Mike Halder made to work hard for his first win of the season

Mike Halder became the seventh race winner from the seven TCR Europe races held so far this season when he took a lights-to-flag victory in Race 1 at the Norisring. His winning margin over the Target Competition Hyundai Elantra N of Josh Files was less than half a second, with third placed Franco Girolami another six-tenths behind, such was the close racing at the season’s only street circuit.

Race 1

Battles among the podium contenders until the chequered flag
At the start, there was contact between Felice Jelmini’s Hyundai and pole-sitter Halder as the pair headed through the slight right-hand Turn 1. Despite the fact that Jelmini had nosed ahead of Halder to take the lead, he then appeared to miss his braking point for the Turn 2 hairpin and so ran wide, dropping out of the top ten places. The same corner saw contact between the Hyundai Elantra cars of Nicola Baldan and Pepe Oriola, with the Spaniard’s car left stranded on the kerb. There was then another contact between the CUPRA of Evgenii Leonov and Marco Butti’s Audi coming out of the chicane at Turns 3 and 4 and with three cars now needing recovery, the Safety Car was called into action.

Racing eventually resumed on Lap 11 and Halder was immediately under pressure from Josh Files, who was now in second place thanks to his teammate Jelmini’s error. Viktor Davidovski’s Comtoyou Racing Audi RS 3 LMS TCR was third ahead of the Volcano Motorsport CUPRA of Isidro Callejas. Other drivers who’d gained places on the chaotic opening lap included Franco Girolami, who’d moved from P8 on the grid to lie in fifth place behind Callejas, and Stian Paulsen who was now eighth after starting from P16. Immediately after the restart, however, Callejas and Girolami both passed Davidovski for P3 and P4 respectively.

On Lap 13, Callejas passed Files for second place and then Girolami began attacking Files on the next lap. That signalled the start of a furious series of battles for the podium places that would last for the remaining 12 laps. On Lap 16, Callejas attacked Halder at Turn 2, but ran wide and briefly allowed Files through into P2 before Callejas retook the position shortly afterwards. Lap 18 then saw contact between Girolami and Files while the pair were battling for P3 but the English driver held the position.

Lap 22 finally saw a breakthrough in the fight for the podium places when Files passed Callejas for second place at the final corner. That move was followed on the next lap by both Girolami and Davidovski passing Callejas for P3 and P4. By now, Jelmini had climbed back into the top ten after his early indiscretion and he passed Jack Young for P9 on the same lap.

The final few laps then saw more determined attempts by both Josh Files and Franco Girolami to claim an extra place, but Mike Halder held his nerve and continued the brilliant defensive drive that had begun within seconds of the start. He held off Files to take the victory at his, and the team’s, home event by 0.47 seconds, with Girolami finishing third and so extending his lead in the Drivers’ championship. Davidovski was fourth ahead of Callejas and Mat’o Homola, with the Macedonian driver again taking the honours in the Diamond Trophy. Marco Butti’s retirement on the opening lap meant there were no finishers in the Rookie class.

Quotes from the podium
Mike Halder (1st): “What a race here in Germany. I was very happy after P1 in qualifying and now P1 in the race, what a feeling! All the sponsors, all our teams, everybody is here and it’s so amazing to win here. Thanks to the whole team; this win was for the mechanics. We had a lot of work to do with the cars for the last few weeks, and now we won and that’s the result of that hard work. I think every German driver dreams of winning a race here and now I have done it and it’s incredible. It’s like a small Monaco for us here in Germany and it’s very special. Perfect!”

Josh Files (2nd): “First of all I have to say congratulations to Paulo and the team for getting Norisring on the calendar, and I hope that we come back next year. As you could see, this was Touring Car racing at its best today. Everyone was really fair in all honesty, the racing was really good despite the usual chaos at turn one happening, but when you go from 5th gear to first its always going to be like that. I think the racing was really good, we have really strong pace in the car, braking, traction, chassis we’ve got an amazing car but we just miss the power. It’s really hard to attack at the end of the straights. I gave it my all, and I can’t thank the team and Hyundai enough for a great car; we have a great setup and hopefully tomorrow we can try and win again – anything can happen around here, as you can see!”

Franco Girolami (3rd): “I am so, so happy for all at Comtoyou Racing; for the mechanics, the engineers today, they did a fantastic job. About the race I did a good start and made a good decision into T1. I tried to overtake but without risk. We had a very good pace. Obviously, I can feel the 40kg with the compensation weight, so I am happy and with big points for the championship. This is the middle of the season, we have a lot of races in front of us and I only want to continue like this and do a good job. I’m not thinking about the championship just yet, just trying my best in every race and see what happens.”

2022 TCR Europe Series – calendar
  • 30 April/1 May – Autodromo do Algarve, Portugal
  • 21/22 May – Circuit Paul Ricard, France
  • 18/19 June – Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
  • 02/03 July – Norisring, Germany
  • 27/28 August – Nürburgring, Germany
  • 24/25 September – Monza ENI Circuit, Italy
  • 15/16 October – Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, Spain

Quelle: TCR Europe Media, 02. July 2022

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