Scoring points and podium finishes is my goal, says Žarko Knego about the 2024 season

Scoring points and podium finishes is my goal, says Žarko Knego about the 2024 season

27. 2. 2024 0 News , , ,

Žarko Knego committed himself to another full season in the TCR Eastern Europe Championship. The Croatian driver will be racing for Auto Klub Dubrovnik again, remaining in his new Hyundai Elantra, about which we can expect another special livery.

Reflecting on the previous season, what are the key lessons you’ve learned with Hyundai that you’re bringing into the 2024 TCR Eastern Europe championship?
Last year, in the middle of the season, we decided to change the car from Cupra to Elantra. We were not sure if this was the right decision because we hadn’t any experience at all with Elantra, but we were promised by Hyundai Motorsport to receive their assistance. Just before Slovakia Ring, we did one short test on our home track – Grobnik just to get familiar with the new car. I did a few laps and I immediately saw that the car is completely different from the Cupra. In order to drive it fast, you have to be much more focused and aggressive. As we didn’t have time to prepare, we used the Slovakia Ring event and all other races until the end of the season for testing and getting to know our Hyundai Elantra.
Luckily, our team manager and racing engineer, Miroslav, has great knowledge in race cars‘ setup, so we were advancing quite fast. I had to adapt my driving style to the new car, and our team had to change the way they are preparing the car in order to keep it fast and smooth for driving. All together, we had to make lots of small changes, and we are glad to be able to prepare this winter for the new season with our new car.

With the new season approaching, what specific areas have you and your team focused on during the off-season to enhance your performance on the track?
Although the car is newer than the previous, it still had quite some kilometres, so we had to buy a new engine, rebuild the gearbox and suspension. In the last race in Brno, I damaged the bodywork a bit, so all those repairs had to be done. Now the car has been assembled, and last weekend we did our first test with the new engine and other components that were changed or rebuilt.
We plan to make at least another 2-3 tests on the track in order to try some setups that we haven’t tried yet and to make the car and myself as competitive as possible. As this is an expensive sport, we are trying to find enough finances for season preparation and competing in the TCR Eastern Europe. In our team, finances are the biggest limitation because we don’t have a big enough budget to spend time on the track as much as we think it would be enough. So, we are spending a lot of time finding sponsors to support our racing project.

The TCR Eastern Europe championship is known for its competitive field and challenging circuits. How do you prepare for the opening race at Balaton Park, where you haven’t competed?
Balaton Park is a new track for most of us; drivers and teams. I find this as an advantage for us because no driver has had the opportunity to make a big number of laps, and no one will have an advantage from this side. As for all new tracks, I plan to start driving on a simulator, but I haven’t had time to check if it is already available because my simulator is still out of order. I hope to repair it soon to start my preparations. During the winter, I spent quite a lot of time on physical preparation because I saw a few times in past seasons that I was not prepared as I should be. I hope that TCR Eastern Europe will be as competitive as last season because this makes the series attractive for spectators and difficult for drivers.

Can we expect any surprises in terms of car design or livery for the upcoming season?
Our team member and main designer, Tomislav, is working on a new livery. He has a few ideas, but as always, he has all rights to do whatever he finds interesting and nice. This is also one part of the excitement; he makes some design that is not completely shared with me, and I see the car when it’s finished. Up to now, it has always been a pleasant surprise, and I am sure it will be again something new and interesting. Last year, we had great success with our art car design, and the car was an attraction everywhere.

The TCR Eastern Europe championship features a variety of tracks. Do you have a particular circuit you’re most looking forward to racing on this season, and why?
I have raced on most of the tracks from the calendar except for Balaton Park and Salzburg ring. From the tracks where I raced, I like Brno the most for its configuration and the Red Bull Ring. Of course, all other tracks are great, and I look forward to racing there. I am quite curious about Balaton Park; it is a new and modern track, and I am sure it will offer interesting and close racing. I would like to see Grobnik back on the calendar because it is my home track.

Lastly, looking ahead, what are your primary goals for the 2024 season, and how do you plan to achieve them?
Always at the beginning of the season, I set some goals regarding the final ranking, and up to now, to be honest, I haven’t achieved it. I had some good races and some bad races, but overall, my final rankings were not at the level of my expectations. Last year in Brno, I finished third and confirmed to myself that I can race at a high level, and I raised the level of expectations. However, it is much easier to finish one race in the top 3 than to be consistent during the entire season. I would be happy if I manage to score points in all races and to achieve a few podium finishes. Of course, these are my wishes; in order to achieve them, I will need to perform at the highest level and have enough luck to avoid technical issues. I am looking forward to racing again in season 2024.