WTCR - Pre-event virtual press conference | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WTCR - Pre-event virtual press conference

16.10.20

WTCR - Race of Hungary - Pre-event Virtual Press Conference Transcript

Thed Björk, Luca Filippi, Gábor Kismarty-Lechner, Norbert Michelisz and Attila Tassi attended the virtual pre-event press conference for WTCR Race of Hungary. A transcript follows.

Press Conference Room, Hungaroring, October 16, 2020

In attendance:
Thed Björk, Cyan Performance Lynk & Co
Luca Filippi, Team Mulsanne
Gábor Kismarty-Lechner, Zengő Motorsport
Norbert Michelisz, BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse
Attila Tassi, ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport

Q:
Turning first to Luca Filippi, you’re competing in the WTCR for the first time this season, doing most of the rounds as a wildcard. What’s it like to be driving for Team Mulsanne in the WTCR?

LF:
It feels great, obviously it’s an amazing series. I’ve been following this category since I was a kid. Okay, it was not the same series but I remember the season finale at Monza with those cars getting into the first chicane and to see those fights. From my side I had this opportunity and it’s very interesting for me to race with Team Mulsanne by Romeo Ferraris, the guys are an amazing group and they work very well together. Of course, it was a bit of a last-minute programme but it was an amazing opportunity. The first weekend we didn’t have so much preparation, we couldn’t even test the car but I think already last weekend in Slovakia we showed we could do well together so I am really looking forward to this weekend.

Q:
I imagine you are looking forward to this weekend because you actually know the Hungaroring unlike the other circuits on the calendar. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience around here?

LF:
For sure it’s the very first time that I can race at a track where I have raced before, even with a front-wheel-drive car, which was last year in TCR Europe. I am really looking forward to it. In GP2 I had a couple of podium finishes and in Auto GP I won a couple of times here and I know very well this place. It’s very tricky. You have to find a good rhythm for sector two because every corner needs a bit of a rhythm and a flow and if you miss once an apex then you really destroy your sector until the end of it. You have to be very focused, especially tomorrow when we don’t know how the conditions are going to be, but we have to be on top of it.

Q:
You have an agile car that’s also light. How will it perform this weekend?

LF:
After several weekends the performance of the cars could be very even for this weekend. From my point of view anybody could be on top after qualifying. The thing is going to be to optimise the set-up during free practice and really do our best in qualifying. From my side we can be very fast but we can’t miss any single hundredth of a tenth of a second, it’s going to be crucial tomorrow.

Q:
Turning next to Thed Björk, a driver with plenty of experience in World Touring Car racing. You had a tricky weekend in Slovakia but you come here 20 kilograms lighter and with 10 millimetres different in your ride height. How much difference is that going to make?

TB:
The big thing was the ride height, that will make a difference and hopefully we’ll be back fighting with the others because in Slovakia we didn’t feel like we could fight. If you’re not doing that then there’s no point but if we can be there to fight then that’s the good thing. Many cars, many drivers are really fast and good here. It’s going to be great to be able to fight.

Q:
You like this circuit don’t you?

TB:
I like this circuit. I have so many good histories from Hungary. I remember one time I drove Formula 3000 here in 2002 and they took me and Tomáš Enge for a doping test. It went well for me but not for Enge. That was an experience. Then another time when I was flying home from Hungaroring I got the special VIP treatment to go home as fast as possible because my son arrived when I was in the plane. There are a lot of good emotions here in Hungary.

Q:
As Luca touched on it’s not easy to put a good lap together. Can you tell us what it is that makes it so difficult?

TB:
Luca was correct about the rhythm. You need a good rhythm because almost all corners of the track are connected and if you miss one you are gone later. Get your rhythm in and get the grip because the track has some fast entries but also some slow corners so you need the mix of a good car to handle all these things.

Q:
The weather conditions are looking changeable for tomorrow but mainly dry on Sunday. How much difference will that make for the weekend?

TB:
Maybe the colder weather will make the racing even more fun to watch because this is a hard track on tyres and usually we struggle with understeer. When it’s colder the tyres will be better making it easier to fight during the whole race. So probably this can be a good thing, even though it’s cold outside.

Q:
In Slovakia you went for quite a conservative tyre choice with wet tyres all round. What was the reason for this and what can you learn from it for this weekend?

TB:
Don’t do it again! It was standing in the back there and I didn’t have the car to fight with so I thought let’s try to do this. But then it dried way too fast. What I learned for the next time was to go with the strategy of the others and then try to beat the others because I love when it’s tricky conditions. So, for me, it would have been better to have gone with four slicks. But for me we wanted to take a gamble considering where we were starting on the grid.

Q:
Turning next to Gábor Kismarty-Lechner, this is obviously your home circuit, you’re very experienced around this track so how much is that going to fall in your favour this weekend?

GKL:
I have a lot of experience here in Hungaroring, I have many podiums in different categories. But this weekend I am pretty sure that I will not visit the podium. But on the other hand, it’s one of the most beautiful circuits in all of the world. Maybe not the most beautiful but the fans are the best in all of the world. This weekend we will miss the fans, it will be something different for everybody because it’s a noisy track normally. These guys are the best from all over the world and it’s not easy to compete with them but I try to be faster and faster and then we will see.

Q:
Do you feel like you’ve really learned the new CUPRA now?

GKL:
The new CUPRA is quite different to the old one. I felt quite confident with the old one but now we have something new. On one hand it’s quite good because it’s a very fast car and we can see Mikel [Azona] is doing a great job in the team but I am still in a learning phase. Also, we have the new Goodyear tyre starting from this year. We need to learn that as well but there are a lot of things to learn and I try to improve.

Q:
From Olivér Kováts, Braking News Motorsport (Hungary) to Gábor Kismarty-Lechner: Forty-three is not a usual age to debut in the WTCR. In an interview given to us, your team boss Zoltán Zengő explained that you're participating in a project which vows to show that the world is not only for the 20s. Almost at the halfway point of the season, do you think this mission is successful?

GKL:
On one hand it’s successful because I enjoy every second spent in the WTCR world, that’s for sure. On the other hand, these are the best drivers in the world and it’s not easy with them. But it’s never too late to show to the world that if you have a dream, then it’s a good message. I’ve had this dream since 20 years, when I started racing with Zengő Motorsport, and finally it comes. I’m just aged nearly 44 in a couple of weeks but I am here, I drive a top car with a top team and top drivers so that was my dream and it came true?

Q:
From Olivér Kováts, Braking News Motorsport (Hungary) to Gábor Kismarty-Lechner: What is the biggest lesson which racing in WTCR has given you so far?

GKL:
It’s difficult. The biggest lesson is we need to learn a lot. If we feel we are good in one point it’s not as good as WTCR requires so we need to learn a lot, we need to analyse all the data. This is the biggest part we have to understand and we have to continue this way. On the other hand, we have a young talented driver in our team, Bence Boldizs, who I am sure sooner or later will be on the podium, I am pretty sure because he is a very fast guy. And we have Mikel [Azcona] in our team who did a very good job in Slovakia Ring and I am pretty sure he will fight for podiums here.

Q:
Turning to Norbert Michelisz, last year you got the DHL Pole Position but it was quite a frustrating race because your team-mate, Gabriele Tarquini, actually took the win. This weekend you are very light and obviously extremely experienced around this circuit so I assume you’ve come into this weekend feeling quite positive?

NM:
Yeah I did because last time out in Slovakia we were quite competitive and coming to my home circuit I’m always confident of a good result. I feel we made big improvements compared to the start of the season and on this track we manage to perform well. Considering the compensation weight situation, I think we have good cards but the weather is quite difficult to predict and it will be more or less the same tomorrow so in the end we are still quite far from being able to say we will be in Q3 or having two good qualifying and two good races. In the end I know the circuit so even if it’s wet or if it’s dry I think we have good card in our hands.

Q:
You have the advantage of having run here in all times of conditions whereas some of our other drivers won’t have?

NM:
Honestly it was quite long ago. My first race was in 2006 when I started my career. My second race was already a wet-weather race. Since they resurfaced the circuit in 2016 everybody kind of started from scratch and I don’t really believe I did much more mileage around here than the others. Most of the confidence comes from me really having the feeling of driving at home and knowing the circuit since 15 years. On a level like this honestly it’s not a huge advantage.

Q:
Normally this weekend is the loudest weekend and not because of the cars. It’s such a shame we can’t enjoy the fans and the atmosphere that we would normally have here. What message do you have for the spectators who will no doubt be watching now and during the weekend on TV?

NM:
It was kind of a rollercoaster. We started the year with having a race back home and me being the defending champion. Already I was really looking forward to that. Then we had the sad news of probably the race not going to happen. But to be very honest with you when I got the news that we would have the Hungaroring included in the last version of the calendar I was incredibly happy. I also have to tell you it’s a bit strange not to be having people already gathering on a Friday. Definitely it’s a bit different compared to previous years. For sure it will not be the same. Without the fans the home race will not be the same. But my message is to support us, to support Attika, we have a lot of Hungarian involvement this year in the championship. We have to survive this year but hopefully latest next year a lot of you will be in the grandstands. But please support us now on this event because it makes a huge difference.

Q:
How much extra impetus and energy does the noise from the crowd give you? Or is there an element that it’s a bit calmer for you?

NM:
It’s so strange because on a normal weekend here driving the car you don’t hear what’s coming from the grandstands. But every time you come on the start/finish straight during a race you just see the people, even if you look straight ahead. But you realise you are at home and it’s a crazy and it takes you up until Turn 12 to settle down and focus on the track corner by corner and it starts all over again. For me the biggest difference is being outside the car. Even when you are having an internal briefing you hear the people with the horns and even though the race is two hours ahead you start to feel stressed because you are realising what’s ahead of you. It’s a bit more difficult than on a normal race weekend because it’s a bit more pressure but excitement as well. But I have found it gives me momentum and I will miss that this weekend.

Q:
Is that the same for you Attika?

AT:
I remember in 2017 racing with Norbi and passing along the main straight in qualifying when we were not fighting with others sometimes you could hear the spectators, which is enormous even when the car is very loud and you have the earplugs in. It’s amazing. Not any other racetrack has the same spectators than we have. Okay, mainly they are here for Norbi because he is the one who brought Hungary on the map but we have four of us this year and I am hoping we can make the fans proud even like this on the screens.

Q:
You had great podiums in Belgium and Germany but a tough Slovakia. You’ve dropped 20 kilograms for here so what difference will that make?

AT:
It’s obviously a good help but we have to see. CUPRA was very fast in Slovakia but I am sure Honda and ALL-INKL will make the maximum we can. Hopefully I am really planning to fight for a podium because that’s my goal for the weekend even without the people in the grandstand. We will be pushing hard and we will see how the rankings are after qualifying.

Q:
You come here armed with a lot of info after Bebu [Girolami] won here twice last year for Honda. How can that help you?

AT:
We know from the previous two years because Honda won races in both years even when it was dry and when it was wet or damp. I am confident if the weather will be wet or dry the Honda will suit the track. It’s just a matter of how we will manage and if it’s half dry or half wet really it will be a gamble like it was in Race 1 in Slovakia. We hope for the best but for me it doesn’t matter if it’s rain or dry.

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ENDS