Petr Fulín has given an exclusive interview for the official website of our championship, where he is talking about his last season and also unveils his plans for 2020.
Petr, last year, we saw your Fullinrace Academy team in the TCR Eastern Europe series and TC-3500 endurance races as well. In the first case, your team was represented by Petr Čížek and Carol Wittke, who took the 5th and 6th places in the final standings. The German driver also raced for you in the endurance races, where he was joined by you in a SEAT Cupra car. Together, you have managed to take the 4th place. How would you describe your last season?
As a coach, I’m definitely happy with both guys. They’re improving. Petr Čížek showed that in the last two qualifyings of the season when he got to the first row. Also, Carol had some great moments and we just need to work on some details, like doing fast laps with fresh tyres. And of course, when it comes to race speed and dealing with traffic, there’s some room for improvement. But it’s important to realise that they’ve got almost no experience in comparison to the others. Then both, Petr and me, have a missing experience in karting. And while it’s something that can be learnt, it takes some time. When it comes to my races, I think it’s important to take it easy and with a smile. My goal is to enjoy the racing wheel and to help Carol to get a podium. To our advantage, the endurance races take place at the same time as the TCR Eastern Europe championship. Also, me being on the track means that I know where exactly a limit for our setup is, how competitive we are, and how we can change it. More than a real racing experience, I see it as an opportunity to drive, because everybody is on different tyres.
In one case, we could see you and Carol also on the top step of the podium at Brno. Is this race at Masaryk circuit, that took place in September, your favourite memory on 2019 season? Or is there anything better?
Like I said before, I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but I’d not overrate anybody’s results and for me, it’s more about a reward to Carol. As a coach, I’d like to mention the last two rounds again, where Petr had a great qualifying, or Grobnik, where Carol had a great result in the endurance race, while Petr took a podium in a sprint race. We had some positives on basically every weekend and it’s difficult to find the best one.
Jáchym Galáš won the last year’s TC-3500 endurance championship. He is just 17-year-old and it was his first season. How would you rate his performance? And what do you expect from him in the future? Does he have a chance to make it to the top championships like WTCR or TCR Europe?
That’s tough. There are so many different ways how to look at it. TCR cars are not the toughest cars to handle. You hit the throttle, nothing happens for a while, then a turbo kicks in and suddenly you have too much power which is bad for the front tyres. As a driver, you realise that you need to be more careful on the tyres than in a car with a naturally aspirated engine. Then, while the gearbox is sequential, it still has its electronics and the revs are strictly set for downshifting. And many more things. To keep it simple, this car has very different limits to the real WTCC car, and it’s not so difficult to find a limit here. A true professional with years of experience does not have many opportunities for how to show their speed. Outbraking someone or having a feeling for the engine, that is something you should forget about in the TCR world. That’s why it happens so often that a new WTCR driver suddenly beats Muller or Huff. It’s just the weekend where everything fits perfectly and there is no limitation from the BoP. However, I’m 100% sure that such a driver wouldn’t stand a chance in the previous WTCC era. Of course, I’m glad there are young drivers who can quickly adapt and show their speed, like Dušan or Jáchym. On the other side, look at the number of all TCR drivers across all series and just take away those, who are within 0.6 seconds in their respective championships. You’ll get an incredible number, there are just so many guys and girls like that. It’s not about power, but about money. It doesn’t matter if you want to do the TCR Europe or WTCR, you still need 5 or 10 million CZK. But it’s unimaginable to have that much money for one season. There will be tracks on the calendar, that you will know only from a simulator and you will be also adjusting to a completely different culture. For that, you’re going to need even more money, and I haven’t even started about testing. To sum it up, if you are serious about it, prepare a three-year plan and at least 18 million CZK for Europe or 33 million CZK for the world programme. Forget about a dream that the WTCR is going to email you and ask you to participate. I know what I’m talking about. If I skip all the ETCC results, we had a decent result in the WTCR – like the 5th place at Slovakia Ring. Being a wild card, having a 20 kilograms handicap and a completely different engine map to the other Cupra cars. Or the development of Alfa in the TCR International. And do you think that someone reached out? Yes, they did, but only to ask for money that they would ask even a driver without any experience. So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the guys, but I’m afraid that their fathers will have to work even harder and they’ll have to improve Autoclub lobbying even more.
But back to you now. As we’ve mentioned already, we could see you only in the TC-3500 endurance races. Your racing calendar was not as busy as in the previous years. How is it going to be this year?
Just like in the previous season, I intend to enjoy my time behind the wheel. I’ll be setting reference times for the guys and help them with car setups. I’ll feel good when I see again how fast times I can set in comparison to the others. But it’s all just for me, without any politics, no media, just pure enjoyment of driving a car. The WTCR is the same, but of course, there’s much more battling. But the time behind the wheel, working on setup, that’s the same. So, the basic question is – are those 11 million CZK worth it? Are those Eurosport interviews the most important thing? I don’t think so. I like driving. Also, I don’t need to face that political pressure like BoP, lobbying of the „A“ teams that are supported by the manufacturers, despite it’s not allowed, or the pressure from the sponsors. I don’t care about that anymore; I just look at it from the team’s perspective. Of course, I’d enjoy driving in the WTCR, but I don’t want to pay. If there’s anybody, who would pay it for me, I’ll be happy to do it. But I want to go a much more logical way and to still enjoy the driving itself. That’s what matters. Also, look at how many fans there are around Czech racetracks in comparison to the smaller tennis, football or ice hockey clubs. The circuit racing does not have many fans, it’s a very narrow group of people, mostly drivers and their families. And that affects media, which are closely tied to sponsors’ interest. Despite all that, I wish your whole team all the best, lots of strength, fans, patience and understanding for the drivers during interviews. All the best for the Czech racing drivers and a great 2020 season. Fingers crossed!