After a torrid 2020 season for Norbert Michelisz, Hungary’s favourite racing driver returned to the FIA World Touring Car Cup podium this weekend, in Race Two at Estoril.
The 2019 ‘King of WTCR’ endured a dreadful title defence last season after his Hyundai I30 N TCR was dealt a hugely unfavourable set of Balance of Performance measures.
This year however, the South Korean marque has introduced the new Elantra N TCR model, a sleeker – and so far, faster – sedan.
A such, their drivers have also enjoyed a resurgence to form after parting ways with the hamstrung I30 N, though for Michelisz that title-winning consistency has still been absent from the opening two rounds of the year.
A fifth place in the first WTCR race of 2021 in Germany was then followed up by two retirements, coming in the second race at the Nordschleife and the weekend opener here at Estoril.
However, Michelisz’ podium in the Portuguese feature race (his first since 2019) underlines the fact that the pace is certainly there for good results this campaign.
Speaking in the press conference after the race, ‘Norbi’ was particularly happy for his compatriot Attila Tassi, who took his first ever race win in the championship, following Tiago Monteiro’s retirement.
“First of all, congrats to Attila. I think it’s a good reason in Hungary to celebrate today because he did an amazing job,” Michelisz said.
“Of course, a shame for Tiago but in the end it is how it is. The important thing is we also managed to do a clean race, which was also my plan in the first one! But I didn’t really manage to do that.
“But in the end for me it’s a good base to build confidence because the car was working great in the race. Happy with the podium and very, very happy with how we approached the race weekend. We managed to improve the car session by session and in the end it’s a long time for me not being on the podium and to come back it’s a fantastic feeling.”
Despite the positivity around the Hyundai camp this year, Michelisz isn’t yet thinking about going after his second World Touring Car title. Instead, the 2019 champion is simply focused on regaining confidence and form, though remains cautious about how his team will perform next time out in Spain.
“I don’t know, because it’s the third race so we’ll probably have some compensation weight that will come into play,” he explained. “For me I really don’t think about the championship. I really want to build confidence because the first couple of races were not really ideal for me.
“I still think we have a good package, probably not to win races every race weekend but I want to score points.
“For me I’m happy with P3 and I would have been happy with P5, P6 or P7 in race one because for me this invisible points-scoring finishes will make the difference at the end.
“My target for the rest of the season will be to do clever and clean races and then to score points. It’s impossible to tell where we will be in Aragón, but I have a good feeling so I’m confident that we can finish inside the top 10.”