Norbert Michelisz, Johan Kristoffersson, Mikel Azcona, Kevin Ceccon and Esteban Guerrieri attended the Race 3 press conference at WTCR Race of Malaysia. A transcript follows.
FIA WTCR Race of Malaysia
WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO 2019
Deciding rounds 28-30 of 30, Sepang International Circuit, 12-15 December
Norbert Michelisz, BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, WTCR / OSCARO title winner
Johan Kristoffersson, SLR Volkswagen, first position
Mikel Azcona, PWR Racing, second position
Kevin Ceccon, Team Mulsanne, third position
Esteban Guerrieri, ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, first position, Race 2
Johan, you’ve just won a WTCR race from P22 on the grid. Just explain how you did it and how intense it was.
I didn’t expect it, to be honest, to be able to fight again for a podium like I did in Race 2 because conditions were pretty constant and everyone was finding their line and their rhythm. I expected it to be a bit more tricky, but we did some changes on the car between the races and the car was working very, very well. We made the right tyre choice. I had a great first lap. First of all a good start and then I managed to drive my way up to P3 already on the first lap. So there was a lot of overtaking there, but the track in the rain is really nice and wide and you can use a lot of different lines. So in the end when I came close to [Mikel] Azcona towards the end of the race I didn’t want to pass him too early because I knew he would have a good slipstream and he was also very, very fast. Then the safety car came out and we ran out of laps, so I tried to make a move as fast as possible and from there on it was a bit tricky being all alone out front with no reference or a driver to watch. It was a bit tricky, but it was just head down and focussing 100 per cent. The last couple of laps were interesting, I have to say, as even Ceccon was putting pressure on us. I was not sure I would be able to win until the last corner. It’s so easy to make a mistake and run wide, and drivers can behind you can find a line that can be one second faster in a couple of corners. So you really have to fight all the way and after the race I felt pretty exhausted having had to stay focused for two races in a row.
Let’s turn next to Norbert Michelisz. We can now say you are the winner of the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO for 2019. Congratulations! There are obviously a lot of emotions, but what an incredible achievement.NM:
First of all, I would honestly like to congratulate Esteban [Guerrieri] because his performances in Race 2 and Race 3 today were unbelievably strong. It was a very tough fight, we were going flat out. I think he had some technical issues. So did I, to be honest. Before Race 3 it looked like I wouldn’t even start the race. But in the end with the car working at 90 per cent I managed to do the start – and in the end it’s unbelievable. I honestly don’t know what to say, it’s just a huge relief after a long season. We didn’t start off very good, but the second part of the season made up for that. In the end winning a couple of races but more importantly taking the championship is something I’ve been hoping for a couple of years now. It’s pretty difficult to describe all the emotions going through my body now. But the most important thing is to say a huge thank you to my family, to the team and all the Hungarian people who have been supporting me for a bit more than 10 years now. A bit more than 10 years ago I was still playing computer games and hoping to start a professional career. In the end I managed to do that, and not only that winning here that for me is the most important touring car championship. So a huge thank you to everyone. I don’t want to start saying names in case I leave someone out, but it is just unbelievable.
It’s been a dramatic day, given that you were in a gravel trap in Race 2. What happened there and at the start of Race 3?
In Race 2, to be honest visibility was very bad. I also was in a tricky position because with the points gap the only thing I wanted to avoid was not to finish the race, and in the end I was probably a bit to cautious in the beginning. Then I had cars flying all around me, coming from left and right and then I went straight on under braking at Turn 9. It was a bit unlucky but I still managed to recover some places and climb back to eighth, which was vital for the championship. I still managed to keep a gap because I still wasn’t sure of in the last couple of laps in Race 2. There was a strange vibration. Then going to the grid for Race 3 I went full throttle and the car was just not accelerating. I honestly thought that it was over. Rolling to the grid the car went off so I think I was quite lucky even to get to my starting position because the guys had to push me there and then still restarting the car it was sometimes on three cylinders, two cylinders – I don’t know what happened. Then I was lucky enough at the start of the formation lap to be able to reset everything. Honestly starting Race 3 I would not have bet a lot of money that I would be sitting here in front of you and celebrating the title. It was just up and down, by far the longest day of my life. I couldn’t sleep yesterday night as I thought about the three races. And it was like a rollercoaster because Race 1 was quite good, winning the race, I felt I had the confidence and the rhythm. But in Race 2 things didn’t really come my way, but what matters is now we managed to achieve what we really wanted and in the end it’s time to celebrate.
Esteban, an incredible day. You had a tall order to get back into the title race and then you had that win in Race 2 and in Race 3 seemed on the verge of being champion. What happened to you out there?
First of all, congratulations to this guy here. I know him very well, he’s a very nice guy and as fast a driver as a good person he is. I’m really happy for him. It was a nice fight and I’ve really enjoyed all the year, to be honest. Today… was just life, I am glad to be sitting here to be able to fight for a world championship, so I am just thankful to life for this. Then all the rest of if just situations. Azcona hit me in the back and threw me on the grass and I had a radiator full of grass, so I had to pit to take it out. I gave it everything, just enjoyeenjoyed so much driving this weekend under these conditions. Until the last lap of Race 3 I just enjoyed it so much. I’m glad to have had this opportunity tonight. Of course I am a bit sad not to have won the championship, but there is always revenge.
Mikel, you finish the season as top rookie and this was a comeback after a tough Macau. Just explain Race 3 and your podium.
Thank you very much and congratulations to Norbert. First of all, I’m really sorry for Esteban, what’s happened, I didn’t want this finish, for sure. At the same time, he was battling for the championship, but I had Kristoffersson behind me, so I had to battle for my rookie championship. It’s my first year and I don’t want to lose. I didn’t want this situation, it wasn’t on purpose, I didn’t crash into him on purpose. I do not like this situation, I am sorry Esteban and I cannot say anything more. In the other case I’m really happy for my position. I did six podiums in my first year and and with the PWR team we did amazing work. So we finished fifth in the championship, I am very happy, I’ve learned a lot, let’s see what’s happening next year. Thank you very much.
Kevin, podiums keep coming for you in these last races of the season and another one today after very good drive. Just explain your race please.
The race was tough, the conditions were difficult, we didn’t know what to do with the car. But I think we did a good job. I have nothing to complain about. I have been in the WTCR series for one year and a half and I dedicate all the podiums to my team. There were five this year plus the one at Suzuka and you can decide if that was one or not! But this time I want to be selfish because I think I have proved I am quick in ever situation and I have now scored podiums in rain, in the dry and in slippery and changing conditions. I think I should be in the WTCR next season.
Finally, back to Johan. You’ve had an excellent rookie season and you’ve done well coming from World Rallycross to take WTCR by stormFinally, back to Johan. You’ve had an excellent rookie season and you’ve done well coming from World Rallycross to take WTCR by storm. But what’s the future for you? We’d love to see you back here next year.
It’s a tricky question and it’s silly season, so we’ll see how it goes. There’s nothing clear, so let’s enjoy the evening and celebrate Norbi. We can discuss next year after New Year. It’s been a great experience being here. I’d have liked to be top rookie, but Azcona was a bit too strong and started the season. He drove brilliantly today and at the end I knew we would fight for the points. So I’m very happy to finish that high up in the championship. Of course I would have liked to fight with Esteban and Norbi for the championship, but it was not my year for that this year. But let’s see about next year. As Esteban says there is always revenge. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone in WTCR. It was a great season and everything around it was working fine. A lot of very, very good drivers and talented teams, so I was happy to be here.