This weekend’s WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup round not only marks the return of the cars to the circuit after a six-week break, but also the trackside return of fans en masse, as the Hungaroring prepares to open its doors for the ever-popular Race of Hungary weekend.
Chief among those being cheered on by the home faithful will be Honda Racing driver Attila Tassi, who this weekend competes for the fourth time at his local circuit on the world stage.
Hailing from nearby Budapest, Attila, who became a WTCR race winner at Estoril in June, tells us how he’s spent the last month and a half off from racing and how he’s been preparing for his biggest weekend of the 2021 campaign.
Question: There has been a longer break than expected since the last race in early July. What have you been doing since then?
Attila Tassi: It was a longer break than expected, but to be honest I was just training as normal, as I had been at the beginning of the season and before then. Because we were expecting to be racing in Italy in between until that round was postponed, my down time was fairly similar so the training didn’t change – I’m usually going to the gym every day, and I’m also playing tennis a lot. Still, it was a longer than expected break, so I’ll be really happy to be back in the car this week.
Q: You mention tennis, which is something you’ve added more of to your training. Why do you find it useful? And have you taken any inspiration from your compatriot Márton Fucsovics’ performances at Wimbledon, where he reached the quarter-finals?
AT: In this hot weather, it’s very, very good to play tennis and it gives you very good cardio, so that’s why I’ve added more and more of that into my training. Márton Fucsovics is an amazing Hungarian talent in the world of tennis – hopefully, one day, maybe I can play against him for a set or two! But for me, the most important thing with tennis is to train my fitness and my cardio because in the car it can get really hot, so that’s what I’m trying to focus on and to train on; to be able to concentrate for 30 minutes in such high temperatures.
Q: You became the latest driver to join the WTCR winners’ club at Estoril in June. How good did that feel, particularly after resisting so much pressure in that race?
AT: To win in Estoril was an amazing feeling! Obviously it wasn’t perfect because Tiago, my team-mate, had to pit from the lead, so I was feeling sorry for Tiago. If we view it from a different point of view though, I should have won in Portugal two years ago but unfortunately I had to stop. But at Estoril it was a very special win, I would say it’s a better win than I could have imagined because I had three cars behind me and they put me under a lot of pressure, they were much faster and I had a little bit of a damaged car from race one. I was struggling in the second sector and I had to defend for almost all the race. I needed my 100% focus to stay ahead and not make a mistake because if I had done so, I might have lost not one but two or three places as well. It was an amazing first win!
Q: Does it take any pressure off coming to your home event knowing that you have already ticked that box of winning a race?
AT: The pressure doesn’t just go away, but I always try to race without pressure because I think that’s the best way to achieve good results. I’m very happy that I already ticked the box of winning a race this season, but obviously it would be amazing to win at the Hungaroring. There will be Hungarian fans there, so I’m very very happy to be back in front of the home crowd; I hope there will be many, many spectators cheering for us, for Honda, for ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport and ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, so I’m really hoping for a good result.
Q: Spectators will be allowed back at the Hungaroring, as you mention, and the Hungarian fans are among the most passionate anywhere. What kind of boost do you get from seeing them and their support of you?
AT: It’s very special to race at the Hungaroring. I can remember in particular back in 2017, when I drove the previous-generation Honda Civic Type R TCR in the TCR International Series and won both races, there were so many fans. Even in the race where we have the earplugs in and the car is very loud, you could hear the spectators cheering from the main grandstands that we have on the main straight. The support has been just as good in the WTCR when we have had fans present; it’s amazing, it gives you a lot of inspiration.
Q: So far in the WTCR a Hungarian is yet to win in front of their home supporters. How would you assess your chances of doing so this weekend?
AT: You always want to achieve the goal of winning the race, and in WTCR there hasn’t been a Hungarian winner at the Hungaroring. Obviously I would be very happy to break that spell, but to be honest with the Italian round postponed we are still carrying 60kg compensation weight and will be running heavier than we would otherwise have expected to, so it will be a very, very tough weekend I think. In Hungary in recent years we’ve been competitive, but with this heavy weight I don’t know how it will be. But we are aiming for the best and hopefully we will be able to fight for the top positions – we will see come qualifying at the earliest.