Maťo Homola led the standings of TCR Eastern Europe from the first race and secured the title in the penultimate round. However, as is often the case in TCR championships, the journey to the title was not always straightforward.
Touring car races have a unique characteristic of weight handicapping for success. The driver who performs well in qualifying receives a certain number of kilograms for the following race weekend, which adds weight to their car and reduces its overall competitiveness. Winning with additional weight requires true driving skills and, most importantly, an experienced team capable of fine-tuning the car to perfection. The combination of Maťo Homola – Hyundai Elantra – Hyundai Janík Motorsport excelled in this task and rightfully concluded the six-round 2023 season with a victory.
Maťo Homola won the opening sprint at Oschersleben and finished second in the second race behind his teammate and debutant Carlo Czepiel. Adam Kout, the third driver of Hyundai Janík Motorsport, finished third in the first race, and the overall impression from the opening weekend was that the Czech team would dominate this season.
However, then TCR Eastern Europe moved to the Hungaroring and Red Bull Ring, and suddenly everything changed. René Kircher from Mertel Motorsport collected more points with his Honda Civic than Homola, and after the third round, he was only four points behind. In Hungary, he achieved his first victory, while his teammate Davit Kajaia claimed the top spot in Austria.
The situation in the drivers’ standings was very tight, and those who expected Homola to be dominant were surprised by the points difference. Did Homola have too much weight handicap, or did he lose speed? Homola provided a clear answer at the Slovakia Ring. In front of his home crowd, he won both sprints, while Kircher only scored eight points. The triumphant weekend in Slovakia brought him significantly closer to the title, which he confirmed in the following round in Most. The final race in Brno only decided who would finish second, third, and fourth.
Kajaia arrived in Brno in the most advantageous position, with Kircher trailing him by five points and Kout by sixteen points. However, Kajaia experienced the unluckiest weekend of the season and didn’t score a single point. On the other hand, Kircher won the second sprint, and Kout finished right behind him. Both surpassed Kajaia and celebrated second and third place in the final drivers’ standings.
Homola won three races this year, the most from all drivers. Kircher triumphed twice, and Milan Vuković with the Renault Mégane also achieved the same number of victories, although he only participated in the first half of the season. Czepiel, Kajaia, Petr Fulín, and Attila Bucsi each won one race. The young Hungarian had to wait the whole year until he turned sixteen and could get behind the wheel of a Hyundai i30. When that happened, he immediately secured pole position and victory in his first race.
A total of eighteen drivers scored points, and sixteen of them stood on the podium during the year. The 2022 Clio Cup champion, Tobias Poschik, reached the podium right at the beginning of the season, while Milenko Vuković accompanied his son Milan on the podium in Austria. Sebastian Steibel also enjoyed a taste of champagne there. Rookie Phillip Dietrich finished second in Slovakia, and the ecstatic Giacomo Ghermandi celebrated bronze in Most. Petr Čížek also reached the podium in his home race in Most. Žarko Knego had to wait the longest for a top-three finish, as he celebrated third place in the final sprint in Brno. Last year’s TCR Eastern Europe champion, Bartosz Groszek, also made an appearance at the Automotodrom Brno and finished third in the first sprint.
Although Homola won the title with a 56-point lead over Kircher, the statistics don’t tell the whole story. As mentioned before, this season was not short of dramatic moments and a very interesting development at the top of the drivers’ standings.
Hyundai Janík Motorsport successfully defended the team’s championship title, leaving Mertel Motorsport, who competed in TCR Eastern Europe for the first time, well behind. Their main goal was to secure the junior title for René Kircher, which they accomplished. Sebastian Kolakowski was the best in the Trophy classification for drivers with older-generation TCR cars.