TCR Europe: Michelle Halder scores point despite tough weekend at le Castellet
After an overall difficult weekend for Halder Motorsport at the second round of TCR Europe at Le Castellet, Michelle Halder still managed to score a point in Race 2, as the German TCR specialist aims to bounce back at the iconic Spa Francorchamps circuit in June.
Having spent one season in the brand new TCR Spain, Michelle Halder announced her return to TCR Europe in 2022, in a three-car effort for her family-run team Halder Motorsport.
Michelle made history several times in touring cars, becoming the first woman to win at continental level in 2020 and to take victories in three different TCR categories (Germany, Europe, Spain).
Lately, Halder Motorsport has become a real powerhouse in TCR-sanctioned events and is expanding its presence in the top series; in 2022, Michelle will race alongside her brother Mike - who took the 2021 TCR Spain title - and Jack Young.
At the season opener in Portugal, at Circuit of Algarve, Michelle was in the points in both races, finishing P14 on Saturday and Sunday and thus bagging 6 points for the championship despite a challenging first race weekend.
At the French venue of Circuit Paul Ricard, in the South of France, it immediately proved to be a tricky weekend for the Honda Civic Type R TCR operated by Halder Motorsport: the Halder siblings were out of position in qualifying, as they started from P15 (Mike) and P18 (Michelle). Tom Coronel set the fastest time in the two-stage qualifying, preceding Felice Jelmini (Target Competition), Josh Files (Target Competition) and John Filippi (Sebastien Loeb Racing).
From pole, Coronel had a great start and cleared the pack at Turn 1, followed by Jelmini and Franco Girolami - who had a brilliant getaway from fifth on the grid. Gavrilov was also among the biggest movers, as the Volcano Motorsport driver moved from 8th to 5th. His teammate Isidro Callejas, on the other hand, almost stalled on the grid and dropped to last.
Michelle Halder initially held position, then settled in 19th position on the second lap.
Pepe Oriola was on the move and, after setting the fastest lap times, he passed Jack Young at the fast Signes corner on the third lap - but the Halder Motorsport's driver switched back in an exciting duel. There was highly spectacular action also right behind them, with the Hyundais of Files, Galas and Homola sparing no contacts.
Amidst the chaotic midfield, Evgeni Leonov dived on the inside of Turn 11 and made contact with Galas, who lost several positions. The driver of the Volcano Motorsport Cupra would later receive a 5 second time penalty for the collision.
Meanwhile, Franco Girolami had moved into second place by passing Jelmini - making it a 1-2 for the Comtoyou Audis. The top four remained within a few seconds, while Gavrilov and Davidovski - who overtook Oriola with a great move at Turn 11 - followed a few seconds down the road.
Jack Young and Homola hit trouble on the final lap of the race and the Briton had to park his Halder Motorsport's Honda with a rear puncture.
Tom Coronel secured a lights to flag victory, in a Comtoyou Racing 1-2 ahead of Franco Girolami. Felice Jelmini held off John Filippi and rounded out the podium positions.
Mike Halder had a solid race and was 10th despite the difficult starting position; Michelle was also able to gain a few places in the closing laps to finish P16.
The dominant performance for the Comtoyou Racing's Audis was not over yet, as Viktor Davidovski kept the winning streak alive in Race 2. In doing so, he became the first Diamond Trophy driver to win the outright race in TCR Europe.
Davidovski held the position into Turn 1 after starting from pole, ahead of Oriola and Gavrilov. The two swapped places at the start, as many position changes were underway in the first hectic laps of the race.
Having lined up in 15th position at the start of Race 2, Michelle Halder had a difficult first lap and lost a few places, but she could move back into P18 after Ghermandi, Ryba, Colombani, all lost time in battles. Ghermandi received a drive through penalty for an incident with the Brutal Fish Racing Honda of Ryba. Josh Files also dropped down the order after a pit stop for a mechanical issue.
Michelle was up to 16th , while her brother Mike was battling with an engine issue that compromised his weekend since qualifying. Mike dropped to last, before ultimately retiring the car.
Saturday's winner Coronel moved up to fifth and passed Callejas after a great charge in the first laps. The Spaniard would then come under pressure from John Filippi and the two battled for several laps.
The top five pulled away; Davidovski was being chased by Gavrilov, while Oriola, Girolami and Coronel all battled for the final podium spot. The Dutchman made a move stick on Girolami but, once he attacked Oriola on the penultimate lap, the two almost touched at the Mistral chicane. Coronel first straight-lined the corner, but then returned the position to his opponent - also losing out to Girolami in the process.
After an action-packed race, Viktor Davidovski endured the pressure and took victory for Comtoyou Racing, preceding the Volcano Motorsport Cupra of Klim Gavrilov and Pepe Oriola.
In the closing stages, Michelle Halder gained one more position when Mat'o Homola slowed down and eventually retired. With P15, Michelle Halder scored a championship point despite an overall difficult weekend at Le Castellet.
"Very difficult weekend for us" - commented Michelle. "Very disappointed but we will come back stronger for the next round. Thanks to my team for the amazing work."
The third round of the 2022 TCR Europe season is scheduled for 17-19 June at the iconic Spa Francorchamps circuit, Belgium. Michelle Halder has already competed on the 7.004 km-long racetrack in the Ardennes, as part of her 2020 campaign in TCR Europe. The young German racer will certainly look forward to returning to the top-ten after a challenging start of the season.