series, it’s fair to say that Vernay has been the quicker of the two to acclimatise to the championship.
In fact, Tassi’s last TCR win came all the way back in the European series in 2018, so the Hungarian will certainly be happy to have finally broken his WTCR duck.
“Yes, it’s very far back, so it’s very good motivation for the future and also very good points for the championship,” he said.
“I was always focusing to bring out from me and from my car the maximum that I can, and I feel like I managed to do it today.”
After a couple of seasons to settle into the WTCR paddock, Tassi is really beginning to assert himself as a top contender so far this season.
At the end of proceedings at Estoril, the 22 year-old finds himself in joint-second place in the drivers’ championship standings as Honda’s best-placed driver.
If his development continues on a trajectory like this, Hungary may well have another touring car superstar to cheer for.