In the spotlight: Norbert Michelisz

Author

Simon Arron

View profile
Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Simon Arron meets a driver who converted a passion for gaming into a works Honda drive in the World Touring Car Championship

“Give me your wallets…” As first encounters with drivers go, this ranks among the more unusual. I was walking between paddock and town in Vila Real, Portugal, when the threat emerged. Turning to assess whether self-defence or surrender would be the wiser option, I was greeted by a grin and a Castrol Honda shirt. “Ah,” said World Touring Car Championship media delegate Richard Rodgers, just ahead. “Simon, meet Norbert Michelisz…”

An interesting case, Michelisz, and not just for his sense of mischief. Sony and Nissan have garnered coverage for proving that computer gamers can become handy racers, but Michelisz is a little-known prototype. He honed his craft in a village in south-western Hungary, without the aid of a global PR campaign.

“I’ve always liked cars,” he says, “and in about 2002 started to take an interest in racing simulators – the first I tried was Grand Prix Legends. Once I’d achieved what I thought were decent lap times, I checked to see what others were doing and found it was possible to go three or four seconds faster. I felt like throwing the game in the bin, but actually this encouraged me to practice. Eventually I enrolled in some on-line championships and did well.”

While racing virtually, he came up against Gábor Wéber – the dominant force at the time in Hungary’s domestic championship for real Renault Clios. Wéber mentioned Michelisz’s apparent prowess to his team owner Zoltán Zengö, who in 2005 invited the 21-year-old to a test at the Hungaroring. “I was given two four-lap runs in a Clio,” Michelisz says. “All the leading drivers were there, but nobody mentioned my times. In the afternoon Mr Zengö talked to me more and more, but it was only later that I discovered I’d been second-quickest, two tenths off Gábor.”

Zengö soon offered him a chance to join his team for 2006, to contest a new one-make series for Suzuki Swifts: he took the title – and his career was launched.

Michelisz moved up to Clios in 2007, with the same outcome, and then progressed to Seat Leons, initially in Hungary before tackling the newly introduced Eurocup. “That taught me a lot,” he says, “although initially I felt slightly in awe of the international drivers. In mid-season I took four straight poles, but I wasn’t yet consistent enough in the races. I won at Monza, though, and Seat offered me the chance to do a WTCC race in Okayama. I’d been racing for just two years.”

Michelisz scored five wins en route to winning the Eurocup title in 2009, then graduated full-time to the WTCC in 2010 with Zengö’s private team. The next six seasons would be fruitful, with a sprinkling of victories, many podium finishes and two successful conquests of the WTCC Trophy for independents, in 2012 and 2015. Honda subsequently signed him as a factory driver.

“Things are obviously easier with a works team,” he says, “because we have more mechanics and can do more testing – I love the development side of the job. In the WTCC there are many drivers at a similar level, so it is important to find perfect harmony with your car. Do I have any ambitions to race at Le Mans or elsewhere? Not at the moment. I enjoy the WTCC and would like to achieve my personal limits within this series. I want to win the world title, so there’s still work to do.”

Whatever happens next, he has come an awfully long way in little more than a decade.

Related articles

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore

Related products

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore