Points for Michelle Halder at Norisring in TCR Europe
Michelle Halder was back on home soil at the Norisring as TCR Europe reached its half-way point of the season. In mixed weather conditions, Michelle battled with her Honda for points - and scored a P13 on Sunday's race.
The iconic German race track Norisring is the only street circuit in the 2022 TCR Europe's calendar, as 21 drivers tackled the historic venue, battling for a prestigious win last weekend. Among the entries is German driver Michelle Halder, who has had a challenging season so far, but is optimistic for the races to come. On a very rainy Friday, both practice sessions went underway in wet conditions, with drivers aiming to learn the track. And it was a good start for Halder Motorsport, as Jack Young scored the fastest time in an interrupted session in the light rain and increasingly drying conditions. Ruben Fernandez (RC2 Junior Team) and Isidro Callejas (Volcano Motorsport) made contact with 5 minutes remaining, which brought out a red flag. Young was fastest, ahead of Josh Files (Target Competition) and Felice Jelmini (Target Competition). Michelle Halder was 10th fastest in the first session. In the second free practice Callejas - with a repaired car - was fastest, followed by Marco Butti (Élite Motorsport by Comtoyou) and Franco Girolami (Comtoyou Racing). Michelle Halder had a really positive end of the first day with an eighth place in FP2. "It's my first time here at the Norisring, it was a lot of fun", Michelle told us. "The first two free practice sessions were in the rain, it was a lot of fun, and the result was really good, actually among the top ten each time." "But since the race weekend is dry anyway, it's not so perfect for us if we don't have the perfect top speed with the Honda, as it has been for the whole season. So we would have hoped for rain, as that would have been much better for us", she added. On Saturday morning, the qualifying set the tone on a dry and much warmer track compared to the previous practice sessions. Mike Halder set the early pace, with teammates Michelle Halder and Jack Young close behind. But the times dropped fast and the Halder Team moved backwards even when they could improve lap after lap. Many position changes marked Q1, with 19 cars within 0,78 seconds! Only the fastest could move up into Q2 and they were: Jelmini, Mike Halder, Callejas, Viktor Davidovski (Comtoyou Racing), Butti, Files, Evgenii Leonov (Volcano Motorsport), Girolami, John Filippi (Sébastien Loeb Racing-Bardahl Team), Klim Gavrilov (Volcano Motorsport), Mat´o Homola (HYUNDAI Janik Motorsport) and Young. Q2 was again a big battle up front - but it would be Mike Halder to beat everyone and score pole position for Race 1. Michelle Halder qualified in 15th position. "In qualifying, we were always clearly among the top 10 in the first laps, until the others always improved a bit. The field was very close together", Michelle said. "In sector 2, where there are only chicanes and there is no top speed [required] I was fourth. In sectors 1 and 3, where everything is about speed, we were obviously at the back, which didn't exactly make it easier for us and that's why we had to start further back", halder commented. "It is a bit difficult to get up front at the Norisring, especially when you don't have any power on the straights." Mike Halder didn't have the best start from pole in race 1, but due a spin for then race leader Jelmini following slight contact with Mike Halder, the latter reclaimed the lead while Michelle Halder held 15th place. Behind them, Nicola Baldan and Pepe Oriloa made contact, as well as Leonov and Butti that ultimately brought out the first Safety Car of the race to recover the stranded cars. The recovery was completed by lap 11 and Mike Halder kept the lead. He had a safe restart but Files challenged him hard for the lead. That would change when Callejas passed Files for second position, which gave Mike Halder a small gap to breath. Michelle Halder meanwhile dropped down to 16th position after the restart. On lap 16, Callejas tried to pass Mike, went on the wider line, dropped back behind Files but was still able to retain second place. The Spaniard, though, was back on his tail soon and the German driver had a very tough job to do to defend his lead. He had a little break when Files made it back to second and, following a slight contact, Callejas lost a few places. With three laps to go, Mike Halder now had a hard time to defend against a chasing Files and Girolami, but he was able to hold on to score his first victory in TCR Europe this year. His sister Michelle Halder finished P16 after a quiet race from her side. Later in the evening, Race 2 went underway with Gavrilov on pole position, ahead of Young and Girolami. The latter had a great start and jumped ahead of Young in second place immediately - but several accidents in the back of the field interrupted the race seconds later. Files made contact with Young as he dived up the inside while Davidovski bumped into the cars of Homola and Filippi - who spun as a result. The other spinning car was Leonov, but he could continue. The Safety Car was deployed as Ghermandi made contact with the wall and was stranded on track. Under safety car conditions, it was Gavrilov leading Girolami and Files. The race was green flagged again on lap 8 and, just one lap later, Jelmini made contact with the wall but was able to stop his car outside the track and the race was not interrupted. The lead would change on lap 10 when Girolami finally passed Gavrilov for first place. There were more position changes and battles through the field - and the biggest group included Gavrilov, Files, Callejas and Davidovski, fighting for the final two podium spots, while Girolami had a five second lead up ahead. Girolami scored a dominant victory ahead of Gavrilov and Files. Michelle Halder finished 13th after some hard battles, despite still missing some top speed during the race. She still was able to score more points for her championship tally and completed the Norisring weekend with a positive progress. "It was a very tough race today, a lot of duels, a lot of fighting and something broken", she commented at the end of the weekend. "Yesterday too - bumper, fender, door were a bit broken. We simply lack the complete top speed on the straights. It was definitely still fun now, even if you fight with blunt weapons", she concluded. The next race for TCR Europe will take place from 26th to 28th August at Nürburgring, with Michelle Halder once again fighting on home soil.