Huff scores first victory of 2018 in Hungary race two


Credit: Thomas Fenetre/DPPI

The second of three races at all World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) events throughout 2018 shall be a little bit different to the others; in order to form the starting grid, the top ten drivers in qualifying will be reversed. So, as Rob Huff qualified in tenth, he would start race two from pole position with local wildcard entry, Daniel Nagy, alongside him on the front row.

As the lights went out, Huff immediately darted to the inside line of the track in order to fend off Daniel Nagy, while just behind, Yvan Muller had made a fantastic start to get up into third place. Through turn four, Nagy ran wide which then left him vulnerable on the entrance to turn five. Trying to pass on the outside line, Muller would eventually have to concede on this particular occasion. This signalled the beginning of a pattern for the rest of the race; Yvan Muller would try to snatch second place from Daniel Nagy, but the young Hungarian simply wouldn’t budge.

Rob Huff led from Daniel Nagy as the rest of the pack jostled for position at the start. Credit: Thomas Fenetre/DPPI

Heading onto lap two, there was a change of position just behind the front three. On the entry to turn one, Esteban Guerrieri made a move on his Munnich Motorsport team-mate, James Thompson. Breezing past on the inside line, the Argentine was up to fourth place. Meanwhile, in the mid-pack, Zsolt Szabo was making a bit of a name for himself. The youngster had a brilliant qualifying session to secure a spot just outside the top ten, and now, as the cars made their way to turn two, he had Yann Ehrlacher in his sights. On the inside line of the track, Szabo clawed his way past Ehrlacher (the winner of Saturday’s opening WTCR race) to get into the top ten for the first time in his short WTCR career. Naturally, this turn of pace from one of their local drivers delighted the already good-spirited Hungarian fans.

Two laps later, Gabriele Tarquini was on the attack. Having latched onto the rear bumper of Thompson’s Honda, the Italian pulled off an audacious overtake on the outside line around turn two. This spectacular piece of racecraft meant that the championship leader was now up into fifth place. The following lap, Tarquini’s team-mate, Norbert Michelisz, was also looking to move forward up the order. As Mehdi Bennani locked up his brakes and ran wide into turn one, Michelisz was able to position his Hyundai alongside the Moroccan’s Volkswagen. For now though, Michelisz would remain in eighth place, proving unable to repeat the outside line overtake that Tarquini had previously made.

Pepe Oriola (front) and Mat’o Homola (back) had struggled all weekend. In race two, their woes were compounded with neither completing the full race distance. Credit: Gregory Lenormand/DPPI

At the halfway stage, Yann Ehrlacher’s weekend had taken a turn for the worse. After winning the opening race at the Hungaroring, Ehrlacher complained of a loss of power in race two and soon found himself in the pit lane. He wasn’t the only Honda in strife. James Thompson’s car began to slow down to a crawling pace on the same lap, forcing the Brit to exit from the race prematurely as well. As Thompson tried to get out of the way, Michelisz launched an attack on Bennani once again. Running side by side through turn three, Michelisz was again left frustrated as Bennani managed to shut the door on entry to turn four.

At last though, on lap eight, Michelisz made the move stick on the exit to turn one and secured what was now sixth place. At the front, Rob Huff was leading a train of five cars. Daniel Nagy was no longer under any real threat from Muller and so was instead focusing his attentions onto the back of Huff’s Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR. This had allowed Guerrieri and Tarquini to catch up to the back of Muller to make it a five-car queue at the front of the field. While the status quo remained at the front, Szabo was keen to keep things exactly as they were in the lower end of the top ten. Running in ninth place, Szabo was under pressure from reigning TCR International champion, Jean-Karl Vernay, in the best of the struggling Audis.

Rob Huff (centre), Daniel Nagy (right) and Yvan Muller (left) led the pack throughout the race. Credit: Gregory Lenormand/DPPI

Turn two was proving to be an epicentre for overtaking, and on lap ten, Gabriele Tarquini was the man on the move once again. Diving to the inside line, Tarquini forced his way past Esteban Guerrieri to climb up into fourth place. Reigning world touring car champion, Thed Bjork, had a disastrous qualifying session earlier in the day. But by the penultimate lap of the race, Bjork hauled his Hyundai past John Filippi‘s Cupra for twelfth position. He was running out of time, but now only Norbert Nagy and Jean-Karl Vernay stood between the Swede and a points-paying position – something which he could definitely do with in order to sustain a defence to his world crown.

But in the end, it would be a deserved race victory for Rob Huff and the Sebastien Loeb Racing team, while Hungarian wildcard, Daniel Nagy, claimed second place in front of his home crowd – a result which they deemed worthy of an eruption of air horns. Yvan Muller took the final step on the podium after fending off third place from Gabriele Tarquini in the latter stages. Elsewhere, Zsolt Szabo completed the race of his life to finish in ninth place and score his first points in the world championship; all in front of his home crowd too. The other Hungarian Zengo Motorsport Cupra TCR of Norbert Nagy narrowly missed out on points after crossing the line in eleventh, but did at least manage to keep Thed Bjork at bay.

After the race, a comedy of errors within Team Mulsanne saw Fabrizio Giovanardi get handed a thirty second time penalty. The penalty came after Giovanardi was found to have spun out his own team-mate, Gianni Morbidelli, during the race.

Race Result:

PositionNameCarTime
1stRob HuffVolkswagen12 laps
2ndDaniel NagyHyundai+0.562
3rdYvan MullerHyundai+2.200
4thGabriele TarquiniHyundai+2.659
5thEsteban GuerrieriHonda+3.050
6thNorbert MicheliszHyundai+4.252
7thMehdi BennaniVolkswagen+8.529
8thBenjamin LessennesHonda+13.453
9thZsolt SzaboCupra+19.460
10thJean-Karl VernayAudi+19.896
11thNorbert NagyCupra+22.475
12thThed BjorkHyundai+22.855
13thJohn FilippiCupra+24.007
14thNathanael BerthonAudi+24.480
15thGordon SheddenAudi+25.916
16thAurelien ComtePeugeot+26.732
17thFrederic VervischAudi+27.115
18thAttila TassiHonda+27.832
19thTom CoronelHonda+31.597
20thAurelien PanisAudi+33.739
21stDenis DupontAudi+39.207
22ndGianni MorbidelliAlfa Romeo+44.396
23rdFabrizio GiovanardiAlfa Romeo+1:00:037 (after penalty)
DNFYann EhrlacherHonda+4 laps
DNFJames ThompsonHonda+4 laps
DNF Mat'o HomolaPeugeot+5 laps
DNFPepe OriolaCupra+7 laps