For Hyundai and BRC a new era opens in the FIA WTCR because the 2022 season will have several new features.
The first is that there will be no Gabriele Tarquini, who has chosen to retire from a full-time career after winning the title in 2018 and helped develop the new Elantra N which will lead newcomer Mikel Azcona in his place.
The Spaniard is the second, fresh from a professional growth in Cupra and his first experience with a different team, but with great qualities that will lead him to have his say.
And then there is Norbert Michelisz, who now takes on the captain of the Cherasco team, being able to put to good use what he has learned in all these years of working alongside Tarquini.
Hyundai presents Julien Moncet as the new team principal (ad interim) in place of the starter Andrea Adamo, while Andrea Cisotti will follow the Elantra of the WTCR as the new head of the Custome Racing department.
During the presentation of the team in Cherasco, Motorsport.com had the opportunity to speak with the aforementioned protagonists in a round table from which various interesting ideas emerged on what awaits us in 2022 of the top touring series.
Mikel Azcona, BRC Hyundai N Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR
Photo by: Hyundai Motorsport
Azcona turns the page
What was it like to receive the call from a major company like Hyundai?
“I was really happy to be able to join Hyundai and BRC, a kind of dream come true after so many career seasons in which my family and sponsors supported me. Many years ago I watched the WTCC and when it became WTCR I observed what the Hyundai were doing very carefully. So I knew that they are very competitive and fast cars on all occasions, so the opportunity to join this team and a team like BRC is very important, I will give everything. “
In the last two years you have raced not only in the World Championship, but also in many TCR series such as European, Spain and Italy, as well as the electric ETCR. Will you be a little freer now?
“At the moment it is not planned to do any other TCR series besides the World Championship, so I will not be in the European Championship like last year. I really enjoyed racing in various championships, as a driver it gave me the opportunity to improve your skills. 2022 will not be the same, but I will still have my commitments, so I can fully concentrate on what I need to do with Hyundai. “
How is the relationship with your new colleague Michelisz?
“I am very happy to have Norbi as my teammate, he is someone who has been racing in this championship since 2011 and I have been following him for a long time. He is also a person with whom I have always had an excellent relationship, in the first days of testing I immediately understood who is one with a lot of experience, but also a nice person. We are very similar and he has done a similar path to mine. He is fast and strong, which will help me improve by learning so many things from him. “
Norbert Michelisz, BRC Hyundai N Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR
Photo by: Hyundai Motorsport
Michelisz is the new point of reference
How did you prepare for the new season after two rather difficult years?
“2021 was tough because we had a new car, with so many small things that needed to be fixed, but which required time, resources and skills. I think the car was developed in the best possible way, in some places we suffered a lot, however. at the end of the season we were okay. This adventure continues now with Mikel who is the novelty, together we have started working on various aspects and I feel that we are much better prepared “.
How do you think WTCR has changed over the years and what do you think about car developments, with new technologies being slowly introduced?
“As a driver I had to adapt to the TCRs when they were introduced in 2018, they had less downforce and needed more of your driving skills and responsiveness. Over the years I have accumulated a lot of experience on what to do on the car, together with Hyundai and BRC. Now I feel more competitive and ready to get the most out of the car. In certain events you suffer, but you can also see that the times are all very close, a sign that every little detail can make the difference between a good result and a bad one. Now let’s say I know what to do, aware that if you don’t hit perfection exactly it can have a big impact on the fight for the title. “
Now you are the … captain of the team! How do you feel in this new role?
“To be honest, I’m having a lot of fun! Let’s say that I get to take on this role with a little more simplicity, after many years with Tarquini at my side I have learned a lot of things. Gabriele has always given me a hand to grow and together we have made a route to the team every race weekend. I can’t wait to start the championship, but we know that everything is preparing in the tests. Personally I am confident that the foundations are excellent, now it’s up to me to keep my place! “
How has your way of working with the team changed, now that you are the point of reference?
“I feel that I have many more responsibilities, even if in the end I don’t see big differences because we all know what needs to be done. This means that any information must be given with extreme care and precision, which is something I have learned over the years. years. Practically for me it was a natural evolution in terms of personality and professional figure. I have always tried to grow in every aspect, so I feel ready “.
This year you will only be two Hyundai and you will have to contend with teams like Honda and Lynk & Co who will have double, if not more. How will you face this challenge?
“It’s a good question, frankly I don’t know. But I think we are starting from an excellent technical basis and a good position, so even if we are fewer machines I think that by working well we will be able to play and fight to win. I don’t feel like saying. that we will be fighting for the title because, as we know, everything has to go perfectly straight. Being two can have its pros and cons, it is up to us to get the most out of the cars to get the results, we will be able to concentrate better on ourselves “.
BRC Hyundai N Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR
Photo by: Hyundai Motorsport
Moncet’s fundamental ‘pawns’
How did you work during the winter on the Elantra?
“We worked a lot on refining the car, in order to be ready in the various Balance of Performance situations and different race conditions. In practice we focused on all the small aspects that could concern the management of the BoP”.
Why did you choose to enter only two cars for the championship?
“It is a decision we have made because we believe it is better to focus on quality rather than quantity. Having two cars allows you to work better and handle every situation. We will have less data collected, but I think the work will be easier and the resources will be used better. The others will have more cars, but I think we are present with a very well prepared team and two strong drivers, with whom we will be able to operate at our best without wasting energy. “
You took on the role of Team Principal by replacing Andrea Adamo, who as known was gifted with a strong personality and ability. How did you find yourself in this position and what do you think you can bring back to Hyundai?
“For me it was an interesting change, I already had other tasks in the team, but it is obvious that this involves more responsibilities and more work. Personally, I will focus more on the rally side, while as regards the Customer Racing department I was busy with the aspects related to the engine. What will we change? I believe that Hyundai’s strength lies in the people we have, so I wanted to keep the key figures in their place. responsibility, doing what he knows. Let’s say that now I’m an orchestra conductor, I try to organize everything in the best possible way, but I think everyone will be able to give their best and I trust them “.
How do you see Michelisz and Azcona this year and why did you choose Mikel?
“I am very happy to have these two riders. Norbi has a lot of experience, but I see him very motivated for this new adventure with a younger and faster partner. Mikel I think he was the best choice for what he has shown in recent years, he is young and of a high level. We knew that replacing someone like Tarquini would not be easy, but we are convinced that Mikel can take the car to fight at the top. In the tests they have already started to work very well, team chemistry is essential and I believe that we can do very well with them “.
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