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Friday favourite: The underrated track that saved a Honda ace’s career

It may not be the first venue that comes to mind in the great circuits debate, but there's no hesitation for Honda WTCR man Esteban Guerrieri in picking Brno - both for sentimental and technical reasons - in the latest instalment of our favourite track series

Esteban Guerrieri, Formula Renault 3.5

Esteban Guerrieri, Formula Renault 3.5

Jean Michel Le Meur / DPPI

Even though he concedes it’s sequence of long apexes can be “a little bit monotonous”, there’s good reason for Honda WTCR ace Esteban Guerrieri citing Brno as his favourite track. That’s because his two Formula Renault 3.5 victories at the Czech venue in 2010 effectively saved his career.

A cash-strapped Guerrieri, who had raced in the final season of Formula 3000 in 2004 before lack of funds pushed him back into Formula 3, had already proven himself to be a race-winning force at Spa with the ISR team. But the Argentinian’s presence in the team alongside team boss Igor Salaqarda’s son Filip was on a race-by-race basis, and the arrival of a paying driver for Monaco meant he had to step out of the cockpit.

When Guerrieri returned on the team’s home ground in Brno, he duly took a brace of wins and went on to fight for a title that he was only denied by a controversial technical disqualification at Silverstone for a non-homologated piece of tape on his front wing. Proving it was nonsense, he won again the following day (pointedly appearing on the podium with a piece of tape across his mouth) and ended the year third, behind future IndyCar midfielder Mikhail Aleshin and eight-time F1 race-winner Daniel Ricciardo.

Guerrieri recalls: “When I did 3.5 in 2010, I won both races there, that allowed me to continue the championship with Igor Salaquarda. He called me one week before the first race and then I was race-by-race basically, he was paying my seat and I was coaching Filip during the year.

“Some days before the race, Igor comes and says, ‘Esteban, let’s go and drive, please don’t crash and let’s try to win’. We were both there in the front row, and they were very fair with me. They said, ‘There is no team orders, whoever starts better just keeps the lead’. And in both starts, I jumped better than Filip.

“If he was quicker than me, I was probably going to let him by but I could pull away quite consistently. So there was no team orders which I always appreciated.”

Guerrieri's Formula Renault 3.5 double at Brno in 2010 effectively rebooted his career

Guerrieri's Formula Renault 3.5 double at Brno in 2010 effectively rebooted his career

Photo by: Thierry Bovy / DPPI

Although Brno is “not very well known for single-seaters”, Guerrieri quickly gelled with the track at his first visit in the 2001 Formula Renault Eurocup. Fifth that year, while his future Le Mans 24 Hours-winning Lucidi Motors team-mate Jose Maria Lopez was 23rd, Guerrieri then won both races at Brno to begin his successful assault on the 2003 title with Cram Competition.

“Always in that race track I have been maximising potential of the car in every category I raced,” Guerrieri says, acknowledging that it “sounds crazy” to pick the venue above the many highlights on a WTCR calendar that includes the Nurburgring Nordschleife, as well as the North American tracks he sampled during two years of Indy Lights in 2011 and 2012 when he finished second both times. “Brno is a track that I have really enjoyed, I don’t know why but it’s a track that suits my driving style very well.”

"All of the track, it’s quite on the limit and challenging in terms of positioning the car and handling the rear-end" Esteban Guerrieri

But it’s not only his record at the track that the 2019 WTCR runner-up picks out. With its different cambers and rises and falls, Guerrieri explains that the 14-turn 3.357-mile Masaryk circuit is a “very technical” challenge to nail a set-up.

“It’s so wide and you have so many corners one after the other that you really need to maximise the combined G’s on the corner entry, so you’re always with the rear of the car on the edge,” he says. “Then that combined G, maintain it as long as you can because you need to prepare the next one and the exit.”

The circuit affords plenty of passing opportunities too, the most obvious into the “very cool” long Turn 1 right-hander at the end of the pitstraight, with the Turn 13 left following the back straight also a viable candidate.

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“All of the track, it’s quite on the limit and challenging in terms of positioning the car and handling the rear-end,” Guerrieri adds. “You are always on the edge of the limit of the rear end of the car, from the entry until the exit of the second sequence of corners.

“You really need to apply the power smoothly, and also you have uphill sections, so you really need to prepare the position of the car to get out of the corners well.”

Guerrieri says Brno is a very technical challenge and satisfying to get right

Guerrieri says Brno is a very technical challenge and satisfying to get right

Photo by: Thierry Bovy / DPPI

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