Becoming world champion is the childhood dream of every driver. Mikel Azcona made it come true this year, securing the 2022 edition of the WTCR - FIA World Touring Car Cup. The Spaniard, who despite his young age - 26 years - has affirmed already himself as a touring car racing star, and reached the top of the discipline in his first campaign with Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing and BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse.
The FIA WTCR season saw Mikel winning four races, securing seven more podiums and setting two pole-positions, as a proof of the strong bond created with the squad and with the car, the Hyundai Elantra N TCR.
Shortly after the end of the season, we interviewed Mikel asking him also how the OMP products helped him to reach his goal.
Mikel, your first season as Hyundai driver has been magical: now you are a World Champion! What are your feelings after this achievement?
"First of all, I am very happy with what we achieved, as it was my goal during these last years. This year has been about changes for me. Even though I already knew that Hyundai was the force to beat, I was thinking that I would have needed a bit of time to adapt myself, but everything went well straight away since the first moment, much better than expected. Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing and the BRC team have been very welcoming and full of professionals, helping me to feel very comfortable. Winning the championship in the first season together has been something unbelievable. It's still difficult to understand, when I say to myself "You are world champion", but I'm very proud of this success".
How did you manage the transition to the Hyundai Elantra N TCR car? What strengths did you find in this car?
"I liked the car a lot since the first moment I jumped inside. Probably I necessitated some laps, some days, to adapt myself and find the last tenths, or hundredths. The most impressive feature of the Elantra N TCR is the way I can drive in the high-speed corners, the ones where you need good stability. We have a three-volume model and this gives an extra balance. In general, there are many other good things, like the braking. The Elantra N TCR is a very complete car".
What do you consider the key to your victory this year?
"The team didn't make any mistakes during the whole season. Sometimes you can win or lose a championship for technical failures, for something broken, but this year the car has been always in perfect conditions, and this is essential to win races. Secondly, on a personal level, I was thinking a lot about the title: when I was able to fight at the front I did everything to win, but sometimes, when we didn't have enough pace, I wanted to be smart, looking for points finishes. We didn't suffer DNFs in any race, and probably we have been the most consistent competitors".
In parallel, you took part in the FIA ETCR at the wheel of Hyundai Veloster N ETCR: how has been switching between two different types of touring cars?
"It's been very tough, especially when we had shared weekends between the two series. Mainly, there's no time to rest and to sit with your engineer for one hour, or at least thirty minutes, and analyze what you have to do in the next session. The two cars also have completely opposite characteristics, such as rear versus front wheel drive, the amount of horsepower or the weight distribution. You have to change the driving style, you have to be very precise. The hardest thing is that in the FIA ETCR you have three or four laps or practice, before going into the qualifying and finding the limit on every corner. It's probably the toughest thing I did in my career: basically you have to improvise, doing the best with very little information. It's a challenge I enjoy a lot".
You set a special record too: you've been the only driver in 2022 to secure at least a victory both in the FIA WTCR and in the FIA ETCR. Can we say you're now one of the best touring car drivers globally.
"I will never say that! I just think that FIA WTCR and FIA ETCR were full of very fast and experienced drivers, but in the end the one who wins is slightly ahead. This is why my title means a lot".
You compete using a broad range of Racing Force Group products: OMP racewear and car parts, and Bell helmets. What do you appreciate the most about our safety equipment?
"First of all, I want to underline how comfortable the OMP overalls and all the racewear products are. When you drive you have to feel like you have nothing on your body, especially with the underwear. Also gloves and boots fit very well: the lighter you feel them, the better you can perform. The OMP products gave me this kind of sensation and it’s something which can make a difference. For example, I don't feel super high temperatures while I'm racing in hot conditions, and it's crucial as we have no air conditioning inside the cockpit".
What are your next targets for 2023 alongside Hyundai Motorsport?
"Fighting for the FIA ETCR title in my second season with Hyundai. With the experience we collected in 2022, I’m confident we can make a step forward. I'm very much looking forward to being at the top of FIA ETCR as it’s now the only thing I miss in touring car racing, after the TCR Europe and FIA WTCR titles I already won. I will prepare myself in the best possible way to bring the trophy home".