Mads Ostberg wins Rally Hungary for the second time (after 2021) with Hungarian champion Ferenc Vincze and Latvian Martins Sesks on the podium of the European Championship race. The most dramatic event of the race happened in the penultimate stage, where the long-time leader Miklós Csomós crashed out.
But let’s go step-by-step.
Sunday saw four stages in the Hungarian ERC race, including the iconic Mád stage, the longest of the event with 25.35 kilometres. In the morning Miklós Csomós seemed to pick up where he left off the day before, as he took another stage win, increasing his lead by 9 tenths of a second. He had a puncture on the longest stage of the race, but with Mads Ostberg also had a puncture (and Vincze stuck behind a Peugeot and driving in the dust for a long time), Csomós still had a 15-second lead.
It would have been enough, if… If it hadn’t been that left-hander on the penultimate stage.
“We slid out in a left-hander, a small tree was hanging in and it overturned us” Csomós said sadly. “We tried to get down the last two stages safely. I am very disappointed, and I can’t say more now.”
Since then on, Ostberg and Vincze were in focus: in a strange twist of fate, last year’s and this year’s Hungarian champion fought the final battle for victory. It was a give-and-take between the two throughout the whole weekend, but with Ostberg starting the final stage with an 8.9-second lead, it was a case of playing safe. In the end, he didn’t choose this tactic, he even added to his lead.
“It was a very good weekend, everything came together, that was the secret of success” Ostberg said. “We had a good battle with Mixi Csomós and Feri Vincze, and for me it was definitely the highlight of the season after the difficulties I had to face in my home race, the Swedish race. I felt good from the start in Rally Hungary, I liked the stages and it’s good to have something to celebrate. The Hungarian fans, I know well, say I should have a pálinka, but the bad news is that I’m not a big fan of it… But anyway, I might have two cents tonight after this victory.”
With his win Ostberg secured third position in ERC overall standing behind Hayden Paddon and Martins Sesks.
Ferenc Vincze was neither dissatisfied nor sad, in fact… He had expected to be in the top five, and second place was far better than that.
“We feel sorry for Mixi Csomós and his co-driver, because they would have deserved to win, but that’s always part of rallying” said Vincze. “We finished the race without mistakes and we managed to set a good pace in the circumstances, thanks to our team we had a great car. Today was a relatively short day, so we knew that, if Mads (Ostberg) finished and didn’t make mistakes, we wouldn’t be able to make up the deficit. And we couldn’t. We hit one or two rims, but didn’t get a puncture, and we were driving a lot in the dust of a Peugeot on the long stage, but I think there is no shame to be 12 seconds behind in an ERC race. We cannot complain, and we do not do it at all.”
Third place on the podium went to Martins Sesks of Latvia, who was competing in Rally Hungary for the first time. But it was certainly not his last.
“It’s my first race in Hungary and I have to say that it’s a very tough race” Sesks explained. “I had to be very focused all the time, because it was a long day, but I really enjoyed every single kilometre of it. My favourite part was the long stage in Mád, which I managed to win, and I’m very happy with the podium.”
From a Hungarian point of view, it is interesting that Frigyes Turán, who was the first and so far the only Hungarian to win the Rally Hungary in 2019, finished fifth. “We worked hard for this fifth place, we can be proud of it, as well as of the fact that we managed to finish with a damage-free car, which was a huge task at this event. We drove at a good pace, but we didn’t take any risks, which paid off, and we finished second in the Hungarian championship classification.”
Norbert Michelisz and his performance meant one of the most interesting aspects of the race: our World Touring Car Champion had to face a number of unknowns: for the first time he had to race on narrow forest roads, in the dark with a set of lights, for the first time he had to rely on another person – his co-driver Róbert Tagai – and for the first time he had to change a flat tyre in a stage.
Michelisz was up for the challenge, and even enjoyed the experience, and finished 13th after losing time due to a tyre change.
“There was a lot of new and first for me this weekend, so I tried to get into the rhythm and when I did, I started to focus on speed,” said Michelisz. “It was a tough race, I’m grateful to the team and to Robi for all their help. I had no expectations for the weekend, I didn’t even look at the times until this morning. The goal was to finish the race and we did that.”
The European Championship title had already been won by Hayden Paddon of New Zealand, but the Junior ERC Champion was crowned in Nyíregyháza, the glory ended in Norbert Maior’s favour, the Romanian securing a fully-funded ride in the 2024 FIA Junior WRC Championship as his reward.
RALLY HUNGARY, ERC ROUND 8, NYÍREGYHÁZA
Overall classification: 1. Mads Ostberg, Patrik Barth (Norwegian, Swedish, Citroen C3) 1:37:40.2, 3. Vincze, Percze (Hungarian, Skoda Fabia Evo) +12.8 seconds, 3. Sesks, Francis (Latvian, Skoda Fabia RS) +1:26.2 minutes.