ALMOST 60 million spectators across the world had Slovakia in their sights on April 28-29 because Slovakia Ring, the country’s main motorsport track, hosted races for the 2012 season of the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC). A big question hung in the air at the track just 36 kilometres from Bratislava. Could the venue, which is now in only its third season, successfully host a WTCC event? The verdict seems to have been a resounding ‘yes’.
Four races were held at the relatively new race track, the 3rd and 4th rounds of the European Touring Car Cup (ETCC) and the 7th and 8th rounds of the WTCC. The ETCC races were especially interesting for Slovaks because two local drivers lined up at the start: Matej Homola driving a BMW 320si and Patrik Nemec in a SEAT Léon Cópa. Homola finished in 5th position in both races but took 3rd position in the provisional classification of his group, S2000. Nemec finished 6th in the first race and 8th in the second.
“I see it very positively; we have met all the resolutions we made,” Nemec told The Slovak Spectator.
After the ETCC races, the spectators’ attention focused on the next set of speedy cars and drivers competing for WTCC points. Even though pole position in the first race belonged to Norbert Michelisz from Hungary driving a BMW 320 TC, Gabriele Tarquini from the Lukoil Racing team of Russia was the first to cross the finish line, followed by his teammate Aleksei Dudukalo, each driving a SEAT León. Alain Menu from Switzerland, driving a Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T for Team Chevrolet, finished third. The Russian team’s drivers said they were pleased with the characteristics of the track.
“It is very similar to the circuit in Russia, so for me it is a little bit easy,” Dudukalo told The Slovak Spectator, adding that a previous race in Marrakech was very difficult for him and Slovakia Ring was much better.
The victors in the second WTCC race were Robert Huff from the United Kingdom, who finished first, and Yvan Muller from France in second, each driving a Chevrolet Cruze for Team Chevrolet. Tarquini finished third in the second race.
“Honestly, I did not expect us to be this good as far as the tempo is concerned,” Michelisz told The Slovak Spectator. “I am very glad that I managed to get the first pole position and that the best lap in the first race was also mine. Of course I regret that I didn’t win the race, but for me it is important that I felt competitive this weekend.”
The event attracted around 41,000 visitors cheering for their favourite teams or drivers. A large number of visitors came from Hungary.
“It was especially a good feeling, just like competing at home,” said Gábor Wéber, a driver for Zengő Motorsport in Hungary.
Homola told The Slovak Spectator that the Slovak drivers were also pleased with the support they received from local fans.
“This event should not be viewed solely as one of the 12 WTCC rounds that are held throughout the world; it really is a historic milestone in the history of motor sport in Slovakia and of course a historic milestone in the life of our circuit,” Tomáš Vranka, CEO of Slovakia Ring, told a press conference.
7. May 2012 at 0:00 | Dušan Dudík