One of three new faces in the Hyundai Motorsport N ETCR line-up, but one of only two to be making their electric touring car debut outright, Norbert Michelisz – so used to the bustle of large WTCR grids and punishing distances – was always likely to find the short, sharp and spectacular sprints of ETCR a culture shock.
And so it proved during the initial rounds, Michelisz getting to grips with starting gates, power boosts and tournament-style race formats in between tackling the more traditional demands of his WTCR campaign.
Making his ETCR debut on the streets of Pau for the RACE FR 2022 curtain raiser, Michelisz had made solid progress through the Quarter-Final and Semi-Final, only to see his DHL Super Final hopes stymied by technical woes that forced a start from the pit-lane.
With a return to beloved home soil at the Hungaroring beckoning for Round 2, Michelisz sought some hometown glory to get his season going. However Michelisz wasn’t able to channel the immense home support and endured a frustrating weekend which left him a lowly 11th in the King of the Weekend ranking.
“Hungaroring is always special for me and I was very excited before my home race, [but] it wasn’t an easy race weekend. Racing in both WTCR and ETCR the timetable was very tight, and I already knew from the event in Pau that it would take everything from my side to be competitive,” he said.
“I realised that the series was more difficult than I expected. It wasn’t a straight-forward weekend for me!”
Round 3 in Jarama heralded a step forward for Michelisz with a maiden ‘first across the line’ success in his Quarter-Final, an upturn that spurred him onto third in his DHL Super Final and a season’s best sixth overall come the end of the weekend.
While Round 4 in Zolder didn’t bring about a breakthrough in performance, Michelisz at least had the opportunity to console his 11th place in the King of the Weekend standings by participating in a ‘Hyundai job swap’ with the manufacturer’s World Rally Championship star – and toast of Belgian motorsport – Thierry Neuville.
With hopes of a strong performance in the penultimate round of the season at Vallelunga hindered in the all-important DHL Super Final, first due to a tangle with Romeo Ferraris driver Bruno Spengler and then by a tyre delamination in the closing stages, Michelisz would instead save his big breakthrough best for last at the Sachsenring finale.
Finding his groove on the undulating German venue, Michelisz flew the flag for Hyundai right to the DHL Super Final where, after a spirited battle for the lead with CUPRA’s Adrien Tambay, he settled for second on the road and a first King of the Weekend ETCR podium in third.
“It’s always nice to finish the year like this,” he commented looking back on his maiden campaign.
“It was a season mainly about learning and adapting myself to this new challenge, and I enjoyed every moment. It’s always the most important thing for me to finish a year in this way, I’m very happy with the podium.”
Boosted by the healthy haul of points from his landmark podium in Germany, Michelisz pipped team-mate Jean-Karl Vernay for seventh overall in the final classification as Hyundai Motorsport N’s best placed driver after Mikel Azcona.
Hyundai Motorsport N
Hyundai Veloster ETCR
7th – 293 points