Eventful return to racing for Michaela Dorcikova
"While it was certainly not the best start of the season, I'd say that Sunday's race made me happy again" – Michaela Dorcikova had a rather eventful start of her EuroNASCAR campaign, but never lost her fighting spirit and battled in the pack towards the end of race 2 at Valencia.
The opening round of the 2023 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series marked the return to the track of Slovak racer Michaela Dorcikova, who had to postpone her EuroNASCAR appearance last year due to a serious rally crash in August, where she was left with a broken spine.
In October, Dorcikova was back behind the wheel for the second edition of the FIA Motorsport Games at Le Castellet. Representing her country in the auto slalom discipline, Dorcikova took the silver medal, in a fantastic story of sheer determination.
Michaela, though, worked behind the scenes to make her return to EuroNASCAR - a series where she had previously contested a few one-off rounds since 2018, including a successful outing at Most in the Challenger class in 2021.
The extremely versatile racer – who also has experience of karting, auto slalom, racetrack, rallycross and rally, additionally to her team management role in FIA WEC – teamed up with MotorSPORTaktiv, which helped her secure a funding for three rounds through sponsorship with Orion and KeyMen: Dorcikova would be back behind the wheel of the powerful EuroNASCAR beasts from Circuito Ricardo Tormo, in her first visit to the Valencian track.
And the season opener of the European NASCAR series - which Dorcikova is tackling in the PRO division - turned out to be a rather eventful one for the Slovak racer.
"It was a very difficult start of the season and restart of my racing, because after the accident in August I only did the FIA Motorsport Games – which were super successful. I did a rally two weeks ago and NASCAR in Valencia was the restart of my circuit racing", Michaela told us after the weekend.
She had joined Bulgarian Team, less than a week before the event, at the team's first participation in the series. The outfit has technical support from Academy Motorsport – which also fields the #1 and #5 cars.
"Honestly, I had not enough time to practice and everybody else here is more experienced with this car", Dorcikova continued. "Most of them have raced on this track before and I'm kind of a rookie in this championship. After one year in rally I realized that my driving style has changed a bit, so for me it was rather adapting back to circuit racing - and it took a while. I understood the car, but not completely yet. I will need to do many more laps to master it."
Her track time, though, was also severely limited by a series of unfortunate technical issues, including a clutch problem in free practice and a scary brake failure in qualifying.
"The brakes failing into turn 1 at 220 kph is something I had nightmares about, it was a disaster and I now know the feeling", she told us. Fortunately, the wide run-off of the Valencian circuit limited the damages and Dorcikova was unharmed.
"We don't know what happened there, it was a weird brake failure, but the team put the car back together and I didn't experience it again."
In the first race of the weekend, Michaela lined up in P25, had a cautious start, but then dropped to the back when her car suffered an engine issue. "Qualifying didn't go well, and after that I had an engine issue where we lost one piston and I couldn't keep up with the rest, with 20hp less", she explained. "I was dead last and just tried to bring the car home in an okay-ish condition just to finish the race." The small Bulgarian Team, though, never gave up and put in extra efforts to allow Dorcikova to return to the grid on Sunday. "The team has worked overnight, I really appreciate what they have done for me and we put the car on the grid without any warm up or tests. It was worth it and I was able to fight." At the start, the #90 white and orange Chevrolet Camaro was hit by the #58 Racingfuel Motorsport machine of Christoph Lenz, who had broken the two-line formation before the green flag. Dorcikova's car picked up bodywork damage, but could continue. Unfortunately, she was shown the black and orange flag after a few laps, forcing her to pit and repair the damage. Lenz received a drive through penalty for the starting procedure infringement. The pit stop denied her the chance to fight for positions and she eventually lost a lap. A few safety car interventions, though, bunched up the field again; Dorcikova therefore could catch up again and had some good battles in the final laps. "Thankfully with the two safety cars, I got what I needed - which was the fighting, this is what I miss from circuit racing", Michaela said. "On Saturday I was too cautious, I gave up at the first corner after two years of not racing circuits – but on Sunday I was pushing. I wasn't able to climb back with the field because I was called in to repair the damage, which was not really understandable, as the car was not behaving badly, there was no smoke, there was nothing falling off of the car." "I wanted to fight, I was just not allowed. When I came out of the pits I had already lost a lap, but the car was in a good condition except for a bit of understeer. Anyway, thanks to the restarts I had some good fights." Michaela Dorcikova took the chequered flag in P20 and one lap down. Nevertheless, her lap times in the second part of the race were very promising, and she was able to fight with the cars ahead and showcased for the first time in the weekend that the Slovak driver had certainly not lost her touch.
"While it was certainly not the best start of the season, I'd say that Sunday's race made me happy again", Dorcikova commented. "I might not be battling at the top of the field, but you can't exchange experience with drivers that have been racing since they were five years old or drivers that have raced here for four or five years." "Every second year I come as a rookie to a new track – that's why I really hope that Most, which is the round that I'm doing next, will be better as at least it's not going to be a new track for me." Dorcikova is in fact set to return to the EuroNASCAR grid at the NASCAR GP of Czech Republic at Autodrom Most, fourth round of the championship, on 26-27 August. Despite the streak of misfortunes, Dorcikova is clearly a driver able to contend for the Challenger category when given proper track time and preparation; hopefully she'll get some more mileage under her belt in her home track and prove that she belongs to the grid for a full time campaign in the future.