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TCR – Attila Tassi is prophet in his home country

2017 Hungaroring_Race 1 startAttila Tassi turned 18 last Wednesday and couldn’t have hoped for a better way to celebrate his birthday. In fact, the Hungaroring event turned into a triumph for him, the M1RA team and Norbert Michelisz who played the double role of team principal and driver. Tassi broke his duck and claimed his first victories in the TCR International Series, which enabled him to jump from fourth to first in the Drivers’ classification with a margin of six points ahead of his teammate Roberto Colciago. Michelisz accomplished his mission of ‘bodyguard’ in both races, protecting Tassi’s shoulders in Race 1 and Colciago’s in Race 2, and stealing previous points from Jean-Karl Vernay twice. The Frenchman tried everything to overtake Michelisz, but in the end had to settle with a third and a seventh that earned him enough points to stay in touch with the two leaders, 13 points behind Tassi and seven behind Colciago. As for the other title contenders, Stefano Comini had a nightmare weekend, struggling to stay on the pace with the full Success Ballast onboard, and scored only one point, dropping from first to fourth in the standings, 25 points behind Tassi. Pepe Oriola returned to the podium by finishing second in Race 2 and so climbed to fifth in the standings with a gap of 42 points. After scoring his first points last week in Austria, Jens Reno Møller performed brilliantly in the second race, leading for 10 out of the 14 laps and finishing third, claiming a podium place for the first time. His and Stian Paulsen’s results (the Norwegian was eighth in Race 2) proved that in TCR the smaller teams can actually fight on equal ground with larger and richer outfits. The series will resume at Oschersleben’s Motorsport Arena, Germany for rounds 13 and 14 on July 8 and 9.

Race 1 – Tassi wins as Michelisz’s plan is successful

Norbert Michelisz proved that he’s not only a superstar driver, but also a fine strategist. After setting pole position yesterday, he made it clear that his aim was to help his protégé Attila Tassi to win his first race and to claim a podium result for himself. His plan was a complete success! The icing on the cake was Roberto Colciago’s fourth place that propelled the Italian driver to the top of the standings, while the previous leader, Stefano Comini, did not score and so dropped to fourth. Tassi, Michelisz, the whole M1RA crew and the many spectators couldn’t hide their emotion when the Hungarian anthem was played on the podium. There was a lack of position changes among the top drivers, while a number of battles raged for the other positions and several drivers were warned for repeatedly infringing the track limits. After starting from the back of the grid because of a technical infringement in Qualifying, Mat’o Homola completed a strong recovery to finish 10th; Ferenc Ficza obtained an encouraging 16th position with the debutant KIA cee’d of Zengő Motorsport, although he was later dropped to 19th by a 30-second penalty for a grid position infringement.

Key facts Grid – Vervisch (engine change) and Homola (technical infringement) are both demoted (from 14th and 4th) to the back of the grid; Ficza is also dropped (from 23rd to 24th) because of a penalty received in the previous event. Warm up lap – Bernula’s KIA remains in the pit lane as the team is working to solve a gearbox problem Start – Michelisz and Tassi make a great start and Michelisz allows Tassi into the lead; behind them, Colciago and Vernay swap third position a couple of times Lap 1 – Vernay keeps third ahead of Colciago and Oriola; Ende retires with differential problems Lap 2 – Vernay is threatening Michelisz’s second place; Huff follows in sixth position and is chased by Lloyd and Nash; Borković pits after contact with Comini, then rejoins Lap 3 – Paulsen drives on the gravel and pits after a contact with Morbidelli; Huff stops on the track with a pierced radiator Lap 4 – Homola recovers to 12th, Ficza to 16th Lap 5 – Morbidelli is chasing Nash who is 7th Lap 6 – Kajaia defends the 10th place from Vervisch and Homola Lap 8 – Colciago and Oriola run two-abreast while fighting for 4th; Vervisch stops on track with a differential problem Lap 9 – Comini and Møller fight for 12th; Demoustier, Ficza and Nagy are immediately behind them Lap 10 – Demoustier overtakes Møller for 13th Lap 11 – Altoè overtakes Morbidelli for 8th Lap 12 – Homola overtakes Kajaia for 10th Lap 13 – Nagy overtakes Ficza for 15th Lap 14 – Tassi claims his maiden win ahead of Michelisz and Vernay

Driver quotes after the Hungaroring Race 1

Attila Tassi (winner): « I am really happy. To win my first TCR International race here at home, in front of my home crowd, is just a dream come true, the best feeling I had so far in my career. I took a good start, and clearly, Norbi protected my… shoulders, I only had to focus on the corners and preserving the tyres, without having to look into the mirrors. In the last couple of laps, I started having some brake and understeer problems, but kept everything under control. »

Norbert Michelisz (second): « It all went according to the plan, but I must stress that Attila really won this race on his own merit, taking a perfect start. He completely deserved this first win, and he has done tremendous progress this year. I know exactly how he must feel at this very moment, and I also feel emotional about it, it’s like winning myself. During the race, I just tried to leave Attila some breathing space, but I had to make every effort to cover the lines and defend my position from Jean-Karl, who was faster in some portions of the track. Now, we should avoid over-celebrating, there is another race later and we need to stay focused. »

Jean-Karl Vernay (third): « It was a pleasure to fight with Norbi, really a great moment. I took a good start, but not good enough to pass the Honda cars, which are so fast at the start. Still, I could pass Colciago, we fought for a couple of corner, but I managed to stay ahead. I am happy with this result, as the objective was precisely to score some heavy points. »

Roberto Colciago (fourth): « It’s not a bad result under the circumstances. Something changed in my car after three laps, there was a sudden drop of performance, we don’t understand why. It has nothing to do with success ballast. »

Race 2 – Another win for Tassi and podium for Møller

Attila Tassi completed his and M1RA’s perfect home weekend by claiming another victory and so became the first TCR International Series driver to score two wins in the same weekend since Pepe Oriola in Bahrain last year; a feat that drove the Hungarian fans crazy and propelled the 18-year old Tassi to the top of the standings. Jens Reno Møller was the other hero of the race, as he led for most of the 14 laps and eventually finished third; the first podium result for the Dane that came out of the blue considering that he crashed his Honda Civic yesterday during the Qualifying, which forced his team to work until 5:00 this morning. Oriola was clearly determined to score as many points as possible in order not to lose contact with the points leaders; he was able to move up from fifth to second, overtaking Colciago, Altoè and finally Møller on the last lap. Norbert Michelisz completed his job, by finishing sixth and keeping Jean-Karl Vernay at bay for the whole race, which helped his teammates Tassi and Colciago to build a margin over the Frenchman in the standings. Two other drivers deserve mentions: Giacomo Altoè and Stian Paulsen. Even younger than Tassi, Altoè did his best to obtain his first podium; eventually he finished immediately behind the top three, but showed he has the speed and maturity to become a top driver. As for Paulsen, he finished eighth and so finally scored his first points in the International Series.

Key facts Grid – Nagy’s SEAT is missing due to an oil leak from the engine Start – Møller sprints from the pole position, followed by Altoè and Tassi who jumps from eighth position to third; there is a series of contacts as the field negotiates Turn 1 and as the dust settles, the count of wrecked cars consists of Kajaia’s Alfa Romeo, Morbidelli’s Volkswagen and Lloyd’s SEAT Lap 1 – the safety car is deployed Lap 4 – the race resumes Lap 5 – Michelisz overtakes Paulsen for 6th; Huff overtakes Demoustier for 12th Lap 6 – Tassi overtakes Altoè for second; Oriola overtakes Colciago for fourth Lap 7 – Altoè defends his third place from Oriola; Homola overtakes Demoustier for 13th Lap 8 – Comini overtakes Huff for 11th; Borković retires with power steering failure Lap 9 – Comini, Huff and Homola have a close fight for 11th with a few contacts; Ende retires with electrical problems Lap 10 – Tassi closes the gap from Møller to three tenths Lap 11 – Tassi takes the lead from Møller; Vernay tries in vain to overtake Michelisz Lap 12 – Oriola overtakes Altoè for third; Vervisch stops on the track with a broken suspension; Vesnić retires with brake problems Lap 13 – Oriola overtakes Møller for second Lap 14 – Tassi claims his second victory of the day, from Oriola and Møller who finishes on the podium for the first time

Driver quotes after the Hungaroring Race 2

Attila Tassi (winner): « It’s unbelievable what was happening this weekend! I could never expect such a day and I am really happy. I turned 18 last Wednesday and this was really a great present! I took a very good start, but there was a slight contact with Altoè in turn 1, and my steering got a little bit damaged. Still, I could pass him shortly after and then started chasing Møller when he made a small mistake. I am now leading the standings, which is great, but it doesn’t mean much, as the fight is so close and the leader keeps changing… »

Pepe Oriola (second): « I really wanted to finish on the podium after some recent disappointments, and I am very happy with the result and with my race. We changed something in the car between Race 1 and Race 2 and it proved effective. Being able to overtake Colciago, Altoè and Møller on such a track was not bad at all. My only problem was at the restart after the safety car, I was caught a little by surprise, as the radio was not working. It was also a good result for staying in the fight for the championship, which will go on to the very end. Still, today’s hero is Attila, I want to congratulate him warmly, and I know what it is to clinch one’s first success at a very young age, he has a bright future ahead. We also welcome him in the selected club of drivers that have won both races of a same event, we aren’t so many! »

Jens Reno Møller (third): « Twenty-four hours ago we were looking at a severely damaged car and almost packing to go home… now we are on the podium, it has been a fantastic comeback, so I am obviously very happy. We just told ourselves that we could not let go the opportunity of starting from the pole in Race 2 and we decided to have a try on fixing the car… We are a small privateer team, with five guys that worked until 5 am to repair everything and did it wonderfully. I took a great start and tried to build a gap, I think I did quite a good job. Tassi could only pass a few laps from the end, when I did a small mistake at turn 12. By then my tyres were dead, and eventually also Oriola passed, but third is a great result, given that our target is the European trophy finale in Adria… »

Giacomo Altoè (fourth): « It has been a tough race, I never sweat so much, but it’s a good result, actually the team’s best this season, although it is a little bit disappointing to miss the podium by so little. At the start, I had to keep Tassi at bay and dived very early into first corner. The back of my car slid and I hit him slightly, luckily with no damage for either. Oriola’s pressure was really heavy for most of the race and I could resist up to the moment my tyres were ok. The car has improved a lot, the tests we did at Adria before the Salzburgring actually helped to understand many things about the Golf. The improvements were not so evident in Austria, because of the long straights, but were much more visible here, and we are very confident ahead of Oschersleben, which should suit the Golf. »

Ferenc Ficza is positive about the KIA’s potential

Despite only taking delivery of the brand new KIA cee’d TCR early on Saturday, Ferenc Ficza demonstrated the car’s future potential by finishing 15th and 14th after twice starting from the back of the grid. In fact, the Korean car had stopped during its very first lap in yesterday’s Free Practice due to a broken throttle cable. Therefore, Ficza was finally only able to drive the KIA for the first time during Qualifying and treated the session as a shake down. He qualified 23rd and lost another position on the grid due to a penalty from the previous event. In both races, the young Hungarian was able to recover, although another penalty for a grid position infringement dropped him from 15th to 19th in Race 1. The second race saw him again climbing up to 14th, which would have earned one point for KIA in the Model of the Year Trophy should the car not have been racing under a temporary homologation form.

« I was able to complete both races, which was an achievement in itself considering that we missed both free practice sessions and the car only turned a wheel for the first time during Qualifying. There is still a lot of work to do; the set-up has to be done from scratch, and I hope that we will have the budget to do some testing, but the car has great potential. It feels completely different from anything I have driven so far, but I am really impressed, » Ficza said.

Press release TCR

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