Norbert Michelisz to make ERC & Rally Debut

Norbert Michelisz makes his childhood dream come true, making his debut as a rally driver. While leading this season of the TCR World Tour, the touring car championship spanning four continents, as a driver for Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, Michelisz will take advantage of the autumn break there and with the support of OMV Hungária Kft. in a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car in the home round of the European Rally Championship (FIA ERC), which will be held with the centre of Nyíregyháza in and around the Zemplén Mountains between 6 and 8 October.

Hungary's most successful racing driver, Norbert Michelisz, who won the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) title in 2019, is preparing for the first rally race of his career. As a driver for Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, Michelisz had previously only seen rally cars at one demonstration and had only one test to prepare for the ERC home round. No matter how experienced the driver is, his debut in the European Rally Championship will be a real deep water.

"My first motorsport experiences are related to rally races around Pécs, I have vivid childhood memories of Mecsek Rally," said Norbert Michelisz. "I fell in love with racing in the rally environment, and if you asked me as a kid what kind of driver I wanted to be, I would definitely have said rallying. The fact that life took me towards track racing was mainly due to my simulator period, from where my path led in this direction. But my interest in rallying has always remained, and now my childhood dream is coming true.

Michelisz is in great form in his field, having been at the top of the TCR World Tour halfway through the season with just three rounds to go, and now there is a good chance that he will celebrate another title this year after 2019. Given that rallying is also a dangerous genre within motorsport, he had to weigh the risks.

"I've asked myself many times if I need this," Michelisz said of the rally. "I've run into this several times over the years, but I've always convinced myself why the timing isn't right. I've gotten to the point where I don't want to wait any longer, there will never be a perfect time, you have to seize the moment. Now, thanks to my supporters, I managed to create the conditions for the start, so I am grateful to both OMV Hungaria and Hyundai!

Michelisz will enter the European Championship round in Nyíregyháza-Zemplén in a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car, where he will compete with special permission from Hyundai Motorsport, which also participates in the World Rally Championship.

"I don't know the track, I only tested the car once around Pécs, which is extremely little experience," said Michelisz. – I analyzed a lot of internal camera footage, practiced itinerary, but even if I prepare day and night, I will only find out in real life what I undertook. Even an experienced rally driver can easily get into a difficult situation, so I have to manage risk-taking especially well. I am facing the biggest challenge of my career.

Michelisz chose a well-experienced navigator who, he said, could compensate for the shortcomings of his inexperience. Tagai Róbert has been rallying since 1994, having visited and completed the Dakar Rally twice, entered the World Championship as a navigator and was on the podium at the European Championships.

"I was at the Veszprém Rally when I received a text message signed by Norbi Michelisz asking us to talk if I have some time," Róbert Tagai recalled. "At first I thought someone was joking with me because I didn't know Norbi personally, but then I called him and he told me what he was up to. Zemplén is a great but also very difficult terrain, so it's a big challenge right away, but Norbi is positive, as I am, and I will help him with all my experience.

What goals can Hungary most successful racing driver set for himself, but now he can feel like a rookie again at the European Rally Championship?

"My goal is to reach the finish line," Michelisz stressed. "In terms of results, I really don't plan anything ahead because the European Championship field is strong. I have many good memories of racing in front of the home crowd, but this time it will be different from the Hungaroring. I'm really looking forward to this new experience.

The European Rally Championship will return to Hungary after a year's absence, the centre of the prestigious race will be in Nyíregyháza, where a downtown speed stage will also be organized, but the field will also visit the Rabócsiring in Máriapócs as part of the super-special stage. The competition on 6-8 October concludes the Euro 2023 season, which marks the 70th anniversary of the competition.

Norbert Michelisz will then continue his preparations for the TCR World Tour, as he awaits the final three rounds of the championship on the first three weekends of November at two circuits in Australia and Macau.

"Rallying is a one-off, my main goal remains to perform at my best on my own circuit for the rest of the season and win the TCR World Tour title," concluded Michelisz, who will talk about the rally challenge ahead in detail in the Friday afternoon episode of the podcast series of HUMDA Hungarian Mobility Development Agency Zrt.

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