Norbert Michelisz is probably the best-known racing driver from Hungary and the first world champion in real racing who found his way into motorsport via computer games. Michelisz reached the top of the world in 2019 by winning the championship title in the WTCR - FIA World Touring Car Cup, driving a Hyundai i30 N TCR for the Italian BRC Racing Team.
Earlier in a career, he finished as a vice-champion in the 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship, driving for Honda factory team. He was the best independent driver in the WTCC two times, in 2012 and 2015.
Racing career never was in plans
He was born on August 8, 1984, in Himeshaza near Pecs. His uncle was a mechanic and rally driver, so Norbi as a boy was charmed by the smell of petrol. When he was seven years old, he began to drive karting but never entered any competition.
After many years, when he was watching Formula 1 race on television as a student, Michelisz heard about simulator racing and soon he took part in Grand Prix Legends game online championships. He did exceptionally well and in 2005 Michelisz was invited to test a real racing car with Zengo Motorsport racing team at Hungaroring.
That was his first time to drive a real racing car but again was impressive. The team decided to put Norbert in Suzuki Swift Cup in 2006 and was told to race without a pressure. After winning the pole position in his debut race, his confidence increased and at the end of the season Michelisz won the title.
Michelisz driving a Renault Clio in 2007
The next stop in Norbi’s career was the Hungarian Renault Clio Cup. After a bit clumsy start of the 2007 season, the talented guy was able to find good form and to win another title. Winning the two titles in two years was not an accident and Zengo Motorsport evaluated that Michelisz is capable of going to international stage.
SEAT Leon Eurocup champion
While he was competing in the national SEAT Leon Supercup in 2008, in which he finished as a runner-up, Michelisz got an opportunity to make a debut in SEAT Leon Eurocup and again did pretty well. As a reward, he got an opportunity to race as a guest in the penultimate round of the FIA World Touring Cars Championship in Japan. After retiring from the first race due to a crash, Michelisz finished 16th in the second race.
Norbert Michelisz, SEAT Leon
In 2009, his second year in the SEAT Leon Eurocup, Michelisz became a champion winning a total of five races. As a champion of a big European series, Michelisz and Zengo Motorsport were prepared for the higher level. In a meantime, Norbert earned IT degree at Pecs University but was forced to abandon studying economics due to his motorsport duties.
Full-time racing in the WTCC
Since 2010, Michelisz is a regular in the FIA WTCC. He started his WTCC career as a privateer, driving a Zengo Motorsport’s SEAT Leon TDI. The Hungarian racer finished 9th overall in his rookie season and was the best-placed rookie. He scored points on a regular basis but the best Norbert kept for the end of the campaign. Michelisz scored his maiden podium by finishing 3rd in Japan, while in the last round of the season in Macau, he scored his maiden win. Michelisz also became the first Hungarian who won a race in an FIA-organized series.
Norbert Michelisz, WTCC BMW
In the following year, Zengo Motorsport switched to BMW 320 TC what was a new challenge. Michelisz again finished 9th in the Drivers’ championship and 4th in the Yokohama Trophy for the independent entrants, after too many ups and downs. The best moment that year was the 2nd place in his home race at Hungaroring, in front of 70 thousand fans.
Norbert Michelisz was the WTCC Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy winner in 2012
Michelisz’s progress in the WTCC continued in 2012. He scored points in 15 out of 16 races at the start of the season, including a victory in the second race at Hungaroring. It was followed by podium finishes in both races of the US round, but in the last three rounds, Norbert failed to pick a single point.
Michelisz wa WTCC Yokohama Trophy winner in 2012
However, Michelisz was crowned as a Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy champion, while in the overall standings he was 6th, beating many colleagues from the factory-backed teams. That was a big step forward in his career and Norbi quickly established himself as one of the best in the series.
New challenge with Honda WTCC
After two seasons with BMW, Zengo Motorsport before the 2013 WTCC campaign switched to Honda Civic. That proved to be a good decision as Michelisz quickly adapted to a new car. He scored a total of seven podium finishes, including a victory in Japan. At the end of the year, Michelisz again was 6th in the Drivers’ Championship but with 30 points more on his account than in the previous year.
Zengo Motorsport's golden boy Michelisz, before 2014 WTCC Race of China
The season of 2014 was quite interesting. Michelisz didn’t score a single win and had only four podium finishes, but moved up to the 4th place in the Drivers’ championship, behind three absolutely dominant Citroen drivers – Jose Maria Lopez, Yvan Muller, and Sebastien Loeb.
Yokohama Trophy winner again in 2015
Michelisz broke the winless streak in 2015. He won the second race at Hungaroring and had other five podium finishes what was enough for the 6th place in the overall classification. For the second time in his career, a pilot from Hungary became the Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy champion, finishing the season just four points ahead of Mehdi Bennani.
In 2016 and 2017, Michelisz was a member of the Honda factory-backed team
Moving to Honda factory team in 2016
After many years during which Michelisz proved that he is the consistent and reliable driver, in 2016 he was promoted to Honda factory-backed JAS Motorsport team. The other two Honda drivers were Tiago Monteiro and Rob Huff but Norbi was the one who impressed most. He finished the season at the 4th place, only a point behind Monteiro. His only win was in Japan but had other seven podium finishes confirming once again that he is one of the most competitive drivers in the WTCC.
World Touring Car Championship runner-up in 2017
In the 2017 WTCC season, Michelisz continued to drive for Honda, with Tiago Monteiro and Ryo Michigami as teammates. Monteiro was the championship leader in the mid-season but he missed the last four rounds because of injuries during summer practice. After that, Michelisz became Honda's main candidate for the championship title, fighting against Volvo's Thed Bjork. At the end of the season, Michelisz finished second.
In 2018, the WTCR - FIA World Touring Car Cup became the world's major touring car competition after a merger of WTCC and TCR International Series. Michelisz joined Italian BRC Racing Team to drive the #5 Hyundai i30 N TCR, with Gabriele Tarquini as a teammate. The Italian veteran won the championship title while Michelisz finished fourth in the points with one victory on his account.
In 2018, Michelisz joined BRC Racing Team to drive Hyundai in the WTCR
World champion in 2019 after five WTCR victories
Norbert stays with BRC Racing Team in the 2019 WTCR season, becoming one of the main candidates for the championship title. He waited for the first win of the season until the fifth round, at Nurburgring Nordschleife. Then, he won at least one race in every of the next three rounds in Portugal, China and Japan, also finishing second at Macau Guia Circuit.
After entering season's finale at Sepang as championship leader, he won the first race of the weekend to extend his lead. In the end, he defeated the closest rival Esteban Guerrieri by 23 points, clinching the world's title.