With the TCR Season now over, here’s a reminder of how the last weekends of the 2018 TCR Europe Series finished.
Here is the TCR Talk roundup of all the action that took place at the legendary Monza circuit, from Qualifying all the way through to Race One on Saturday and Race Two on Sunday…
The 2018 TCR Europe Series Entry List For Monza:
Monza Hosts the penultimate weekend of the 2018 season…
The battle for the 2018 TCR Europe Series title entered a crucial phase as the series arrived in Monza for the penultimate event of the season.
Target Competition’s Dušan Borković led the standings in his Hyundai i30 N, but just two points clear of Mikel Azcona’s PCR Sport Cupra. Third, in the classification, twenty points off the leader was Dániel Nagy in the M1RA Hyundai; the young Hungarian trying to benefit from the duel between the Serbian and the Spaniard.
The fight promises to be red-hot because the 28-car field included some distinguished guest stars such as Fabrizio Giovanardi, Nicola Baldan and Salvatore Tavano.
Strategy and team orders played their parts, with Borković counting on his teammates Reece Barr and Kris Richard while Baldan and Tavano are due to support Nagy and Azcona respectively.
In 2017, the TCR International Series event at Monza saw victories for Roberto Colciago (Honda Civic) and Stefano Comini (Audi RS3 LMS). The Swiss considers Monza as his home racetrack and will be aiming to score his maiden win of the season in the Autodis Racing-THX Honda Civic.
Other top runners to watch were Josh Files and Attila Tassi who also drive Honda cars for the Hell Energy Racing KCMG and Jean-Karl Vernay in the Leopard Lukoil Team-WRT Audi RS3 LMS.
Giovanardi ready to entertain the fans at Monza
Touring Car legend Fabrizio Giovanardi made his maiden appearance in the TCR Europe series at Monza, in a Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta run by Team Mulsanne.
Michela Cerruti, Romeo Ferraris Operations Manager, commented: “I was thrilled by the idea of entering Fabrizio in the event. Having him at the wheel of one of our cars in our home event is something very special. I believe the track suits the Giulietta well as it was proved in last year’s TCR International Series.”
There are three European crowns in the long list of Touring Car titles won by Giovanardi who raced Alfa Romeo cars for most of his racing career.
“I’m enthusiastic about racing again at Monza in such a competitive series like TCR Europe. This is the opportunity to try and harvest the fruits of the hard work we have done throughout the season. The fans have always cheered for me here and this gives me great motivation. I promise to put in a show and entertain the spectators!” said Giovanardi.
Tavano to race in TCR Europe at Monza
Current TCR Italy points leader, Salvatore Tavano, made his maiden appearance in the TCR Europe series at Monza.
Tavano drove the very same Cupra TCR he used in the Italian series, run by the Scuderia del Girasole team.
For the Sicilian driver, Monza also marked his comeback to international Touring Car competition, twelve years after his victory at Puebla in the 2006 World Touring Car Championship.
“It’s a great personal reward. I wish to thank Cupra Racing and SEAT Motorsport Italia for giving me this great opportunity. It won’t be an easy task, because we are newcomers in very competitive series, but I will do my best to put in a good show. We want to show off and do a good job for Cupra Racing, but with a sense of responsibility, because we don’t have to forget that our focus is on clinching the TCR Italy title two weeks later,” Tavano said.
Baldan joins M1RA for the Monza event
After making his debut with M1RA, one week previously at Vallelunga in TCR Italy, Nicola Baldan drove one of the team’s Hyundai i30 N cars in the TCR Europe Series at Monza.
The reigning Italian champion, who came back to racing at Vallelunga after a long break for the consequences of an incident in which he broke his collarbone, teamed up with M1RA’s regular Dániel Nagy.
“Despite Vallelunga did not go the way we wanted, we are happy to continue with Nicola in TCR Europe. He is fast and with his experience at Monza he can give valuable contribution,” team principal Dávid Bári commented.
“The M1RA people helped me in Vallelunga, allowing me to be competitive despite I wasn’t at my hundred per cent yet. The level of the European series is so high, but I know I am in the right place at the right time. I can’t wait to seat back into my car to face this new challenge,” said Baldan.
Two Subaru cars in the Monza races
Two Top Run-built Subaru WRX STI TCR cars took part in the TCR Europe’s Monza event, with support from Race Republic.
One was run by NOS Racing and driven by double Abarth Trophy champion Cosimo Barberini, who was currently on his way for clinching a third consecutive title.
Barberini’s previous experience with TCR cars dates back to last year, when he appeared in a few events of TCR Italy in a NOS Racing SEAT León and then drove a V-Action Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta in the TCR Germany finale at Hockenheim.
Roberto Russo drove the second Subaru entered by Top Run Motorsport itself. The only previous appearance of a Subaru in the series was at Le Castellet for the season’s opener when the Top Run Motorsport car was driven by Stefano Comini.
Argentine youngster debuts in TCR Europe
The TCR Europe Series welcomed its first South American driver, as Argentina’s José Manuel Sapag made his maiden appearance in the Monza event.
The 22-year old from Buenos Aires, drove a Cupra run by the Spanish outfit Baporo Motorsport.
Sapag has already built himself a reputation in the Argentine TC2000 and Top Race series; he was currently fifth in the TC2000 at the wheel of a Citroën C4 and had the opportunity to drive a TCR racing car with success, winning the Alcañiz round of the Campeonato España Resistencia in a Baporo Motorsport Cupra.
“I’m very happy with this opportunity. TCR is an excellent platform for my apprenticeship as a Touring Car driver and to race at an historical circuit like Monza in a top level series fits perfectly within the sporting programme I am going through in Argentine Touring Cars,” Sapag commented.
Vernay set pole position in Qualifying
The Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS of Jean-Karl Vernay set pole position after going fastest in both stages of Qualifying. Vernay, in fact, was the only driver to beat the 1:58 barrier in both sessions, with Mikel Azcona also beating the benchmark in Q2 and so the PCR Sport Cupra lined up alongside Vernay on the grid.
Scoring four Qualifying points, the Spaniard moved up to the top of the standings, two points clear of Dušan Borković.
Behind the pair, there were the two Hell Energy Racing with KCMG Honda Civic cars of Attila Tassi and Josh Files, with Row 3 of the grid consisting of the Comtoyou Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI of Maxime Potty and the Target Competition Hyundai i30 N of Borković.
Thanks to the reverse grid for Race 2, the Sports & You Peugeot 308 of Francisco Abreu started from pole on Sunday.
Daniel Nagy, the winner of Race 1 at Assen – and third place in the standings – failed to go through to Q2 and so started both races way behind his rivals for the title, while Vernay’s strong showing in Qualifying and both Free Practice sessions suggested that the reigning TCR International champion would move himself back into contention for the 2018 TCR Europe crown.
There were few problems during the two sessions, the Subaru WRX STI of Roberto Russo didn’t take part in Qualifying due to an administrative formality and Q1 was red-flagged when the sister car of Cosimo Barberini went off the track at the first Lesmo corner and had to be recovered.
Vernay claims an authoritative victory as Azcona increases his points lead
As it was expected following his dominating performance in Practice and Qualifying, Jean-Karl Vernay won the first of the TCR Europe races at Monza. The Frenchman was forced to chase Mikel Azcona during the first five laps after the young Spaniard had taken a better start.
However after he managed to pass Azcona, Vernay had no further problems in controlling the race and claimed his second win of the season; as for his rival, he was quite happy to settle in a second position that helped him to stretch his leading margin in the standings to ten points over Dušan Borković who finished fifth behind Josh Files and Maxime Potty.
The victory also relaunched Vernay’s hopes in the title fight, in fact the Frenchman has moved up to third, 24 points behind the leader and ten over Dániel Nagy who retired after an incident on the opening lap.
As usual, Touring Car racing at Monza provided a lot of contacts and clashes. This race wasn’t an exception.
Driver quotes after the first race
Jean-Karl Vernay (1st): “It was good. We knew before coming here that we would be the guys to beat because we know that the Audi has a great top speed. We did a perfect job, the car was great and I knew I had to be as quick as possible, but it wasn’t easy. The Cupra guys are almost certain to win the (Teams’) championship because the car is quick everywhere and Azcona is doing a good job. It’s not going to be easy to take a lot of points from him this weekend but we’ll try to do the best we can. It made sense to go out alone rather than risk being in traffic and then maybe doing no laps. I think it was a good strategy and so I could focus on being quick in Sector 2. Let’s finish the job this afternoon!”
Mikel Azcona (2nd): “I am very happy, because we knew that the Audi of Jean-Karl Vernay would be very fast on the straights here in Monza. To be in second position, only three-tenths or something behind Vernay, is fantastic for us; to be on the front row of the grid is perfect for us. The best thing for me is that Borković is behind us, so we have to take advantage of that and not make any mistakes. I think I have a psychological advantage here because I know the track and I’ve been here a lot of times. I want to leave Monza as the championship leader and then I will be at my home track for the final fight for the title.”
Attila Tassi (3rd): “I have to give huge thanks to the team and to Josh (Files) in particular. Yesterday was hard for me but I got some really good data from Josh and I watched his onboard camera so that helped me a lot in my driving. I only had one lap remaining in Q1 because of the red flag and I was able to get P3 thanks to a tow from Josh. In Q2 he towed me again and although I made a slight mistake in Lesmo 1, I was able to stay in his slipstream and it was enough for P3 so I’m very happy. We’re going to discuss our tactics for the race now but the aim is to finish on the podium and collect as many points as we can.”
Vernay relaunches his hopes to become champion as The title fight goes down to the wire at Barcelona
Jean-Karl Vernay rounded off his perfect TCR Europe weekend at Monza with a second victory and pocketed the maximum score of 55 points over the two days.
With these results, the Leopard Lukoil Team driver relaunched his hopes in the battle for the title. He moved to second in the standings, 19 points behind Mikel Azcona and 11 ahead of Dušan Borković.
The young Spaniard collected a valuable fifth place, but he was under investigations for a rough overtaking manoeuvre on Francisco Abreu that ended in a clash, sending the Portuguese into a slide. As for Borković, he retired with a puncture and was then excluded by the whole event for a fight in the paddock after the race.
Teammates Josh Files and Attila Tassi joined Vernay on the podium as they worked together to get the better of a very determined Maxime Potty in the final lap.
Tassi was still in contention for the title fight, but had a massive gap of 41 points to recover; with 55 points on offer in the final event, mathematically Dániel Nagy was another contender, although his gap increased to 50 points after he remained scoreless in Monza.
Even Files, 55 points off the leader, has still a chance, but he needed more than a miracle…in fact, a meteorite to strike the other drivers would be exact…
Just like in Race One, the race was packed with incidents, the most serious one happened at the Ascari chicane where Benjamin Lessennes crashed into the barriers after colliding with Abreu. This cost the Portuguese a 30-second penalty that deprived him of a fifth place and sent the young Belgian to the hospital for medical checks with a suspected broken collarbone.
Driver quotes after the second race
Jean-Karl Vernay (winner): “It’s really a perfect weekend. That’s what we wanted to relaunch our title bid and what we sought: a good qualifying and a double win. We knew the car was going to be competitive here, also because we were quite light in success ballast, and it performed perfectly, and the team did a perfect job. My start in Race 2 was much better than yesterday and after a few laps I could take the lead and then it was a matter of staying out of trouble, and there was quite some behind me. Now we go to Barcelona for the final battle, it is going to be very tough and we’ll carry success ballast, but we’ll give it all.”
Josh Files (second): “Again a good race and a lot of fighting, but everything went well for the team, which was our main objective. With a little bit more of top speed, we could have won, but it’s a great result. I had again a nice duel with Potty, but I saw an opportunity in the second chicane and it worked, although I was sideways at exit of the corner. In the closing laps, we did good team work with Attila and we could secure our podium finishes.”
Attila Tassi (third): “Although mathematically, both Josh and I still had chances for the Drivers’ championship ahead of Monza, the objective really was to score heavy points towards the Teams’ standings. We succeded in that, thanks also to the fact that Target wasn’t very successful. In the race, I had nice fights with Azcona and Terting, and then with Potty, whom I could pass with some help from Josh. In the final lap, it was really a close fight but I could defend both my position and Josh’s.”
Tassi and Altoè wins the Swiss and DSG Trophies
Attila Tassi’s third place meant that he won the first edition of the TCR Swiss trophy that was awarded by counting the results from five events: three of TCR Europe (Zandvoort, Assen and Monza) and one each of TCR Italy (Imola) and TCR Germany (Red Bull Ring). Tassi scored 91 points, beating Azcona (81) and Vernay (74).
Giovanni Altoé, the only competitor in the DSG Trophy, needed only to finish the first race to win the title before the final event at Barcelona.
As for the Teams’ championship Target Competition has seen its advantage cut to seven points over Hell Energy Racing with KCMG, while PCR Sport and Leopard Lukoil Team are third and fourth, 43 and 56 points behind respectively, with 95 points still to be awarded in Spain.
The final event of the TCR Europe Series took place at Barcelona’s Circuit Catalunya on October 19/21.
As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of The Official TCR Talk Group & The TCR UK Fans Group who share their thoughts as well as any news from FIA WTCR, The TCR Europe Series, Domestic & Regional TCR Series and any news on the TCR UK Series which started this year.
All images are used courtesy of WSC / TCR Europe Touring Car Series
Until next time, all the best!