One of the highlights of the 54th Mecsek Rally will be when the world’s only privately owned Citroen C3 WRC completes its first race with Robert Bútor. The TBR car is a 2019 development, so it’s one of the latest. In 2019, Sebastien Ogier competed with him, finishing second in Corsica and third in Portugal. At the end of the season, they also took the podium at the Wales Rally, finishing third there as well. Three podiums out of seven races, not a bad ratio. Last year, the car was operated by the Saintéloc Junior Team, with Petter Solberg and Andreas Mikkelsen testing this year’s Pirelli tires at the Sardinia Rally.
We asked Rob Bútor about the car and the Mecsek Rally even before the Cered test.
This year will be the first Mecsek Rally, which will take place without István Jelen…
For me, the Mecsek Rally has been tied to him, since I have been racing, it is strange to live that the race will be without him from now on, which makes me think, since I have been racing for 30 years next year and I have been here for almost every rally. There are many common memories associated with him, he has organized very good competitions. I have always had two favorites, the Salgó and the Mecsek, and lately the Veszprém Rally. The Mecsek Rally has always been outstanding, I hope that the professional work will continue without him in a worthy way, I think that the duo Tibor Markó – Robert Lakatos is a guarantee for this. I make my debut with the WRC here precisely because they can guarantee the standard it takes to debut such a car.
What are your favorite Mecsek tracks?
I can say that I like almost all the tracks in the Mecsek, maybe my favorite is the Camping-Árpádtető, we went there a lot and I always really enjoyed it, but I also like Kisvaszar. The Árpádtető – Orfű is fast and varied, the new asphalt part towards Orfű is mountainous, the environment is beautiful, the road is of very good quality. But I also love Pécsvárad, it’s a real rally track, we have to suck ourselves up there, I loved it more younger. I know all of this year’s tracks, I love them, they are close to me, I’m not afraid of either, I’m really looking forward to the race.
How close are the cities of Mecsek and Pécs to you?
Being a forest and mountain maniac, I really like it. On the slopes of Pécs I have the feeling I like, trees, heights, forest. I really like to go to Pécs, I like the atmosphere of the city, the main square is a very nice part of the city. I also really like the style of the roads, and the fact that the main character of the rally is here, as well as in Miskolc or Gödöllő, as it raised a lot of good car racers. Even during my active career, I was really looking forward to coming and I didn’t accidentally choose this race to start with the WRC.
How did you get this miracle car?
I got a lot of luck and a lot of work, because the creation of the financial background was up to me, I built my own company and continued what I started with my father. The WRC was a dream for me, so towards the end of my career. I never wanted to stop acting racing, all to be spectator-friendly and, of course, to entertain myself. I had a Skoda and a 306 Maxi Peugeot and I wanted a WRC. It never occurred to me to have such a final specification WRC, an unattainable story for a Hungarian. The story is fabulous: a piece of such a car became available in the world, in France. This was signaled by a fan, then we called the owner, a rental company where they knew my name, I think, because of my old Citroen past. They responded immediately to the request for a quote, recommending a number and a package of parts that was right for us. The icing on the cake was that the Maxi Peugeot 306 was also reported in the purchase price, which was a significant part of it, so the story came together in 3 hours and I was able to sell the Skoda the next day. The whole story took place in a week from the first news. I haven’t done anything simpler than that. I’m not a believer, but I think I also got a little help from upstairs, my dad. I can’t believe this can happen that way, since so far I’ve worked for every penny, I haven’t received anything for free. I hope this success story continues.
What were the first kilometers like and what are your plans for the Mecsek Rally?
We did the first kilometers in France before we paid for the car, it was a 30 kilometer test at a very serious go-kart center, it was a very big experience, but well it is not among the trees and it is not a rally track. It was more about slipping and how to handle a car like that, since I haven’t sat in such a WRC in my life, that’s why it’s high-tech. I actually made friends with the car terribly quickly, under those conditions, but the real test will be on Friday, a 100-150 mile practice in Cered. We hired a French engineer, he will come to help set up and use the car, I hope it will be good. I would like to reach the finish line in the Mecsek, to serve the spectators to the maximum, I do not chase vain dreams, I have no compulsion to win, the most important thing is to show such a car to the Hungarian fans, I enjoy every moment. That’s why I don’t overdo it, I need time to learn to drive. But I hope it will be what people remember at first. There’s no opponent, I don’t go into the finish line if I were first, I don’t go through the finish podium, I don’t want to get involved in the race.
Photo: MGR Images