Michelle Halder scores first points of the season in TCR Europe at Portimao
At her return to TCR Europe, multiple-race winner Michelle Halder was faced with a challenging weekend in Portimao but still managed to score points in both races.
The 2022 TCR Europe season opener at Portimao, Portugal, marked the return of Michelle Halder to the continental TCR series, after spending a season in the brand-new TCR Spain in 2021.
Halder, 22, became the first woman to win in three different TCR-sanctioned championships, after she claimed victories in TCR Germany, TCR Europe and the Spanish series, making headlines in the most important touring-car championships.
With her family-run team Halder Motorsport becoming a real benchmark in the touring car scene and expanding to a three car operation, the Halder siblings - who finished first and third in TCR Spain in 2021 - announced their return to the uber-competitive TCR Europe with the addition of Jack Young to the line up.
A race winner at European level - after the historic victory at Zolder in 2020 - Michelle returned behind the wheel of the #53 Honda Civic Type R TCR at Circuito do Algarve, for her first race at the Portuguese venue.
Mike Halder secured pole position in Race 1 with a remarkable lap in Q2, ahead of teammate Jack Young; Nicola Baldan (Target Competition) shared the second row of the grid with Isidro Callejas (Volcano Motorsport) - also coming from the TCR Spain championship. Michelle Halder was 15th fastest in Q1, and would thus start both races from the eighth row.
Mike Halder had a good start and held the lead from Young at Turn 1, with Franco Girolami (Comtoyou Audi Sport) battling for third with Baldan. Felice Jelmini had a slow getaway and dropped to the back of the field.
The opening laps were tightly fought throughout the field as per TCR tradition, with drivers sparing no contacts. The leading trio tried to break away and, on lap 3, a lead change saw Mike Halder going slightly deep into Turn 5 and Jack Young promptly taking advantage to move into first place.
Mike also came under pressure from Nicola Baldan, but was able to defend while his teammate checked out.
Michelle Halder battled in the midfield and was initially under pressure from Luis Cidade (Elite Motorsport by Comtoyou), but found pace in the second half of the race and closed in on Jelmini and Homola, in 15th place. In the midst of a train of cars fighting for points, Michelle overtook Jelmini on lap 11 and moved into P14.
Jack Young took victory in the first race of the season - in a Halder Motorsport 1-2, at his first race for the German team. Mike Halder was second, 2.2 seconds adrift, as he kept Nicola Baldan at bay in the closing laps. Callejas and Girolami were fourth and fifth.
Michelle Halder conquered her first points of the season with a 14th place in race 1, gaining a position from the starting order.
The starting grid of race 2 was obtained by reversing the top-ten of the second qualifying - which resulted in Pepe Oriola and John Filippi sharing the front row ahead of Josh Files and Tom Coronel. Mike Halder and Jack Young were therefore ninth and tenth, with Michelle Halder once again lining up in the 15th grid slot.
Oriola, though, had a poor start and had to defend from Filippi - but ultimately retained the lead. An early Safety Car freezed the action when Leonov hit Ghermandi - also collecting Homola in the process - at Turn 5.
The race resumed on lap 5, with Oriola followed by Girolami - who had passed Filippi - and Coronel on the move just behind. Michelle Halder held 15th place.
Oriola, though, had lost the small gap he had managed to build and, after a side-by-side battle with Girolami, the Argentinian made a move stick at Turn 5.
The battles in the midfield were again fierce and there was contact at Turn 1 involving race 1 winner Young - with also Mike Halder putting the wheels on the gravel, losing a few places.
His sister Michelle was meanwhile battling with Nicola Baldan for the final point-scoring position in P15: while the Italian temporarily demoted Michelle, she was able to fight back and get back ahead on the final lap to secure another important point for the championship.
With a 2-second safe gap, Franco Girolami took victory in race 2, ahead of Pepe Oriola and Tom Coronel, who overtook John Filippi in the closing stages. Josh Files rounded out the top five.
"The race weekend is over. Unfortunately, not as we had hoped", wrote Michelle, who still scored points in both races. "Nevertheless, we were able to take away some experience."
"It's really nice to have the fans back in the paddock. Thank you very much for all your support."
TCR Europe will return to the track on May 21-22 for the second round at Circuit Paul Ricard, France.