Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

Mikel Azcona “not feeling the pressure” as Tarquini’s replacement at Hyundai

New BRC Racing Team recruit Mikel Azcona says he does not feel the pressure of being Gabriele Tarquini’s replacement at the Hyundai squad heading into the 2022 World Touring Car Cup season.

Azcona, a three-time race winner in the WTCR and who finished seventh in the standings last year, has made the off-season switch to Hyundai for this year, having spent the entirety of his TCR career to date in Cupra machinery.

He will partner 2019 WTCR champion Norbert Michelisz in a reduced two-car Hyundai line-up, filling the boots of recently retired Tarquini.

Despite his new surroundings, Azcona is already feeling at home with BRC and the Hyundai Elantra, which enters its second year of competition in 2022.

“After a few days of testing only, I was already happy with the car, it was fast straight away so I like it a lot,” Azcona told TouringCarTimes.

“The same for the team and Norbi, we get along really well already, they are really professional and this is very important for me.

“I’m improving all the time and with Norbi as my team-mate, he is a high reference. He is a world champion so I will use this opportunity to learn as much as I can this year.”

Albeit a proven racer winner in WTCR, Azcona remains one of the lesser experienced drivers in the championship, and the Spaniard is keen to make the most of Michelisz’s wisdom ahead of the new campaign.

“Of course, I am speaking with Norbi all the time, learning every day and it’s helping me understand the car and the team a lot more,” Azcona added.

“I think this year I will make a step forward as a driver because the team is totally professional: from the team management, engineers, drivers, everything is that much more sophisticated.

“From last year for example, I was competitive but not for the whole year because the car didn’t give me the best opportunities at every race, but this year I think we will have a chance every weekend. Basically, driving the Elantra is very similar to the Cupra: obviously there are some differences but they are also very similar.

“So the difference this year will be to focus on strategies and how to make the most out of the car. Probably I’ll learn from last year but I will mainly learn a lot of new things this season. We’ll work differently as a team.”

The gap left by Tarquini is not underestimated amid the BRC Racing Team but Azcona believes his “relaxed” style both in the car and out of it will be a key factor in keeping the pressure off his shoulders.

“I don’t feel the pressure, honestly,” he said.

“I’m really convinced of myself and my driving and I like to think this way. When I am driving, I am very relaxed and I don’t feel pressure. I know that I am replacing Gabriele Tarquini and he was a very good driver and won world championships and there is a little bit of pressure but I honestly think I can continue his success and achieve good results.

“This year, with a better car, better team in general, I am a lot more confident in myself.”