2017 TCR International Series: The Finale in Dubai

At the time of writing this blog, there were no confirmed plans of what would happen for 2018. So please, enjoy my round up of what turned out to be the last ever (so far…) TCR International Series event which took place in Dubai…

The ultimate title fight to be staged in the Emirates

The Dubai Autodrome played host to the final event of the 2017 TCR International Series that decided the battles for the Drivers’, Teams’ and Model of the Year titles.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

This was the first time that the International Series has visited the Emirates’ circuit that was inaugurated in 2004 and which hosted the first event of the TCR Middle East Series last January. Those two races were won by Luca Engstler and Brendan Gdovic at the wheel of Volkswagen Golf GTI cars run by the Liqui Moly Team Engstler.

Three titles are still on offer in the final event

The season finale in Dubai was the decider for all three titles on offer in the 2017 TCR International Series.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

In the fight for the Drivers’ championship, Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay took the most out of the previous event in China and regained the lead in the standings with a 29-point margin ahead of M1RA Racing’s Attila Tassi.

Two other drivers were still in contention: the 2015 and 2016 champion Stefano Comini (Comtoyou Racing) and Tassi’s teammate Roberto Colciago; however, with gaps of 42 and 46 points respectively – when 55 are still at stake – they were hoping for a miracle to happen.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

With a leading margin of 71 points, M1RA was just one step away from the Teams’ title. Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing lies in second position, but because there are only 95 points to be awarded over the last race weekend, the Hong Kong-based outfit’s chances were more theoretical than real.

The battle for the Model of the Year award was much closer, with the Honda Civic currently followed by the Volkswagen Golf GTI with a gap of only 30 points (and 95 at stake).

Success ballast for Morbidelli, Vernay and Tarquini

None of the drivers would carry the maximum Success Ballast of 30 kilos in the final event of the season at Dubai. In fact, Rob Huff who scored the greatest amount of points at Zhejiang, would not be racing in the Emirates.

2017-2017 Dubai Race 1---10 Gianni Morbidelli_64.jpg

The second-best scorer in China, Gianni Morbidelli, carried 20 extra kilos on board his WestCoast Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI, while the 10 kilos for the third best scorer was imposed on the championship leader Jean-Karl Vernay.

Although he was not allowed to score points, because the Hyundai i30 N cars are running under a temporary homologation form, Gabriele Tarquini also had 10 kilos of success ballast on board. This is because he would have been the Chinese event’s third best scorer had he not been ‘transparent’.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

In terms of running weights, this means that Morbidelli’s Volkswagen weighed 1285kg (1285kg minimum weight + 20kg Success Ballast – 20kg Balance of Performance adjustment), Vernay’s Volkswagen 1275kg (1285kg + 10kg SB – 20kg BoP) and Tarquini’s Hyundai 1335 kg (1285kg + 10kg SB + 40kg BoP).

Gordon Shedden joins Leopard Racing in Dubai

Triple British Touring Car champion Gordon Shedden joined the Leopard Racing WRT Team for the final event of the TCR International Series at Dubai, where he drove one of the team’s Volkswagen Golf GTI cars alongside Jean-Karl Vernay.

2017-2017 Dubai Friday---73 Gordon Shedden_79

Shedden replaced Rob Huff, who was unavailable due to a clashing commitment, and his mission was to help Vernay in his attempt to secure the Drivers’ title.

The 38-year-old from Edinburgh has established himself as one of the most successful BTCC drivers ever, with 48 race wins in twelve seasons and three titles in 2012, 2015 and 2016, becoming the third Scotsman to win the championship after Jim Clark and John Cleland. Shedden also finished second twice (2011 and 2013) and third three times (2007, 2010 and 2014) in the championship.

He said: “I’m excited to join Leopard Racing and WRT where I will use all my experience to help Jean-Karl secure the Championship. The TCR International Series looks really competitive but I am looking forward to the challenge!”

M1RA calls up Josh Files for the season finale

Josh Files was called up by M1RA to race in a third Honda Civic car at the Dubai Autodrome, for the final race meeting of the TCR International Series.

2017-2017 Dubai Friday---95 Josh Files_49

The Briton joined team regulars Attila Tassi and Roberto Colciago, with the task of supporting them in the fight for the Drivers’ and Teams’ titles.

During the last two seasons, Files has emerged as one of the most successful drivers in TCR cars, having twice won the ADAC TCR Germany title (2016 and 2017) and the inaugural TCR Middle East title (2017). Most recently, he was classified third in the TCR Europe Trophy at Adria after winning the first race.

Files said: “This will be my third straight year contesting the final round of the TCR International Series. I’m thrilled to be doing it and am aiming to challenge for victories and to help M1RA and Honda achieve their title ambitions, despite the circuit being new to me. M1RA have done a superb job in their first year, have an incredible record for such a young team and always field fast and well-presented cars. I can’t wait to get going.”

TCR Europe Trophy winner, Comte joins DG Sport in Dubai

The winner of the TCR Europe Trophy, Aurélien Comte, made his TCR International Series debut at Dubai.

2017-2017 Dubai Friday---27 Aurelien Comte_47

The young Frenchman was Mat’o Homola’s teammate at the wheel of an Opel Astra TCR for DG Sport Compétition. Comte has driven for the Belgian team throughout the season in a Peugeot 308, finishing third in the TCR Benelux series (with three race wins) and clinching the TCR Europe Trophy at the Adria International Raceway two weeks ago.

Team manager Christian Jupsin commented: “I wish to thank Monsieur Demoustier and his company Eurodatacar for supporting this initiative. I am delighted to offer Aurélien the opportunity to make his debut in the TCR International Series. He has completed a fantastic season at the wheel of our Peugeot 308.

We are aware that it won’t be possible to judge his performance at Dubai in a car he doesn’t know and against drivers who are used to the races of the International Series. But we are confident that he will approach this event with the right spirit, to fully benefit from this end-of-season bonus.”

Benjamin Leuchter to drive for WestCoast Racing

WestCoast Racing named Benjamin Leuchter as Gianni Morbidelli’s teammate for the final event of the TCR International Series at Dubai.

2017-2017 Dubai Friday---13 Benjamin Leuchter_18

Leuchter is one of the most experienced Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR drivers and this year, as well as his role as an instructor with the brand, he celebrated five class victories in the VLN endurance series at the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife. Last year he competed in the ADAC TCR Germany series and finished fifth in the championship.

“I’m really happy to join WestCoast Racing for the final round of the TCR International Series,” said Leuchter. “After winning the TCR class in the VLN and in the Nürburgring 24h, it will be another highlight for me to come back to sprint racing in the Golf TCR. I’m really looking forward to work with such a professional team like WestCoast Racing. I don’t know the Dubai track, so this will be an extra motivation for me.”

Tarquini and Menu return with the Hyundai i30 N cars

After a successful debut in the previous event at Zhejiang, the BRC Racing Team returned racing the new Hyundai i30 N TCR cars for Gabriele Tarquini and Alain Menu.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

The Korean car made a strong impression on its maiden appearance in the TCR International Series, as Tarquini claimed an authoritative win in the first of the Chinese races, despite his 13th position on the starting grid.

After observing a drive-through penalty for causing a collision in Race 1, his teammate Menu confirmed the potential of the Hyundai i30 N by recovering from 14th at the start to fourth position at the end of the race. His performance was no less impressive, considering that both his and Tarquini’s cars were laden by 40 kg of success ballast after the first race.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Three weeks after that resounding debut, Tarquini encored in the TCR Europe Trophy at Adria, where he finished second in Race 1 and won Race 2, for an impressive 50% winning score of the new car.

At Dubai, just as in Zhejiang and Adria, the two Hyundai cars were not be eligible to score points as they are still accepted with a temporary homologation document. This also means that they will not be eligible to qualify for Q2.

Shedden and Vernay lock out the front row for Leopard Racing

For the second consecutive event, Leopard Racing locked out the front row for Race 1. After Rob Huff and Jean-Karl Vernay qualified first and second in Zhejiang, TCR newcomer Gordon Shedden and Vernay claimed the same result at Dubai in the TCR International Series finale.

2017-2017 Dubai Friday---73 Gordon Shedden_58

Once again it was an extremely close session, with 17 cars in the same second.
The result also meant that Vernay moved even closer to securing the Drivers’ title. The four points for second place in Qualifying helped the Frenchman to stretch his lead in the standing to 25 points ahead of Attila Tassi, who will start the second race from pole position thanks to the reverse top-ten grid.

Now Vernay has a great opportunity to wrap up the title fight in Race 1, especially since the Honda cars struggled to be on the pace with both Josh Files and Roberto Colciago failing to go through to Q2.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

On his first TCR appearance, Shedden was able to claim pole position. Using his vast experience in touring car racing, the triple BTCC champion completed a perfect lap in Q2. Which was also something of a surprise, considering that he had been the last driver to make the cut in Q1, only 26 thousandths of a second faster than Files.

Benjamin Leuchter provided the icing on the cake for Volkswagen Motorsport, placing his WestCoast Racing Golf GTI in third position. It was a great result for the young German driver, winner of the TCR class in the VLN endurance series.

The two Hyundai i30 N cars of Gabriele Tarquini and Alain Menu will start both races from 13th and 14th as they are still running with a temporary homologation form and therefore were not eligible to qualify for Q2. They posted the second (Tarquini) and fourth (Menu) fastest laps in Q1 and the whole paddock is curious to see if they will be able to elbow their way through the field, just like Tarquini did in China where he won Race 1.

Qualifying 1: Dupont beats Tarquini

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Denis Dupont continued to impress and set the fastest lap in the first part of Qualifying, stopping the clock at 1:28.154 under the chequered flag, beating Gabriele Tarquini’s 1:28.403. Benjamin Leuchter set the third fastest lap (1:28.425) ahead of the second Hyundai car of Alain Menu (1:28.431).

Championship leader Jean-Karl Vernay was fifth fastest (1:28.457), while his competitors in the title fight, Comini and Tassi, ranked sixth and eighth respectively.
Several drivers had lap times disallowed for not respecting track limits, including Tarquini, Nash (twice), Morbidelli (twice), Comte, Kajaia, Borković and Files.

With the two Hyundai i30 N cars of Menu and Tarquini not eligible to qualify for Q2, Comte and Shedden (13th and 14th fastest respectively), took the last two places for the second part.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

The following drivers went through to Q2: Dupont, Leuchter, Vernay, Comini, Lloyd, Tassi, Morbidelli, Oriola, Vervisch, Nash, Comte, Shedden.

Among those who did not make the cut were Josh Files (with gearbox problems), Borković, Homola (with engine problems) and Colciago,

Qualifying 2: Shedden claims his first TCR pole

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

After qualifying for Q2 by the skin of his teeth in 14th place, Gordon Shedden claimed the pole position on his first appearance in a TCR car. His first lap out of 1:28.055 had already placed him on top of the time sheet, but the Scotsman was able to improve further to 1:27.848; the only driver to break the 1:28 barrier.

Eventually his teammate Vernay climbed to second with a lap of 1:28.045, with Leuchter third (1:28.119) and Pepe Oriola fourth (1:28.179).
Dupont was not able to repeat his Q1 performance and qualified in fifth position; he also stopped on the track on his last attempt due to driveshaft failure.

Tassi and Comini posted the 10th and 9th fastest laps respectively so that they will fill the front row on the reverse grid for Race 2.

Quotes after the Qualifying Session

 

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Gordon Shedden (pole position): “It took a lot of time this morning to understand the car, we struggled quite a bit with the set-up, so I wasn’t expecting at all to be on pole. My first very good lap was at the end of Q1 and I went out quite early in Q2 to set up a time that was not beaten. Everything was new for me: the series, the car, the tyres and the team. Everything is quite different from what I am used to, but I am enjoying a lot this first TCR experience. The quality and the level of the series is very high, and the car is fun to drive. I am here to help the team and Jean-Karl, although he is very capable himself. I’m here to do the best job I can for them.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay (2nd): “It’s again a great result for Leopard Racing, and I congratulate Gordon for clinching the pole in his first TCR appearance. Not a real surprise, we know what he is worth… Starting from the first row tomorrow will be very good, I just hope we’ll pass first corner unscathed. A strategy is never easy to do, but the key will be to stay patient and be smart. I am confident in our car, in the team and in my ability, so I will approach things avoiding useless pressure.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Benjamin Leuchter (3rd): “I am very happy to be here and grateful to WestCoast Racing. It’s nice to be back to sprint racing, after a season in VLN. Of course, I know the Golf well but everything in today’s qualifying exercise was completely different from what I have done this year on the Nordschleife. It’s a great result for the Golf cars and after struggling a bit with the set-ups this morning, we found a good compromise, thanks to the excellent work of the team. Tomorrow? I’ll just go flat-out!”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Attila Tassi (10th): “We had a difficult morning, but things went better in Qualifying. I had a good pace in Q1 and could have done better but when I was told on the radio that P10 was secure, I lift off. It will be crucial to start from pole in Race 2 and I hope we can keep the title battle alive until the very end!”

Vernay is crowned Drivers’ champion as Oriola and Comini share race victories

The 2017 TCR International Series’ final event at the Dubai Autodrome was a thrilling decider for all three titles on offer.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay was crowned the new Drivers’ champion, while M1RA and the Volkswagen Golf GTI claimed the Teams’ and Model of the Year awards respectively.
Vernay settled the matter in the first race and in his way: a display of clean and faultless driving, in full control of his only real competitor Attila Tassi and patiently waiting for the opportunity to strike the winning blow.

That opportunity came on the penultimate lap when the Frenchman overtook James Nash for third, crushing Tassi’s last remaining hopes. Vernay’s success also meant that the alliance between Leopard Racing and WRT successfully took one of their drivers to the title for the second consecutive year.

Pepe Oriola and Stefano Comini ended the season on a high note, winning one race apiece. Oriola proved that the SEAT León – the first ever TCR car – is still very competitive on its third racing season. Comini – who wanted to abdicate in style while handing the title to his former teammate – was tantalisingly close to securing the second place in the standings, but he eventually lost it to Tassi by a single point.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

The young Hungarian had high hopes before Dubai, but he failed to keep the title fight alive until the last race. He was also denied victory in the second race from pole position as he was punished for a jump-start. However, finishing as the vice-champion in such a competitive series at the tender age of 18, means he already owns the skills to become one of the leading Touring Car drivers in the years to come.

In Race 2, the WestCoast Racing duo of Gianni Morbidelli and Benjamin Leuchter scored the points that helped the Volkswagen Golf to beat the Honda Civic in the Model of the Year Trophy by just five points. Consolation for the Japanese brand came from the Teams’ title that was won by M1RA, which was a great result for the Hungarian team founded by Norbert Michelisz in its maiden season.

Race 1 – Oriola wins, Vernay secures the title

Jean-Karl Vernay of Leopard Racing claimed the 2017 TCR International Series Drivers’ title by finishing third in a race that was dominated by Pepe Oriola.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

The Spaniard’s winning move was a perfect start that propelled him from fourth on the grid to first at Turn 1, ahead of the pole sitter Gordon Shedden and his teammate Vernay.
For the rest of the race, Oriola was very focused and managed to never offer Shedden the hint of a gap to try an overtaking manoeuvre.

Behind them, Gabriele Tarquini elbowed his way through the field, from 21st on the grid up to third, only to retire on the penultimate lap with a puncture.

The title fight drew the most attention as Vernay was lying fourth, closely chased by Attila Tassi. The Frenchman kept his cool, driving without mistakes and eventually settled the matter by moving up to third and placing James Nash between himself and Tassi.

Race 2 – Comini abdicates with victory

Double TCR champion Stefano Comini abdicated in style, as he won the International Series’ final race in his Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

The Swiss driver inherited the lead when Attila Tassi observed a drive-through penalty for a jump-start, and then crossed the line ahead of Gianni Morbidelli. Josh Files completed the podium after a brilliant fight with Denis Dupont who eventually failed to finish due to a flat tyre.

Tassi managed to recover from 17th to 12th – that was actually 10th because of the ‘transparency’ of the two Hyundai cars – scoring a single point that salvaged his second place in the Drivers’ championship ahead of Comini.

Morbidelli’s second place, combined with the sixth position achieved by his WestCoast Racing teammate Benjamin Leuchter earned the ‘Model of the Year’ trophy for the Volkswagen Golf by five points ahead of the Honda Civic.

Quotes from the podium finishers in the two races

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay (third in Race 1 – 2017 Drivers’ champion): “I don’t know yet how I feel… but obviously, it is great to be champion! I am very happy for Leopard Racing, WRT and Volkswagen. My start today was poor, so the race wasn’t easy. Strategy did not work, as there was another car between Shedden and me, so I had to do things on my own… I fought with Nash and had Tassi pushing behind, but I remained calm. Towards the end, Nash was slower because his tyres were gone, so I knew I could pass him, but waited until the last lap not to create a new fight. Personally, this title means a lot to me, as it comes after titles in LMP, GT and single-seaters, proving that I can will with all sorts of cars.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Pepe Oriola (winner of Race 1): “I am really happy with this win, it was about time. I won at first event and now at last, it’s a pity we had such bad luck in-between… My start was really great, I was at the edge of stalling, but luckily it didn’t happen. I saw enough space close to the wall and just kept going, as I had nothing to lose. All this put me in P1 at first corner, but it was a very tough race as gaps were always very close, given also the safety-car period. Shedden was faster than me in some points, especially in turn 7, but I knew I could control the situation. Nothing bad happened this time and it is really nice to finish the season on a high.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Stefano Comini (winner of Race 2): “It’s nice to finish the season on a high and to hand over the crown to Jean-Karl Vernay with a win. It has been a very tough year for us, but it was great to be part of the Comtoyou project, which only took off two weeks before the start of the season. Race 2 was pretty good; it generally is when you start at the front and have no extra weight! Missing the runner-up position in the final standings by only one point is not a problem: second is always the worst place to be, but to be on top of the final podium is a good reward for everybody in the team and at Audi.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Gordon Shedden (second in Race 1): “Being my first race in TCR, with this car and these tyres, I am happy with the result. My start wasn’t terrible but not very good either, clearly I lack some experience with TCR cars, but after, I could keep a good pace, trying not to do anything stupid. The car performed well, although I lost an aero part at some point, and I am very happy the team secured the title already in Race 1. Now we can have fun in Race2.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Gianni Morbidelli (second in Race 2): “I am happy to finish the season with a second place. It’s a very good result, considering the 20 kilos of Success Ballast we had; on a circuit like this you can really feel the difference. It’s also nice to finish the season like that, after a very difficult first part, when we had to learn the car and come to grips with it. We really did a very good work with Volkswagen and WestCoast Racing, and I am really proud of what we achieved together. I’m also proud to have scored the points that earned the Volkswagen Golf the Model of the Year award.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Josh Files (third in Race 2): “It’s the end of a very busy and intense TCR season for me, which started here by winning the Middle East series, an excellent way to prepare the season. Then came a second title in the TCR Germany, the toughest TCR series, after a long and closely-fought season. I was in contention also for the Europe Trophy in Adria, finishing on the podium, and here I am again on the podium in the closing round of the TCR International. I thank M1RA for inviting me. Of course, the objective was to help Attila Tassi in his title quest, but it turned out it was not to be for him. In Race2, I had fun battling with Dupont, I knew he had a puncture and I would pass him, but it was intense and fun the entire race.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of the TCR Talk International Facebook Group & the TCR Talk UK Facebook Group & The TCR UK Fans Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from The TCR International Series, Domestic Series and any news on the TCR UK Series that starts in 2018.

I’m also pleased to announce that The Checkered Flag will be covering both the TCR International Series and the TCR UK Series with the talents of Alessio Campigotto and Tim Lumb at the helm. I’ll be continuing my World RX and Euro RX duties at the site, however please give these two gentlemen a follow for all the up to date news.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Please note that all images are used courtesy of WSC/TCR International Series.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2017 TCR International Series in China: The Guru’s Thoughts…

So I’m trying something new with the blog after recent positive feedback where I share my own thoughts about recent activities and talking points that have taken risen during a TCR International Series event.

I started this already during my earlier post and will continue to expand on those subjects and others…

Remember that these are my own thoughts about the weekend and as you well know, everyone is entitles to their own thoughts about the racing…

You were warned…

The Oriola Two-Step…

I have to say that as a fan, follower and blogger of the TCR International Series, that I disagreed with the lack of stewards decisions made in light of some of the overtaking that took place at Zhejiang and the after results of said overtakes.

I agree that Touring Car Racing always has contact and always will do, however the manner that Pepe Oriola was demoted on lap 12 during Race One was in my opinion, punishable. Vernay clearly used the “Nudge” technique to assist his pass on Oriola and this saw the Spaniard run off the road on the Start/Finish straight.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Oriola quite rightly moved over to defend his position from Morbidelli on the run to the first turn, however contact again ensued and Oriola into a slid going into the first turn. The fact there was no further action taken sets a precedent and one I think we will see more of in Dubai where the last two races of the year will take place.

To add to that, expect to see a lot of drivers going for glory in these last two races as they look to end their season on a high note.

Another example of poor overtaking was the determination of Rob Huff in race two. Whilst battling for position at the top of the circuit, Huff made contact with David Kajaia and this saw the Alfa Romeo driver retire two corners later with a damaged right rear wheel. Huff then followed this up with a very elbows out pass on Morbidelli, which saw the Italian sideways and defending from Audi driver Vervisch.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Had this been a different tintop series (There’s plenty out there to choose from….) I’m pretty certain that there would have been a penalty given, however as this was Huffs last TCR race of the year, there’s also the “Going out in style” aspect to consider.

Like I said, I’m all for exciting passes but I’m also for fair passing as well that doesn’t see the other driver retire or lose out on several positions because of that contact and pass. That’s often causes fans to give their own opinion…

Oh…

The Hyundai’s are coming!!!

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---33 Alain Menu_27

The big news coming into the weekend were the Hyundai’s making their debut and I think you’ll agree that they have made their point. Whilst a lot of the development has been done with Gabriele Tarquini involved, adding Alain Menu to the driver lineup for the last two events was inspired.

Until the BoP was invoked for Race Two, both drivers had very good speed and pace and were able to showcase this in Race One very convincingly by moving forward very quickly from 13th and 14th on the grid respectively. Even with an extra 40kgs and 5% less horsepower imposed on them for the second race, Tarquini and Menu still powered their way forward to both finish inside the top six.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Whilst the KIA effort, the first new car to be entered earlier this season, has been backed by STARD and developed by Zengo Motorsport, the car didn’t light up the headlines when it debuted in Hungary. Whilst more development is underway for the KIA for 2018, the Hyundai came out with all guns blazing and despite some overheating issues and an oil issue, was able to hold its own even with BoP added to the car.

I for one expect to see quite a few of these out in action next year in both Domestic and the International series. I can already hear the phone of Andrea Adamo, Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing Manager, ringing off the hook with Sales for 2018…

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

(Please don’t take my comments about the KIA as negative. A lot of hard work from Manfred Stohl’s outfit has gone in the car and you can bet there will be a big step in performance in 2018 with more cars expected in competition).

Those who lost out in China…

2017-2017 Zhejiang Race 1---01 Stefano Comini_156

I feel some of the drivers who suffered a bad weekend need a mention. I include Stefano Comini, Mato Homola amongst quite a few. Comini is in the title hunt and now looks increasingly as if he will have to concede his reign as Champion to rival Vernay, but you can bet the Swiss driver wont give up without a fight.

Comini has won the TCR International Title in both a SEAT and a VW, however the last third of the season seems to have gone against the Audi. But lets not forget, the RS3 LMS TCR is in its first season. Whilst the title will be difficult you can never count out Stefano Comini.

2017-2017 Zhejiang Race 1---01 Stefano Comini_165.jpg

You can be rest assured that whilst the Swiss driver now has an outside chance of retaining his title, Comini and Comtoyou Racing will be out to try and do the best that they can in Dubai. If the track layout is not a factor then both man and machine will be in the hunt for wins whilst Vernay and Tassi battle it out got the crown.

Denis Dupont made his TCR International Series debut at Zhejiang in a SEAT run by Comtoyou Racing with backing from the RACB. The Belgian driver has been a front runner in in the TCR Benelux Series and the step up seems to have been a logical one. With the Belgian outfit looking after his SEAT along with the two Audi’s, you could expect a good showing at his first attempt.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

However Dupont had what you could call a difficult start to his debut with SEAT Leon damaged in FP1 before repairs taking place to get the car out again for FP2. Dupont qualified a respectable 11th on his debut, having made it through from Q1 into Q2 and just missing out on the reverse pole position spot for Race Two. Unfortunately contact with Alain Menu at the start of Race One saw Dupont retire on the spot and the damage was as such that he wouldn’t be able to start Race Two.

Thankfully the Belgian driver will be back in action in Dubai where he will put the lessons learned in Zhejiang to good practice as he looks to go up against the best in TCR for a second weekend. You can expect him to be a little more robust when racing up against the Hyundai’s during both of the final race weekend as well as racing others hard whilst he stakes a claim for a full time ride in 2018.

As I’ve already made clear, I’m a big Vauxhall/Opel Touring car fan and it pains me to see Mato Homola and the DG Sport Competition suffering as they did again in China. The Opel Astra is the only full time entry in 2017 not to have taken a win but the fact that Homola has taken three pole positions says that the speed is there.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

However, the recent BoP adjustment that saw the Astra gain weight seemed to make little sense. I feel that this may have been put in place due to the recent wins of Harald Proczyk in the ADAC TCR Germany finale and also the fine performance of the Astra at the hands of Kissling Motorsport in the last two VLN endurance events.

I’m looking into clarification for this but I believe that the performances worldwide of a car can affect how the BoP is adjusted and I also believe that this includes Endurance events as well. Don’t forget that the TCR Classes are growing in Endurance racing and offering a competitive alternative to those who cant afford GT class machinery.

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Once I have clarification, I’ll update this post.

Homola again suffered engine issues during Qualifying and then a puncture during the first race, however whilst the decision to add weight to the Opel Astra TCR added to what was a difficult weekend, there is still hope for both driver and team.

Both the Sloviakian and DG Sport Competition have seen standout weekends and improved pace during the season and indeed since the cars debut back in Bahrain last year. They will be out to end the season on a high in Dubai and I suspect they will be in the hunt for glory once more.

Finally… TCR EUROPE TROPHY

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Before the series finale for the 2017 TCR International Series takes place, there is another major TCR title up for grabs and one I suggest you watch:

The 2017 TCR Europe Trophy.

The best of the Domestic European TCR series drivers will go up against each other to win the prestigious TCR Europe Trophy which takes place at the Adria International Raceway in Italy on 29th October. The format is different to the 2016 Trophy where a driver had to compete in up to seven different events across the European series.

Motorsports / ADAC TCR, 5. Event 2016, Nürburgring, GER

Belgain driver Pierre Yves-Corthals took the win in the DG Sport Competition Opel Astra with Jordi Oriola often joining him in the second car. I for one would love to see the younger Oriola back in a competitve TCR car as he is bloody fast…

This years event is as close as you’ll get to seeing something similar to the Touring Car World Cup events that took place back in the middle 1990’s and I’m sure its going to be a fantastic event to witness. The chance in format for 2017 will see Practice, Qualifying and Race takes place over the same weekend, with the driver scoring the highest points being declared the winner.

Now take into account that drivers from any European TCR Series are eligible and with the recent change in rules that drivers who did took part in at least one TCR event during the 2017 season are eligible for the 2017 TCR European Trophy.

Motorsports / TCR, 7. Event 2016, Hockenheim, GER

Add to this that drivers classified outside of the first ten positions of the 2017 TCR International Series, as per 30 September 2017, are eligible as well and you have what looks to be a phenomenal event ahead.

Consider that the best from such series as TCR Baltic, TCR Benelux, TCR Germany, TCR Ibérico, TCR Italy, TCR Portugal, TCR Russia, TCR Scandinavia, TCR Spain, 24h Series, 24H TCE Series, VLN and you have a stellar array of drivers and teams eligible.

Add in the following names who are also eligible…

Giacomo Altoè
Frédéric Vervisch
Norbert Michelisz
Rob Huff
Daniel Lloyd
Ferenc Ficza
Benjamin Lessennes
Aurélien Panis
Jens Reno Møller
Thomas Jäger
Pierre-Yves Corthals
Edouard Mondron
Jaap van Lagen
Duncan Ende
Tom Coronel
Stian Paulsen
Danny Kroes
Kantadhee Kusiri

And the biggest TCR event of the season gets even bigger.

2016-2016 Zandvoort---Qualifying Race start

This is not one to miss and will nicely fill the gap ahead of the TCR International Series finale. Having covered the TCR Middle East Series and the TCR International Series this year, TCR Europe Trophy will be another event covered by this blog before we head into what will be a very interesting winter for TCR in general with TCR UK starting in 2018.

As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of both the TCR Talk International Facebook Group and the new TCR Talk UK Facebook Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from The TCR International Series, Domestic Series and any news on the TCR UK Series that starts in 2018.

2017-2017 Zhejiang Race 2---28 Aurelien Panis_234

Please note that all images are used courtesy of WSC/TCR International Series and Domestic TCR Series

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2017 TCR International Series: China

Here’s a TCR Guru roundup of all the action took place during the penultimate weekendof the 2017 TCR International Series at the Zhejiang Circuit in China…

I know I don’t normally add second titles to my blog posts but this time, I feel this is appropriate…

The Hyundai’s are coming!!!

The Hyundai’s are coming!!!

And now back to your normal TCR Guru Blogpost service…

Brand new Chinese racetrack hosts a TCR event

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Three TCR series will share the bill in the first international event ever hosted by the new Zhejiang Circuit.

The track is located in the Kenyan region, near the city of Shaoxing and is 50 km away from the Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport that serves Hangzhou, the capital of the Zhejiang Province and one of China’s fastest growing regions in terms of economy and technology.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

The Zhejiang Circuit, conceived by Apex Circuit Design, was inaugurated at the end of last year. With a total length of 3.2 kilometres, its main track has been granted Grade 2 status by the FIA; it includes 16 turns in different angles and direction and has a 22-metre elevation between its lowest and highest points.

The TCR event will feature the TCR International Series and joint races of the TCR Asia and TCR China series.

Tarquini and Menu to drive the new Hyundai i30 N TCR

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---33 Alain Menu_27

One of the main features of the TCR International Series event in Zhejiang will be the maiden appearance of the new Hyundai i30 N TCR; this will mark the latest step in the technical development of the Hyundai Motorsport-built car that has already undergone an extensive testing programme.

The two i30 N TCR cars will be run by the Italy-based BRC Racing Team and driven by two very experienced Touring Car aces – the former World, European and British champion Gabriele Tarquini and Alain Menu, twice British champion.

Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing Manager Andrea Adamo said: “The debut of the i30 N TCR in the TCR International Series is an important weekend for everyone involved in the project. We feel we have developed a competitive package for the category, but this will be the first time that we can directly compare to other cars in the series.”

“Both the i30 N TCR drivers will be ineligible for points. It is not our intention to get involved in the very close fight at the top of the points’ standings. Instead, at the Zhejiang Circuit we will concentrate on continuing our development work during the race weekend.”

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---30 Gabriele Tarquini_16

Tarquini commented: “The Zhejiang Circuit is very different from the tracks in Europe where we have tested. It is a relatively slow layout with lots of technical sections, so we will need to work on the set-up. This is all part of our development work with the car, but also an opportunity to show the competitiveness of our design.”

“These are our targets for the weekend. I expect a small gap to the regular teams and the fact that this is the first time the TCR International Series runs at Zhejiang should keep the action close.”

Alain Menu added: “From the testing I have completed, the i30 N TCR feels to be very strong. The TCR International Series is very competitive, so the weekend at the Zhejiang Circuit will be a real challenge. As a driver the event will be a very good chance to show the performance of our car against the others on the grid.”

“However, we have to consider that our focus during the weekend is to take advantage of the track time to continue to develop the i30 N TCR before the first chassis are delivered to customers.”

The Hyundai cars will run with a temporary homologation form and therefore, will not be eligible to score points.

The final sprint of a four-way battle for the title

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

The penultimate event of the season in China will launch the final sprint in the fight for the TCR International Series titles.

There are four major pretenders to the Drivers’ crown: the 18-year old Hungarian Attila Tassi (M1RA Honda Civic) tops the standings with 179 points, only two more compared to Jean-Karl Vernay (Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI).

The 2015 and 2016 champion Stefano Comini (Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS) is placed third, with a gap of 14 points from the leader, while Tassi’s teammate Roberto Colciago lies a further 20 points adrift having missed the previous event in Thailand because of medical reasons.

The Italian – who had broken three ribs in a pile up at Oschersleben – has been declared fit to rejoin and is eager to recover. After all, there are still 110 points at stake…
Mathematically speaking, this keeps several other drivers in contention. The best placed of them being Pepe Oriola (110 points) and Dušan Borković (108).

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---05 Roberto Colciago_23

Following the races in Buriram, M1RA has built a solid margin of 93 points in the Teams’ classification ahead of Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing (382 against 289), while Leopard Racing is currently third (247 points). However, with 190 points on offer in the two last events, anything is still possible.

The situation is similar in the ‘Model of the Year’ classification that is led by the Honda Civic with 451 points ahead of the Volkswagen Golf GTI (355) and the SEAT León (335).

Success ballast for Tassi, Borković and Altoè

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---09 Attila Tassi_6

The previous event in Buriram provided an unusual situation as far as the Success Ballast is concerned.

In fact, two pairs of drivers scored the same amount of points. M1RA teammates Norbert Michelisz and Attila Tassi were the event’s best scorers with 28 points, while Dušan Borković (GE-Force Alfa Romeo Giulietta) and Giacomo Altoè (M1RA) followed with 26 points.

As a result – and considering that Michelisz will hand the Honda Civic car back to Roberto Colciago – Tassi will carry the maximum Success Ballast of 30 kilos at Zhejiang.
The 20 kilos of Success Ballast for the second best scorer will not be allocated, while both Borković and Altoè will have their cars laden by the 10 extra kilos imposed on the third best scorer.

In terms of running weight, this means that Tassi’s Honda will weigh 1335kg (1285kg minimum weight + 30kg Success Ballast + 20kg Balance of Performance adjustment), Borković’s Alfa Romeo 1275kg (1285kg + 10kg SB – 20kg BoP) and Altoè’s Honda 1315 kg (1285kg + 10kg SB + 20kg

TCR Asia and TCR China to run together

2017-TCR Asia - Shanghai 0817---TCRAsia_Shanghai_270817_R2_start_HO_med (1)

The event in Zhejiang will also feature as the final rounds (11 and 12) of TCR Asia and rounds 5 and 6 of the TCR China’s inaugural season.

The two championships will run together in the Free Practice, Qualifying and the two Sprint Races of 30 minutes each. Than TCR China competitors will also take part in the 60-minute Race 3 on Sunday morning.

Just as in the TCR International Series, four drivers are in a close battle for the title. Kantadhee Kusiri from Thailand is the current leader, having scored 150 points in his Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTI; he is closely followed by his compatriot Tin Sritrai (Team Thailand Honda Civic) on 139.5 points and his own teammate Diego Moran from Ecuador on 139 points. Malaysia’s Lai Wee Sing (R Engineering Honda Civic) ranks fourth on 129 points, while his compatriot and colleague Abdul Kaathir is fifth with 108.

After the first two events of TCR China, the classification is led by the Hongkongers Sunny Wong and Alex Fung who share a Volkswagen Golf GTI run by TeamWork Motorsport; they have scored 101 points, two more than their compatriot Andy Yan (NewFaster Team Audi RS3 LMS). Yan’s teammate Huang Chu Han from China follows in third position with 93 points.

ZZZ Team enters two Audi cars in the Zhejiang event

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---81 Zhendong Zhang_24

The Zhejiang-based ZZZ Team will take part in the TCR International Series at their home circuit.

The Chinese outfit will field a couple of Audi RS3 LMS cars for Tengyi Jiang and Zhendong Zhang, two of the most experienced and successful local Touring Car drivers and teammates also in the China Touring Car Championship with the Shanghai VW 333 Racing.

32-year old Jiang has established himself as one of the top CTCC drivers, claiming several race wins at the wheel of Ford and Volkswagen cars and clinching the Super Production title in 2014. He has already made a one-off appearance in the TCR International Series, at the Shanghai International Circuit in 2015, when he drove a SEAT León for the Craft-Bamboo Team and was classified ninth in the second race.

Zhang, 25 years old, is the reigning CTCC Super Production champion having successfully defended the title won in 2015. Before joining the Volkswagen team in 2012 he had raced for Haima.

Jiang and Zhang are currently ranking third and fourth in the 2017 CTCC Super Cup.
“We are very excited to join the TCR international Series and race at Zhejiang Circuit. It is our very maiden appearance and we have some very competitive racers form China. I believe that the TCR international Series is the ideal platform to show what we can do,” said Dennis Zhang, the team manager of ZZZ.

Denis Dupont to make his debut with Comtoyou Racing

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Only a few days after having raced in the TCR Benelux event at Mettet, Denis Dupont has flown to China to make his maiden appearance in the TCR International Series at the wheel of a SEAT León entered by Comtoyou Racing and supported by the RACB National Team.

The 24-year old Belgian has established himself as one of the top competitors in TCR Benelux in which he shares the RACB National Team SEAT with Sam Dejonghe. They were classified third in the 2016 championship, with two race victories and are currently lying 7th this year, having won the 60-minute Qualifying race at Zolder.

“Racing in the International Series is a project I have worked on for a few months and I’m pleased that, with support from my partners and Comtoyou Racing, I have been given the opportunity to race in China,”
 said Dupont.

“I am very happy to drive a SEAT León, because I know it well. This will help me a lot, as I won’t have the opportunity to test the car I will drive in Zhejiang, and being familiar with the car will let me focus on getting to know the track.”

Rafaël Galiana returns with WestCoast Racing

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

TCR International Series in Asia has become an unmissable appointment for Rafaël Galiana. In fact, for the third consecutive year the French businessman and motorsport enthusiast will join the series for the Chinese round in Zhejiang.

After racing in 2015 and 2016 at the wheel of SEAT León and Honda Civic Cars, this time Galiana will drive a Volkswagen Golf GTI for WestCoast Racing, the same team that entered him last year in the Buriram event. His best result so far was an eighth place in last year’s Race 1 at Macau.

“I’m very happy to drive again in the TCR International Series, especially at Zhejiang, because it is an interesting new circuit. Every year I would like to do more races, but I’m always very busy. I have just delivered a new Grade 1 racetrack in Kuwait that should be inaugurated by the middle of 2018 and now I am working on a few karting circuits in China,”said Galiana who is known as ‘Mr Tecpro’ because of a safety barrier he launched in 2000 after several years of research and development.

The Tecpro barrier has proved to be much more effective than the tyre walls that were used in most of the circuits and now the company collaborates with FIA, FIM, and a number of National Sporting Authorities and works together with racetrack designers and architects.

Rob Huff claims pole ahead of teammate Vernay

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

On his last appearance in the TCR International Series during the current season, Rob Huff claimed his first pole position at the wheel of his Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI.

His teammate Jean-Karl Vernay then provided the icing on the cake by qualifying second, locking out the front row of the grid of Race 1 for the team and Volkswagen. The four points awarded to the second-best qualifier also meant that Vernay reclaimed the leadership in the championship standings with a two-point margin ahead of Attila Tassi.
Pepe Oriola put in a great effort and managed to qualify third in his Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT León.

In an unusual situation, the two fastest drivers in Qualifying will not be at the front of the grid. In fact, Alain Menu and Gabriele Tarquini set the fastest laps in Q1 at a pace that nobody was able to match, but they were not admitted to Q2 because their Hyundai i30 N cars have been accepted with a temporary homologation form, meaning that they are not eligible to score points. They will start both races from 13th and 14th and promise to fight for good results.

Among those who were disappointed by the Qualifying results were Stefano Comini and Mat’o Homola. The reigning champion couldn’t achieve any better than a 16th position that greatly jeopardised his hopes to win a third consecutive title. As for Homola, he couldn’t even try, as an engine failure sidelined him in both Practice 2 and Qualifying.
Frederic Vervisch qualified tenth and so won pole position on the reversed grid for Race 2 alongside Davit Kajaia.

Qualifying 1: Menu and Tarquini are fastest

2017-2017 Zhejiang Saturday---33 Alain Menu_102 (1)

The pairing of Hyundai i30 N cars of Menu and Tarquini set the fastest laps in the first part of the session, the only ones to go under the 1:33 mark. After posting a provisional fastest lap of 1:33.392, Menu improved to 1:32.811 that nobody was able to beat.

Tarquini tried twice and was clocked at 1:32.984 and then 1:32.935 to settle for second position. With the Hyundai cars not eligible to qualify for Q2, the Volkswagen drivers were fighting to be the fastest of the rest of the field. Eventually it was Gianni Morbidelli who set the third best lap (1:33.279) ahead of Vernay (1:33.476) and Huff (1:33.503).

After struggling in Practice, Tassi was able to complete his last lap in 1:33.786 that placed him sixth overall, but fourth among those admitted to Q2.

The following drivers went through to Q2: Morbidelli, Vernay, Huff, Tassi, Colciago, Lloyd, Nash, Oriola, Kajaia, Dupont, Panis, Vervisch.
Among those who failed to make the cut were Borković and Comini.

Qualifying 2: Huff and Vernay secure the front row

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---03 Rob Huff_48

Leopard Racing’s Huff and Vernay had a thrilling fight to secure pole position. The Frenchman topped the timesheet with a provisional fastest lap of 1:33.341 but was pipped by his English teammate who improved to 1:33.173 under the chequered flag.
Also on his last lap, Oriola was able to climb to third with a lap of 1:33.486, demoting Morbidelli to fourth (1:33.804). Daniel Lloyd claimed the last qualifying point by posting the fifth fastest lap (1:33.817).

Quotes after the Qualifying Session

Rob Huff (pole position): “It’s the first pole position of the year for the team and myself, so we are very pleased, of course, to take the front row with our two cars. It wouldn’t be so if the Hyundai cars would have been allowed into Q2 and I congratulate them for the impressive show on their debut. The car worked perfectly throughout the sessions and on a track that is tremendously demanding and slippery. It’s almost impossible to avoid any mistake. For tomorrow, we’ll see what strategy we need to apply. Clearly the main objective is to have Jean-Karl and Leopard Racing Team WRT securing the title. For me, it is just a pity that this will be my last TCR event this year.”

Jean-Karl Vernay: “The front row is a terrific result. I did a couple of very fast laps but eventually got beaten by Rob, which at least proved there are no team orders. I now have a 2-point advantage over Atila Tassi and we’ll see what will happen tomorrow, but I stress: we are very competitive and I am very happy.”

Pepe Oriola: “We struggled during all the sessions with the set-up, as the track is very slippery, and we made a lot of set-up changes which are starting to pay off. Tomorrow, I’ll definitely go for a win as I have nothing to lose.”

Alain Menu: “It’s a shame we couldn’t participate in Q2, but those are the rules, and it’s great to be back racing at this level in touring cars. I am still learning the car, as I am a late addition to the project, and frankly, all the credit for the development and testing should be for Hyundai, the team and Gabriele, who have done a terrific job.”

TCR Asia & China – Kusiri claims the TCR Asia title

2017-TCR Asia - Shanghai 0817---TCRAsia_Shanghai_UP3_250817_Kusiri_1_HO_med2

Thai driver Kantadhee Kusiri of Liqui Moly Team Engstler secured the 2017 TCR Asia Drivers’ championship with two cautious races at Zhejiang at the wheel of his Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Kusiri greatly benefited from an engine failure that slowed down his countryman Tin Sritrai during the first race and focused on staying out of troubles to score the points he needed. Race 1 was won by guest drivers Jean-Karl Vernay in a TeamWork Motorsport Volkswagen, with Kusiri fourth overall and first of TCR Asia.

Sritrai won the second race, while Andy Yan was second overall and winner of TCR China.

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Vernay dominated the first race, overtaking Sritrai (Team Thailand Honda Civic) at the beginning of the second lap and consistently increasing his leading gap up to 20 seconds. Behind him, NewFaster teammates Yan and Huang Chu Han completed the TCR China podium in their Audi RS3 LMS cars, while Kusiri finished fourth overall and won the TCR Asia.

At the start both the Liqui Moly Team Engstler cars of Kusiri and Diego Moran stalled; Sritrai took the lead but was soon passed by Vernay; Kusiri then dropped from fourth to sixth behind Huang and Sunny Wong (TeamWork Motorsport Volkswagen).

For half of the race, Sritrai held on to the second position, leading TCR Asia, but on lap 10 his pace faded and he lost two places to Eric Kwong and Abdul Kaathir. On lap 16, Wong lost a wheel and the fourth position in TCR China. He pitted, rejoined and eventually was classified eighth.

Sritrai took a superb victory in the second race, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Kusiri from securing the title. Sritrai made a brilliant start from second on the grid and powered past Kusiri; Yan also passed Moran to set up a four-way fight for the podium places that lasted the entire race.

With victory the only option for Sritrai, he held his nerve while others behind him were swapping places. Kusiri lost second when he was passed by Yan’s Audi on lap 8 and then was passed for third place by Moran on lap 14. Kusiri knew that the title was within reach and only had to stay out of trouble for the remainder of the race.

Moran then made several efforts to pass Yan for second but each time was thwarted, even nosing ahead briefly on lap 15 only to lose the position again when he ran wide at the next corner.

That was how it finished, with Sritrai taking the chequered flag 2.4 seconds clear of Yan, who finished as the best TCR China entrant. Moran was a frustrated third.

Vernay moves closer to the title as Tarquini and Huff share race victories

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---30 Gabriele Tarquini_56

The first TCR International Series event at the new Zhejiang Circuit provided two exciting races that may have changed the course of the championship before the final race meeting at Dubai.

As far as the title fight is concerned, Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay has moved a few steps closer to being crowned the successor of his former teammate Stefano Comini. The Frenchman has scored the maximum of points in Race 1 and only one point in Race 2, but as his closest rival Attila Tassi’s tally was limited to 7 points, he has stretched the leading margin to 21.

As for the other contenders – Stefano Comini and Roberto Colciago – they are now 42 and 46 points adrift respectively, meaning that their hopes have nearly completely vanished when 55 points are still on offer.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Should Vernay be successful in his quest for the crown, he must concede some credit to Rob Huff, who placed himself at the team’s service with great professionalism. And Huffy was rewarded today by a splendid victory in Race 2, on his final appearance in the current season.

But, arguably, the talk of the town for the weekend was the debut of the two Hyundai i30 N TCR cars run by BRC Racing and driven by touring car legends Gabriele Tarquini and Alain Menu. And what a debut it was! Fastest in qualifying, the two Korean cars were relegated to 13th and 14th on the grid for both races because they had been accepted under a temporary homologation form.

Despite this, they put on a great show and Tarquini claimed an impressive victory in Race 1 that immediately resulted in a change of BoP before the second race: 40 kilos added to the minimum weight and a power reduction to 95%.

In any case, it is clear that a new and competitive brand has joined TCR, adding further spice to a consistent growth in quality that was also proved by the fact that today’s race victories were shared by two World Champions.

Race 1 – Hyundai wins maiden race with Tarquini

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Gabriele Tarquini put in an impressive performance at the Zhejiang Circuit, recovering from starting 14th on the grid to lead under the chequered flag and so giving the Hyundai i30 N TCR a victory in its maiden race in the International Series.

However, as the Korean car has been accepted under a temporary homologation form, the 25 championship points were awarded to Jean-Karl Vernay who finished second in the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI. The Frenchman was followed by two other Volkswagen drivers: his own teammate Rob Huff and WestCoast Racing’s Gianni Morbidelli.

Pepe Oriola salvaged fifth place after having led for most of the race and having been involved in a couple of controversial collisions with Vernay and Morbidelli.
The results helped Vernay to stretch his leadership in the Drivers’ championship to 26 points ahead of M1RA’s Attila Tassi who finished 11th (and 10th of the scorers) after having been pushed wide after the start.

RACE ONE:

Grid: Homola and Jiang are at the back of the grid following an engine change and grid penalty for a parc fermé infringement respectively

Start: Huff makes a poor start from pole, Oriola squeezes between Huff and Vernay to take the lead; Menu hits Dupont and sends him crashing into the pit wall

2017-2017 Zhejiang Race 1---Start Race1_26

Lap 1: Tassi is pushed wide at Turn 2; Oriola leads from Vernay, Morbidelli, Vervisch and Huff; Tarquini overtakes Lloyd for sixth; Borković stops with a pierced radiator
Lap 2: Tarquini overtakes Huff and Vervisch moving up to fourth
Lap 3: Tarquini overtakes Morbidelli for third; Lloyd pits and retires after a contact
Lap 4: Huff overtakes Morbidelli for fourth; Menu overtakes Vervisch for sixth

2017-2017 Zhejiang Race 1---03 Rob Huff_144

Lap 5: Menu is given a drive-through penalty for the collision at the start
Lap 6: Tarquini overtakes Vernay for second
Lap 7: Zhang and Homola make contact
Lap 9: Oriola is chased by Tarquini, Vernay and Huff
Lap 11: Tarquini overtakes Oriola for the the lead
Lap 12: Vernay and Oriola make contact, Oriola drops to fourth behind Vernay and Huff

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Lap 13: Oriola and Morbidelli clash on the pit straight, Morbidelli moves up to fourth
Lap 14: Kajaia overtakes Nash for eighth
Lap 19: Tarquini wins the race, but Vernay, Huff and Morbidelli score the points for the top three positions in the championship.

Race 2 – Huff wins the toughest race of the season

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Rob Huff leaves the current season of the TCR International Series on a high note. The former World Champion claimed victory at Zhejiang Circuit in a race that will be remembered as one of the toughest ever in Touring Car competitions.

The drivers delivered close and thrilling battles for every position and – rather exceptionally – all these clashes, contacts, pushing and paint-swapping did not result in major incidents. All the drivers were able to keep on racing, demonstrating great skill in handling their battered cars.

Gianni Morbidelli finished the race in second position, overtaking James Nash on the last lap. Nash had bravely led most of the race in his SEAT before being forced to concede to the fastest Volkswagen cars.

Alain Menu was fourth in a Hyundai that was hit by an increase in weight and a reduction of power after Tarquini’s display of strength in Race 1.
As far as the title fight was concerned, the event favoured Jean-Karl Vernay who leaves China with a leading margin of 21 points in the Drivers’ championship ahead of Attila Tassi.

RACE TWO:

Grid – Borković, Dupont and Lloyd are missing following damage obtained in Race 1

Start – Vervisch on pole and Nash start well and swerve to the left before Kajaia; there is commotion in the first turns, Nash takes the lead from Kajaia, Vervisch, Tassi, Morbidelli, Oriola and Colciago; Vernay is pushed wide by Comini and drops to 15th

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Lap 1: Colciago and Huff overtake Oriola for 6th and 7th
Lap 2: Nash pulls away, while Vervisch, Kajaia and Morbidelli have a tough fight behind him; Colciago overtakes Tassi for 5th
Lap 3: Tassi is given a drive-through penalty for a jump start
Lap 4: The fight for second heats up, Vervisch, Morbidelli, Kajaia and Huff make several contacts, eventually Kajaia clashes with Huff and retires

2017-2017 Zhejiang Race 2---06 Frederic Vervisch_191.jpg

Lap 5: Huff elbows his way past Morbidelli for third
Lap 6: There are more contacts between Vervisch, Huff and Morbidelli; Huff overtakes Vervisch for second
Lap 7: Menu overtakes Colciago and Oriola for fifth; Vernay overtakes Panis for 10th
Lap 8: Oriola overtakes Colciago for 6th; Tarquini overtakes Colciago for 7th; Vernay overtakes Zhang for 9th
Lap 9: Tarquini overtakes Oriola for 6th

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Lap 11: Vernay overtakes Colciago for 8th
Lap 12: Tarquini and Menu overtake Vervisch who drops to 7th
Lap 14: Vernay, Vervisch and Colciago collide; Vervisch retires, Vernay pits to replace a wheel
Lap 15: Huff has completely eliminated Nash’s leading gap
Lap 16: Huff overtakes Nash for the lead
Lap 17: Morbidelli overtakes Nash for second; Menu overtakes Tarquini for 4th

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Lap 18: Oriola overtakes Tarquini for 5th
Lap 19: Huff wins from Morbidelli, Nash, Menu and Oriola; Zhang claims a brilliant 7th position.

Quotes from the podium finishers in the two races

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Gabriele Tarquini (Winner of Race 1): “What a great weekend for Hyundai, the team and myself. I certainly did not expect that and this will stay as one of the best memories in my career. To win at our debut just proves that the excellent work done pays off. Our pace in Race 1 was great. I was lucky not to be involved in any incidents at the start and to be already 7th in lap 1, having started from P14. I then realized I had a chance to win and pushed hard, despite the fact we had some fears after having encountered problems with the oil radiator in practice and qualifying. Luckily, the issue did not occur again and I could pass everybody and take the lead. In Race 2, of course, we did not have the same pace, with 40 kilos more and 95% of the power, especially towards the end of the race, the car began struggling. The weekend really was not bad for a newcomer to the series. At the end of the day, I am a rookie in TCR!”

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Rob Huff (Winner of Race 2, 3rd in Race 1): “Race 2 was probably one of the toughest and most aggressive race I have been involved in, but also a very enjoyable one, as we came on top! It was an excellent weekend for the entire Leopard Racing team, the car was very competitive here and the team did a fantastic job. More importantly, Jean-Karl has regained the championship lead and will go to Dubai with a significant advantage. My mission was to help him and I think that I achieved what was expected from me. I won’t be racing in Dubai but I enjoyed very much my stay in the TCR and hope to be back.”

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay (2nd in Race 1): “It was a great weekend for us and I am very happy. The car was terrific, and it was important to get the points of the victory in Race 1, which was definitely better than Race 2, which saw too much fighting. We knew the track would suit the Golf, and we used well the opportunity, which allowed us to approach the final round with some confidence, although the job is far from finished.”

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Gianni Morbidelli (2nd in Race 2): “I am very happy of the weekend, it’s great to see that our season has improved dramatically since Oschersleben and it is important to be finishing on high notes such as today. The races here were fun, but also a little bit dirty, especially Race 2. Some drivers were a little bit over the limit in closing the door, attacking or pushing.”

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

James Nash (3rd in Race 2): “It’s a little bit frustrating to finish Race 2 in third after having led with a 7-second gap, but I really made everything I could. At the beginning, I managed to pass Kajaia and Vervisch to take the lead and pulled away, building quite some gap. But then the others caught me again. I did not make mistakes and had no issues, their pace was simply much faster than mine. There was much rubbing in Race 2, but I am sure it made a great TV show!”

The final two rounds of the 2017 TCR International Series will take place in Dubai, on November 17 and 18.

PHIL’S THOUGHTS…

I have to say that as a fan, follower and blogger of the TCR International Series, that I disagree with the lack of stewards decisions made in light of some of the overtaking that took place and the results of said overtakes.

I agree that Touring Car Racing always has contact and always will do, however the manner that Pepe Oriola was demoted on lap 12 during Race One was in my opnion, punishable. Vernay clearly used the “Nudge” technique to assist his pass on Oriola and this saw the Spaniard run off the road on the Start/Finish straight.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Oriola quite rightly moved over to defend his position from Morbidelli on the run to the first turn, however contact again ensued and Oriola into a slid going into the first turn. The fact there was no further action taken sets a precedent and one I think we will see more of in Dubai.

Another example was the determination of Rob Huff in race two. Whilst battling for position at the top of the circuit, Huff made contact with David Kajaia and this saw the Alfa Romeo driver retire two corners later with a damaged right rear wheel. Huff then followed this up with a very elbows out pass on Morbidelli, which saw the Italian sideways and defending from Audi driver Vervisch.

Like I said, I’m all for exciting passes but I’m also for fair passing as well that doesn’t see the other driver retire or lose out on several positions because of that contact and pass.

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The big news coming in this weekend were the Hyundai’s and I think you’ll agree that they have made their point. Whilst a lot of the development has been done with Gabriele Tarquini involved, adding Alain Menu to the driver lineup for the last two events was inspired.

Until the BoP was invoked for Race Two, both drivers had very good speed and pace and were able to showcase this in Race One very convincingly by moving forward very quickly from 13th and 14th on the grid respectively. Even with an extra 40kgs and 5% less horsepower, Tarquini and Menu still powered forward.

Expect to see quite a few of these out in action next year, I can already hear the phone of Andrea Adamo, Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing Manager, ringing off the hook with Sales for 2018…

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Finally, I feel some of the drivers who suffered a bad weekend need a mention. I include Stefano Comini, Mato Homola amongst quite a few. Comini is in the title hunt and now looks increasingly as if he will have to concede his reign to rival Vernay, but you can bet the Swiss driver wont give up without a fight.

Mato Homola again suffered  engine issues and a puncture during the first race, however the inexplicable decision to add weight to the Opel Astra TCR added to what was a difficult weekend. Both the Hungarian and DG Sport Competition will be out to end the season on a high in Dubai.

Finally… TCR EUROPE TROPHY

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Before that takes place, the best of the Domestic European TCR series drivers will go up against each other to win the prestigious TCR Europe Trophy which takes place at the Adria International Raceway in Italy on 29th October.

This is as close as you’ll get to seeing something similar to the Touring Car World Cup events that took place back in the middle 1990’s and I’m sure its going to be a fantastic event to witness.

As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of both the TCR Talk International Facebook Group and the new TCR Talk UK Facebook Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from The TCR International Series, Domestic Series and any news on the TCR UK Series that starts in 2018.

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Please note that all images are used courtesy of WSC/TCR International Series.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2017 TCR International Series: Thailand

Has it really been over eight weeks since the last outing in Germany??? Wow…
Well, here’s all the fun and heartbreak from the TCR International Series events from Thailand…

Thailand hosts the TCR International Series for the third time

The TCR International Series will resume this weekend at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit in Thailand, following an eight-week summer break after the meeting in Oschersleben, Germany.

The series visits Buriram for the third time and the Thai event has become one of the favourites for drivers and teams members who appreciate the state-of-the-art Chang International Circuit designed by Hermann Tilke that opened in 2014, but also the warm welcome provided by the local personnel and fans.

The track layout is well-suited to Touring Car competition, providing several overtaking places and corners where three or four cars can run abreast.

TCR series Thailand, Buriram 23 -25 October 2015

In the previous TCR appearances, SEAT drivers have taken the lion’s share of results. In 2015 Pepe Oriola and Stefano Comini took a win apiece; the Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Team posted a 1-2-3 in Race 1 (Oriola, Gené and Afanasyev) and Target Competition then returned a 1-2 in Race 2 with Comini and Hezemans.

TCR International Series, Buriram, Thailand 27 - 28 August 2016

Last year things went even better for Lukoil Craft-Bamboo, with the Oriola-Nash duo on top in Race 1 and the Englishman emerging as the winner in Race 2.

Nine points cover the first four drivers in the standings

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

The fight for the TCR International Series Drivers’ title is as close as ever, with the first four drivers in the standings covered by only nine points.

Scoring one third place in the previous event at Oschersleben enabled Jean-Karl Vernay to reclaim the lead in the classification and now, with 153 points scored so far, the Frenchman has a slim margin of two points ahead of Attila Tassi who had jumped on top of the standings after his home race meeting at the Hungaroring.

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Roberto Colciago and the reigning champion Stefano Comini are currently lying in third and fourth positions, with gaps of eight and nine points. Behind the leading quartet, Pepe Oriola is fifth, but his 110 points are still keeping him well in contention.

To make the situation even spicier, these five drivers are driving four different car models: Volkswagen (Vernay), Honda (Tassi and Colciago), Audi (Comini) and SEAT (Oriola).

All the others competitors have only theoretical chances to fight for the title.

The battle for the Teams’ title seems to be restricted to M1RA (308 points) and Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing (275), while the first three cars in the ‘Model of the Year’ classification – the Honda Civic, SEAT León and Volkswagen Golf GTI – are split by only 51 points.

Success ballast for Morbidelli, Lloyd and Homola

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Gianni Morbidelli’s hat trick at Oschersleben – pole position and two race wins at the wheel of his WestCoast Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI – not only earned him 55 points in the championship, but also the maximum Success Ballast of 30 kilos for the next event at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit.

The second-best scorer in Germany was Lukoil Craft-Bamboo’s Daniel Lloyd who will receive 20 kilos of Success Ballast, while Mat’o Homola of DG Sport Compétition will carry the 10 extra kilos imposed on the third best scorer of the previous event.

As a result, Morbidelli’s Volkswagen will weigh 1295kg (1285kg minimum weight + 30kg Success Ballast – 20kg Balance of Performance adjustment), Lloyd’s SEAT León 1295kg (1285kg + 20kg SB – 10kg BoP) and Homola’s Opel Astra 1305 kg (1285kg + 10kg SB + 10kg BoP).

M1RA Adds Altoe and Michelisz for Thai Races

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

With Roberto Colciago forced to miss this weekend’s TCR International Series race meetin at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit, the M1RA team reacted by entering Giacomo Altoè and Norbert Michelisz alongside Attila Tassi.

Colciago, one of the main contenders for the 2017 Drivers’ title, has been sidelined by medical reasons. In fact the Italian driver has not fully recovered from the incident at the start of the second race at Oschersleben that resulted in three cracked ribs.

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To help Tassi, who is also in contention for the title – he currently lies second in the standings, only two points behind Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay – M1RA team owner Norbert Michelisz rejoined the series after having raced at the Hungaroring claiming pole position and finishing second in Race 1. He will be obliged to carry 20 kilos of success ballast because of those results.

Altoè will be driving the team’s third Honda Civic car, following his switch from WestCoast Racing.

TCR Thailand competitors join the International Series field

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

The event in Buriram will also count as rounds 7 and 8 of TCR Thailand and six of the local competitors will join the International Series field. They are split into two classes: PRO and PRO-AM.

Pasarit Promsombat  (RMI Racing Team by Sunoco – SEAT León DSG) is the current leader of the PRO Class; he has won no fewer than nine national titles in different categories, including three in the popular Thailand Super Series.

The other five drivers are all competing in the PRO-AM class that is currently led on equal points by Chariya Nuya (Billionaire Boys Racing – Honda Civic) and Nattanid Lewattanavaragul (Moring Racing – SEAT León DSG). Nuya has already won two rounds of the series at the Chang International Circuit, while Lewattanavaragul won the second race at Bangsaen, becoming the first lady driver to win a round of a TCR national championship.

The field is completed by Nattachak Hanjitkasen (TBN MK Ihere Racing – Honda Civic), Rattanin Leenutaphong (Yontrakit Racing Team – SEAT León DSG) and Malaysia’s Douglas Khoo (Viper Niza Racing – SEAT León) who is an International Series veteran having already joined several times in the two previous years.

A Thai driver for DG Sport Compétition at Buriram

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

DG Sport Compétition has signed a local driver for the next TCR International Series event at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit in Thailand.

It will be Munkong Sathienthirakul – nicknamed ‘Turbo’ – who will sit at the wheel of the Belgian team’s second Opel Astra car, alongside regular driver Mat’o Homola.

One of the top runners in the popular Thailand Super Series, Sathienthirakul was crowned champion of the Super 2000 class in 2015. This will be his third appearance in the TCR International Series as he already took part twice in the Buriram event in previous years. In 2015 he drove a SEAT León for Craft-Bamboo and a Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf last year. His best result was a brilliant 9th place in the 2015 Race 2.

Mat’o Homola places the Opel Astra back on pole

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

Mat’o Homola claimed his third pole position of the season, after those in Bahrain and Austria, at the wheel of his DG Sport Compétition Opel Astra car. The young Slovak topped the timesheet at the end of one of the most thrilling Qualifying sessions ever, that saw many position changes, penalties, red flags and breakdowns.

Eventually, Homola’s fastest lap in Q2 was quicker than James Nash’s by a mere four thousandths of a second, while Norbert Michelisz managed to qualify in third ahead of Jean-Karl Vernay, meaning four different brands – Opel, SEAT, Honda and Volkswagen – fill the first two rows of the grid for tomorrow’s Race 1. Attila Tassi, Vernay’s closest competitor in the title fight, qualified in fifth position.

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

The GE Force Alfa Romeo team suffered the greatest disappointment, as both the team’s drivers – Dušan Borković and Davit Kajaia – were eliminated despite being among the fastest. The Serbian broke his suspension after posting a provisional fastest lap in Q1 and was then not admitted to Q2 for receiving external aid, while his teammate blew the engine at the beginning of Q2.

Local hero Kantadhee Kusiri managed to qualify a brilliant eighth, while Aurélien Panis qualified tenth and won pole position on the reverse grid for Race 2 alongside Stefano Comini. Panis will start from the back of the grid in Race 1 due to an engine change.


Q1: Michelisz beats Homola by three tenths

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It was a frantic start to the session, as very fast laps were clocked straight away. After Nash’s 1:44.121, Kajaia and Borković improved to 1:43.820 and 1:43.631 respectively. However, immediately afterwards the Serbian broke the front suspension after running over a kerb, stopping on the track and so prompting the red flag. Just before the session was suspended, Vernay (1:43.731) and Nash (1:43.971) had moved up to second and fourth.

The session resumed with 13 minutes still on the clock and immediately Oriola posted a new provisional fastest lap of 1:43.478 that was bettered by Vernay’s 1:43.456. As all competitors were eager to improve, Race Control began to disallow times due to disrespect of track limits.

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Vernay improved further to 1:43.447, but with three minutes left, Michelisz stopped the clock at 1:43.315, towing Tassi to set the second fastest lap of 1:43.365. Eventually the young Hungarian was demoted to third when Homola moved up to second with a lap of 1:43.350.

Despite setting the 7th fastest lap, Borković was not allowed to run in Q2 because his car had been towed back to the pits after the breakdown, which promoted Morbidelli to tenth.

The following drivers went through to Q2: Michelisz, Homola, Tassi, Vernay, Oriola, Altoè, Nash, Kajaia, Panis, Comini, Kusiri and Morbidelli.

Among those who failed to make the cut were Huff, Lloyd and Vervisch.

Chariya Nuya set the pole in TCR Thailand, beating Morin Racing’s lady driver Nattanid Leewattanavaragul.

Qualifying 2: Homola sets pole by four thousandths

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The second part of the session began just like the first. Michelisz (1:43.359), Tassi (1:43.322), Nash (1:43.314) and Kajaia (1:43.078) clocked consecutive provisional fastest laps. However, Kajaia’s, Michelisz’s and Tassi’s times were disallowed for infringing track limits. A similar penalty was imposed to Vernay and Oriola.

Homola set a new provisional fastest lap of 1:43.093 just before the session was disrupted by the red flag when Kajaia’s car stopped on the track with a smoking engine.

When the session resumed only three minutes were left, meaning that drivers had only one attempt to improve. Michelisz moved up into provisional second place (1:43.228), but Nash did better (1:43.097), failing to steal pole position from Homola by four thousandths.

Driver quotes after the Qualifying session

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

Mat’o Homola (1st): “Thanks to my team – we had a problem in Q1 and they repaired it quickly to enable me to go through to Q2. In Q2 there was a red flag and there was chaos but I managed to do one good lap and it was enough, so I’m really glad for that. I like this circuit and the car is behaving how I want it to. Everything is okay and so I’m really happy. I know the biggest part of the points comes in the races, not Qualifying, so I’m not really over the moon right now because I know this is just one part of my job and the second comes tomorrow.”

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

James Nash (2nd): “This circuit certainly throws up the odd challenge for me, but the results are always positive. It’s a track that suits my style and I enjoy driving it. Just after setting my best lap time, I hit the brakes for the hairpin at Turn 3, where I had the crash last year, and the driveshaft just snapped. Thankfully, the time was already done but I was only four thousandths from pole so I’m disappointed with that. Looking ahead to tomorrow, my starts have always been pretty good so I’ll do what I normally do and I think I’ve got the race pace to pull away.”

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Norbert Michelisz (3rd): “P3 is okay, but the most important thing was to have the three cars in the top ten. It’s important for the team’s point of view and Attila also managed to get into the top five, so overall I’m really proud of the guys. I think we showed great teamwork in Qualifying and we helped each other with slipstreaming so I’m really happy. If you are on pole, it’s less risk for one race but if you are on the third row there is risk because you can suffer some damage if someone comes from the back. I would have preferred Attila to have been on the front row, but if everything goes well he has the possibility of being on the podium twice tomorrow.”

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Aurelien Panis (10th): “It was a perfect result for us because of the penalty for the engine change after Oschersleben, so our goal was P10 and that was what we did. I’m very happy; the team did a great job and the car was very nice to drive. Pole position for Race 2 means we are all very happy. My goal will be to make a good start and I have Race 1 in which to practice a bit. It will be important not to make any mistakes in Race 1 and then I can focus on race 2. The level in TCR is very high, so I am happy to be with them and I think it will be a great fight.”

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Chariya Nuya (19th & 1st TCR Thailand): “I feel very happy to be the first driver in the TCR Thailand category. I did my best, but it wasn’t enough to be with the International Series drivers. I need to spend a lot more time in the car to practice if I’m to be able to compete with them. The car is good and works very well and I will try my best in the two races tomorrow.”

Michelisz and Panis make a Honda double win in Thailand
Tassi leads the championship by 2 points ahead of Vernay

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Buriram’s Chang International Circuit had never been successful for the Honda drivers in the two previous visits of the TCR International Series to Thailand. Today the luck of the men at the wheel of the Civic cars changed – and then some!

Not only did Norbert Michelisz (M1RA) and Aurélien Panis (Boutsen Ginion Racing) share race victories, but Michelisz’s teammates Giacomo Altoè and Attila Tassi were both able to finish on the podium and the young Hungarian has jumped back on top of the championship standings as a result.

The first race was one of the liveliest ever, bestowing both honours and tears in almost equal measure. It was a bitter end to the race for Mat’o Homola, DG Sport Compétition and the Opel Motorsport technicians who saw a well deserved first victory vanishing on the last-but-one lap because of a blown tyre.

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

Lukoil Craft-Bamboo, too, had reasons to lament as both James Nash and Pepe Oriola were stopped by technical failures while they were still fighting for the podium positions. Oriola’s withdrawal with a broken gearbox was especially painful, because it sidelined the Spaniard in Race 2 and so greatly compromised his hopes to fight for the title.

While some were weeping, M1RA – with Michelisz and Tassi first and third – and GE Force, with Dušan Borković second after a recovery, were over the moon. However, the Italo-Georgian team has some regrets, because Borković showed a pace that could have resulted in victory without his incident in yesterday’s Q1.

In the second race, Panis took an authoritative lights-to-flag victory, although a part of the credit goes to his crew that managed to solve a throttle issue on the starting grid. Altoè claimed his first TCR International podium on his maiden appearance at the wheel of a M1RA Honda, while Stefano Comini salvaged a third place that helps him to stay in contention for the title, third in the standings and 14 points from the leader.

Race 1 – Michelisz inherits the win as Homola stops

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Mat’o Homola was on the verge of claiming his maiden win at the wheel of the DG Sport Compétition Opel Astra when he was forced to retire with a blown front tyre with only two laps to go. This is the second consecutive race in which the young Slovak has lost a victory in the final moments, after he was passed by Gianni Morbidelli on the last lap of Oschersleben’s Race 2.

As a result, Norbert Michelisz – who was not even expected to race in Thailand – gratefully inherited his first victory in the TCR International Series. The Hungarian ace, called in at the last minute to replace the injured Roberto Colciago, was driving with one eye on the rear view mirror to check how his M1RA Racing teammate Attila Tassi was performing while defending himself from the attacks of Jean-Karl Vernay.

Eventually he found himself the winner with Tassi in third, so claiming two of the podium places for the Honda Civic. Second place went to the Alfa Romeo of an ecstatic Dušan Borković who completed a fantastic recovery from 13th on the grid. An even better performance came from his teammate Davit Kajaia, who recovered from 23rd to 8th.

After being so competitive in previous years here at Buriram, Lukoil Craft-Bamboo suffered setbacks as both James Nash and Pepe Oriola retired while they were fighting for the podium positions.

RACE ONE:

Grid: Panis and Kajaia are at the back of the grid following engine changes
Start: Homola sprints from pole and takes the lead, followed by Michelisz and Nash

2017-2017 Buriram Race 1---Start Race1_7 (1)

Lap 1: Tassi overtakes Nash for third
Lap 2: Vernay and Nash swap positions twice, Nash retains third place, Oriola follows them in fifth
Lap 4: Nash outbrakes himself at T1 and drops to fifth behind Vernay and Oriola; Borković overtakes Altoè for 7th
Lap 5: Morbidelli overtakes Vervisch for 9th

2017-2017 Buriram Race 1---09 Attila Tassi_141

Lap 6: Vernay and Oriola are chasing Tassi
Lap 7: Oriola overtakes Vernay for fourth; Nash retires with a broken driveshaft
Lap 8: There are contacts in a four way fight for second place, Michelisz is followed by Oriola, Tassi and Vernay; Borković overtakes Vernay for fifth
Lap 9: Borković overtakes Tassi for fourth

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Lap 10: Tassi is chased by Vernay, Altoè, Morbidelli and Huff; Huff and Morbidelli make contact
Lap 12: Morbidelli runs wide at T1 and drops to 11th behind Huff, Comini and Kajaia; Lloyd overtakes Morbidelli for 11th; Promsombat hits a pile of tyres and retires while leading TCR Thailand
Lap 13: Homola retires from the lead with a blown front left tyre ; Michelisz leads from Oriola and Borković

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Lap 14: Oriola stops on the track from second with a gearbox failure; Michelisz wins from Borković; Tassi retains third place despite a contact with Vernay at the last turn; Nuya wins the TCR Thailand race from Lewattanavaragul and Leenutaphong

Race 2 – Panis victorious for Boutsen Ginion

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In only his second appearance in the TCR International Series, Aurélien Panis scored his maiden victory at the wheel of the Honda Civic car run by Boutsen-Ginion Racing.

It was a lights-to-flag victory for the young Frenchman who took the lead at the start and built a small cushion between himself and Giacomo Altoè, who finished second.
It was a result to remember for the Italian teenager as well, after he had switched to a M1RA Honda Civic only on the eve of the Thai event.

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Despite losing one place to Altoè at the start, Stefano Comini managed to collect a third place that keeps his chances of winning a third consecutive title well alive.

Attila Tassi finished fourth, ahead of Jean-Karl Vernay in fifth, and this helped the Hungarian to reclaim the lead in the standings, albeit only two points ahead of Vernay.
Actually Tassi’s margin could had been larger without a technical failure that stopped Norbert Michelisz on the last lap which prevented him from finishing fifth ahead of Vernay.

RACE TWO:

Grid – Oriola (5th) is missing, following the gearbox failure suffered in Race 1
Start – Panis starts well from pole and leads from Altoè, Comini and Tassi

2017-2017 Buriram Race 2---Start Race2_7

Lap 1 – Comini and Tassi are in a close fight for second
Lap 2 – Vernay overtakes Nash for 7th; there is a four-way battle for 9th between Huff, Borković, Homola and Kajaia
Lap 4 – Vernay overtakes Kusiri for 6th; Nash hits Kusiri who drops to 11th
Lap 5 – Borković overtakes Huff for 8th; Nuya leads in TCR Thailand but is chased by Leewattanavaragul

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Lap 6 – Hanjitkasen overtakes Leenutaphong for third in TCR Thailand
Lap 8 – Vernay is chasing Michelisz for fifth; Borković overtakes Nash for 7th
Lap 9 – Homola dives inside Kusiri, but goes wide; Ende overtakes Vervisch for 16th
Lap 10 – Vervisch retakes 16th from Ende

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

Lap 11 – Kajaia retires from 10th with a flat front tyre
Lap 12 – Leewattanavaragul attacks Nuya’s leadership in TCR Thailand
Lap 13 – Smoke comes out of Michelisz’s car

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Lap 14 – Michelisz slows, Vernay moves up to fifth; Panis wins from Altoè and Comini; Nuya encores in TCR Thailand, beating Leewattanavaragul and Promsombat

Quotes from the podium finishers in the two races

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Norbert Michelisz (1st in Race 1): “I’m absolutely over the moon! Before the weekend, we didn’t really expect to win races to be honest. The Civic is carrying a lot of weight but we did some great work and the team found a good balance. I’m really happy for Attila because he scored the most points and I’m also happy for Giacomo, because I think he can be proud of himself. We knew what we had to do in Qualifying and both races went well. I had luck because Homola suffered a puncture. I could see that he was pushing and so I followed him to increase the pressure, but I could see in the mirror that Attila might need some help so I dropped back. Oriola was too close and so it didn’t work as well as it might, but at the end it is how it is and so I’m happy for the team.”

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Aurélien Panis (1st in Race 2): “I knew before the races that our pace was really good, because in Free Practice and Qualifying was really fast but we didn’t get the perfect lap to be in front. P10 and so start Race 2 from pole position was the best possible qualifying result for us. I must say thank you to the team because the car was great to drive. I’m very happy to be in TCR International and to win today. For the young drivers it’s a really good series and it’s great to be fighting with the top drivers like Michelisz, Vernay or Comini. The level is very high and for that reason I’m very happy to win today.”

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Dušan Borković (2nd in race 1): “I was really disappointed after Qualifying because of what happened. To start from the middle of the grid is always difficult but I had an okay start and I was able to attack. On some circuits the car is good and in others we need to improve it, particularly in slow and medium corners, but the team did a really good job this weekend. The brakes were good in Race 1 and I decided not to change them, but I started locking up in Race 2 and so I had to be careful. Luckily the Alfa is a little bit faster on the straights and so I could keep Nash and Huff behind me. I’m not really focusing on the championship, but I know I’m not far behind Oriola now.”

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Giacomo Altoè (2nd in race 2): “It’s unbelievable – I’m so happy. The car was perfect and this was a really good result for me and for the team. I feel really at home with this team and with JAS. After this result, maybe a victory is possible, so I will try the maximum to achieve it. I’m taking things race by race and my priority has to be to help M1RA to win the team’s championship.”

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Attila Tassi (3rd in race 1): “This weekend couldn’t have been any better. It all came together in Race 1 and we had a good first lap. I overtook Vernay after the start and went around the outside of Nash at Turn 3. After that, it was tough as I fought with Vernay for 14 laps and had to manage my tyres. Norbi tried to help me once, but Oriola and Vernay were right behind me and it was a big risk. I lost two positions and then Borković came with the Alfa. P1 and P3 for M1RA was really good for the drivers’ and teams’ standings. In Race 2, I had another good start and then Norbi was behind me so it was a bit safer than Race 1. There was a good fight with Comini on the first lap and I always enjoy fighting with him, it was a lot of fun.”

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

Stefano Comini (3rd in race 2): “This wasn’t exactly what I needed, to be honest. I wanted to leave here leading the championship, but we didn’t have the pace. I ruined the first start and lost many positions. I only wanted to avoid contact to secure the car for Race 2. The second start was a little difficult as it took a bit too long and I was worried about the engine temperature and the clutch. It was a tough race as I wanted to preserve the tyres but it was a good race for me. It’s a bit more complicated now, but it’s still open. We need to work with Audi ahead of China but I’m fairly happy.”

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

The TCR International Series will resume in China, at the brand new Zhejiang Circuit, on October 7 and 8.

TCR Thailand – Nuya wins two from Lewattanavaragul

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For the second consecutive year, TCR Thailand’s competitors raced together with the International Series at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit.

Chariya Nuya scored a double victory in the Billionaire Boys Racing Honda Civic, which helped him to take the lead in the series’ Pro Am class, 11 points ahead of Morin Racing’s Nattanid Lewattaravanagul. The lady driver proved to be fast and tough enough to make Nuya’s life hard in both races, finishing twice a very close second.

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

Despite the fact that he was forced to retire in Race 1 Pasarit Promsombat (RMI Racing SEAT León) clinched the title in the Am class with one event still to go.

In Race 1, Promsombat took the lead from Nuya on lap 3, however with only three laps to go he hit a pile of tyre and retired. Nuya inherited the lead and crossed the finishing line first, only three seconds ahead of Leewattanavaragul. Rattanin Leenutaphong completed the podium at the wheel of his Yotrakit Racing Team SEAT León.

Nuya led the whole second race, but he had to fight hard to defend his lead from the attacks of Lewattanavaragul who was chasing him within striking distance. Behind them, Nattachak Hanjitkasen (TBN MK Ihere Racing Honda) overtook Leenutaphong for third on lap 6; on lap 11 Leenutaphong lost also fourth position to Promsombat.
The fight for third was white-hot and eventually Promsombat managed to clinch it on the last lap from Leenutaphong and Hanjitkasen.

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

A delighted Nuya commented: “I’m very happy with the results in both races. I did my best, but it wasn’t enough to fight with the International Series drivers. My ambition is to maybe move up from TCR Thailand into TCR Asia or even higher. I will need to talk to my sponsor about that, but this weekend and the race results have helped.”

The TCR Thailiand championship will return to Buriram for its final race meeting on September 23 and 24.

Finally two great updates that once again prove TCR is the place to be in Touring Cars…

Giovanardi’s Racing Comeback in TCR Italy

Superstars Series Vallelunga (ITA) 09 - 10 10 2010

Fabrizio Giovanardi returns to Touring Car competition the TCR Italy event at Vallelunga on September 24. Three years after his latest appearance in the BTCC, the former European, British and Italian champion will sit at the wheel of a SEAT León TCR run by BF Racing, sharing driving duties with Alessandro Thellung.

Giovanardi tested the car at Vallelunga last week, completing 40 laps with promising lap times.

DallAntonia-Piccin (BF Racing,Seat Leon Racer-TCR #7)

“I am surely not racing just to make up the numbers. It is a one-off appearance and it can’t be more than that, for the time being. I decided to race only after I had the opportunity to test the car, because I want to be competitive,” said Giovanardi.

Talking of the SEAT TCR that is fitted with a DGS gearbox, Giovanardi commented: “It is a very honest car. It has more power than the SuperTouring and S2000 cars, but the chassis feels much better. The DSG gearbox does not allow you to attack as much as you would like and you have to get used to it. But, apart from that, it is a pleasure to drive.”

Hyundai i30 N TCR set for TCR International Series Debut

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The Hyundai i30 N TCR will enter both remaining rounds of the 2017 TCR International Series season, starting with the one at Zhejiang Circuit in China.

Two cars will be run by BRC Racing, Hyundai Motorsport’s development partner on the i30 N TCR, for Gabriele Tarquini and Alain Menu. The team intends to use the experience gained from the race weekends to finalise the set-up for the car ahead of the first chassis being produced for customers.

Tarquini, the lead test driver for the project, will continue his work at the wheel of the i30 N TCR as one of the drivers for both of the TCR International Series events.

Throughout the testing phase the former World Touring Car champion’s expertise has proved invaluable in helping the team during the development phase. The second car will be driven by Alain Menu who brings further experience to the team, adding to considerable expertise of his new teammate. The additional input from a second, very experienced driver, will help the team continue to improve the set-up of the car through the final part of the year as Hyundai Motorsport’s attention turns to delivering completed chassis to customers, starting in early December.

ADAC GT Masters, 9. + 10. Lauf - Nürburgring 2017 - Foto: Gruppe C Photography

Both drivers completed a two-day test last week in Valencia, conducting final preparations on the new chassis they will drive in China. Both i30 N TCR cars sported the race colour scheme that brings together the N logo and Hyundai Motorsport’s traditional colours.

Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “The debut in the TCR International Series is a big moment for the project. Coming in China, alongside the TCR Asia and TCR China series, the weekend is the ideal event to show the potential of the i30 N TCR to teams and drivers. The look of the cars ties the i30 N TCR very closely to the N line-up of road models, so a strong performance would promote both the racecar and the standard models”

Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing Manager Andrea Adamo said: “Bringing the i30 N TCR to the TCR International Series for the final events of the season is a very important moment for all of Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing. The weekend in China comes at a crucial time of the year, as teams and drivers are now planning their campaigns for the 2018 season. To be able to show the performance of the i30 N TCR at the highest level is a big opportunity for us. However, the races also give us the chance to continue our development work.”

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

One final thing I’m going to add here is that as a long time Vauxhall/Opel fan in Touring Car racing over the years, I was devastated as I watched on Sunday Morning Mat’o Homola’s retirement from race one. I mean, what has this poor guy got to do to win a race a 2017!! What ever it is, he needs to find it!!

That Opel Astra is more than capable of taking a win and the proof is there after its been qualified on pole position on three occasions this year. Both Homola and DG Sport Compeition have four chances left to give the car its first win and I am confident that this will happen.

When it does, be assured, there will be tears from this long time Vauxhall/Opel fan!!

As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of both the TCR Talk International Facebook Group and the new TCR Talk UK Facebook Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from The TCR International Series and any news on the TCR UK Series tat starts in 2018.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

 

 

2017 TCR International Series – Germany

The TCR International Series returns to Oschersleben

The TCR International Series returns to Oschersleben’s Motorsport Arena for the second consecutive year.

Built in 1997 and partially modified in 2007, this modern racetrack has always been a favourite of Touring Car drivers for its demanding layout that offers several opportunities to overtake and German fans enjoy the door-to-door battles between the cars.

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Last year, Mat’o Homola claimed his first TCR win in the first race, beating Dušan Borković and James Nash who finished second and third again in the second race that was won by Pepe Oriola.

The SEAT cars dominated the event, as they filled the top-five places in both races.

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

This year the TCR competitors will use the circuit’s older layout that includes the smoother “esses” at the end of the pit straight instead of the sharper left-hander. This is to limit the risk of a pile up at the start and to favour overtaking manoeuvres.

M1RA drivers Tassi and Colciago defend the top positions

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

The previous event at the Hungaroring turned out very much in favour of Hungary-based M1RA. Attila Tassi claimed his first TCR victory in Race 1 and immediately encored in Race 2, jumping to the top of the Drivers’ classification in the process.

His teammate Roberto Colciago was classified fourth and fifth, which helped him to retain the second position overall, six points behind his teammate.

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay of Leopard Racing was a podium finisher (third) in Race 1 and was able to stay third in the standings with a gap of 13 points, while Stefano Comini, who had arrived in Hungary as the series leader, had a disappointing weekend and dropped to fourth. However, the Comtoyou Racing driver remains within striking distance, 25 points behind Tassi.

Pepe Oriola of Lukoil Craft-Bamboo ranked fifth and second in the two Hungarian races and remains in contention for the title fight; fifth in the standings with a gap of 42 points.

Balance of Performance revised to save brakes and tyres

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

The TCR Technical Department made a significant revision to the Balance of Performance list in order to improve the working conditions of tyres and brakes.

The running weight of every model has been reduced by either 10 or 20 kilos. A 20-kilo weight break was granted to the Alfa Romeo Giulietta (-20 kg), Audi RS3 LMS (+25 kg), KIA cee’d and Subaru STI (both -40 kg), Peugeot 308 (-60 kg), Volkswagen Golf GTI (-20 kg) and SEAT León (-20 kg). The Honda Civic (+30 kg), Opel Astra (+10 kg) and SEAT León DSG (-20 kg) have all benefited from a 10-kilo reduction.

On top of this, the ride height of the Audi RS3 LMS DSG and the SEAT León DSG was further reduced to 60mm.

This scale will be applied immediately and until further notice.

Success ballast for Tassi and Oriola at Oschersleben

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Attila Tassi’s double victory in his home event at the Hungaroring meant that the young M1RA driver took the leadership in the standings for the first time, but also that his Honda Civic will be laden by the maximum Success Ballast of 30 kilos at Oschersleben.

The second-best scorer in Hungary was Tassi’s team principal and occasional teammate Norbert Michelisz, therefore he will receive 20 kilos of Success Ballast in the case of a further participation in the International Series. Pepe Oriola of Lukoil Craft-Bamboo will carry the 10 kilos of Success Ballast imposed to the third best scorer of the previous event.

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

As a result, Tassi’s Honda will weigh 1345kg (1285kg minimum weight + 30kg Success Ballast + 30kg Balance of Performance adjustment) and Oriola’s SEAT León 1295kg (1285kg + 10kg SB – 10kg BoP).

Luca Engstler ready to debut in the International Series

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Luca Engstler will make his debut in the TCR International Series at Oschersleben. The 17-year old son of Franz Engstler will be at the wheel of a Volkswagen Golf GTI run by his father’s Junior Team Engstler.

The German teenager has already successfully taken his first steps in Touring Car competition by winning his maiden race: the opening round of the TCR Middle East Series at Dubai last January. He eventually was classified third in the series’ final standings.

Engstler is currently competing in the ADAC TCR Germany series, of which he’s leading the Junior Trophy.

“It will be a very stressing weekend as I will race in both the International and the German series. I will need to make an effort to maintain concentration amongst all the sessions and races. My priority remains the Junior Trophy of the German series, but I also wish to make a good impression while racing against the top international drivers,” said Engstler.

Boutsen Ginion Racing returns with Aurélien Panis

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

The Boutsen Ginion Racing will rejoin the TCR International Series from the German event at Oschersleben and for the rest of the season.

After successfully taking part in its home event at Spa-Francorchamps with two Honda Civic cars for Tom Coronel and Benjamin Lessennes (who finished second and fifth), the Belgian team has entered one Civic for Aurélien Panis, the 22-year old son of former Formula One driver Olivier.

After an apprenticeship in different single-seater series, Panis has moved to Touring Cars during the current season, driving a Honda Civic in the FIA World Touring Car Championship.

Panis commented: “I am very happy to join the Boutsen Ginion Racing team for the end of the TCR International Series and also to continue the adventure with Honda in a competitive team. While trying to fight for the best possible results, I am very excited to start this new challenge in Oschersleben!”

Leopard Racing fields a third car for Jaap van Lagen

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

In order to secure maximum support for Jean-Karl Vernay in his fight for the TCR International Series title, Leopard Racing will field a third Volkswagen Golf GTI car in Oschersleben.

The Belgian team has called in Jaap van Lagen to complete the line up, alongside Vernay and Rob Huff. The Dutchman has already driven for Leopard Racing in Monza, where he replaced Huff (who had a clashing commitment), but luck was not on his side.

Stopped by an engine issue in Race 1, van Lagen started Race 2 from the back of the grid and could not recover further than the 11th position.

Danny Kroes with Ferry Monster Autosport

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Danny Kroes is the latest young driver to join the TCR International Series. The 17-year old from the Netherlands will take part in the next race meeting at the Oschersleben Motorsport Arena in a SEAT León run by Ferry Monster Autosport.

“I’m really happy to be able to drive in Oschersleben. I will try my very best to get the most out of the car and myself and to learn from competing at this top level. I am hoping to drive a full season in the TCR International Series next year and this is the ideal platform to show what I am capable of despite having only a few hours of experience in the SEAT León. It is my very first season in Touring Cars after racing a few races last year in Formula 4. Despite this I am sure that the team will give me the best possible car and I am confident that I can be competitive,” Kroes said.

Earlier this year, Kroes took part in the TCR Benelux event at Zandvoort where he finished fourth in the Qualifying Race, sharing the Ferry Monster Autosport car with Pepe Oriola, and then was classified sixth and fifth in the first and second sprint races.

Salzburgring results to be declared final

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

The results of the TCR International Series rounds 9 and 10, that took place at the Salzburgring on 11 June, will be declared final.

The results were provisional, pending the stated intention of Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing to appeal against the decision of the Stewards that had declared legal the turbochargers of the Alfa Romeo and Opel cars on the basis of the Technical Delegate’s report.

However, the team did not confirm the appeal to the Swiss Motorsport Authority, the governing body of the TCR International Series.

ADAC TCR Germany shares the stage with TCR International

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Just as in 2016, the TCR International Series will share the stage with the ADAC TCR Germany.

The series is booming in its only second season with forty or so entries. Oschersleben will host the season’s fifth and sixth rounds, following the opening event at the Motorsport Arena at the end of April and that of 11 May at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

The 2016 champion Josh Files looks eager to retain the title. The Briton has won three of the four races held so far at the wheel of his Target Competition Honda Civic and leads the standings with a comfortable margin of 55 points ahead of Sheldon van der Linde who drives a Audi RS3 LMS run by Prosport Performance. The 2016 FIA ETCC champion – and Files’ teammate – Kris Richard is lying third, a further 15 points adrift.

The only driver who has been able to beat Files so far is the young Swiss Florian Thoma, who won Oschersleben’s Race 2 in a Junior Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTI.

60 cars on the grid for the TCR family photo

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Sixty TCR racing cars together on the same grid; an opportunity to take an impressive family photo of the TCR International and the ADAC TCR Germany competitors that just could not be missed.

The cars of both series were placed on the Oschersleben starting grid on Sunday morning and the gates were opened to give spectators the opportunity to take a close-up look at the racing cars and their drivers.

Seven brands were represented: Audi (17 cars), SEAT (14), Volkswagen (12), Honda (10), Opel (4), Alfa Romeo (2) and KIA (1).

Last year, for the same picture, there were 32 cars…

Japanese delegation visited Oschersleben

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

A Japanese delegation visited Oschersleben to take an inside view of both the TCR International Series and ADAC TCR Germany.

The members of the delegation were representatives of three car manufacturers with JAF, Japan’s National Sporting Authority: Kaoru Shimamura of Honda, Masahiro Moritani of Toyota and Shoichi Kamimura of Mazda.

During the weekend they also had a meeting with the TCR promoter Marcello Lotti.

TCR heads for the UK

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YES!!! FINALLY!!!

(Can you tell I’m happy about this??? – Phil)

Plans for a TCR series in the UK have taken a major step forward this week with the MSA’s Motor Racing Championship Control Panel giving its outline approval to a TCR UK championship in 2018.

Full details have yet to be announced, but it’s envisaged that the series will be made up of 6 or 7 rounds with each event consisting of two races. The series will be run by the British Racing and Sports Car Club (BRSCC), which already co-ordinates a number of high-profile championships across the UK.

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The UK series will join a list of championships around the world that have adopted the TCR sporting and technical regulations. In 2018, that list will be further enriched – amongst others – by TCR UK and the TCR class within the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series in the USA.

The success of the TCR concept can also be measured by the list of eligible cars that includes the SEAT León, Volkswagen Golf GTI, Audi RS 3 LMS, Honda Civic Type-R, Opel Astra, Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Subaru WRX STi, Peugeot 308 Racing Cup, Kia cee’d and Ford Focus, while Hyundai has already started the homologation process for its i30 N TCR.

The TCR concept was announced in 2014, with the TCR International Series now in its third season. The idea behind TCR is to revive interest in Touring Car racing around the world, controlling costs and enabling teams to use the same cars to contest national, regional and international championships. The concept is the brainchild of Marcello Lotti, the CEO of WSC Ltd.

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Marcello Lotti commented: “I am delighted that a TCR UK championship becomes the latest addition to our already large family of TCR series worldwide. This is a particularly important achievement, because the UK remains the reference country for motorsport due to its concentration of engineering companies, teams and professional people. We are confident that the new series will be successful thanks to the long-standing British tradition for motorsport in general, with particular enthusiasm for the various Touring Car categories.”

Jonathan Ashman, the Promoter of TCR UK, added: “I have worked with Marcello Lotti since the TCR concept was launched, especially with regard to the arrangements with Formula One Management. This new adventure with TCR UK brings me back to my previous experience as a Touring Car promoter, which gives me plenty of motivation to repeat the earlier success. I’m also especially pleased to have an experienced and professional management team alongside me.”

Teams and drivers requiring further information about the TCR UK series should contact info@tcrgbr.co.uk.

Gianni Morbidelli back on pole after 14 months

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Since the TCR International Series was launched back in 2015, Gianni Morbidelli has always been one of its reference drivers. That was the case until 14 months ago, when his luck changed and he was no longer able to fight for the top positions.

Now the former F1 racer is back at the front, claiming his first pole position since Imola 14 months ago; the first since he and the WestCoast Racing team switched to the Volkswagen Golf.

Morbidelli was consistently among the fastest drivers, if not the fastest of the pack, throughout the second Practice and Qualifying, setting a pace that nobody was able to match. His next obvious goal is getting back to the winner’s circle in tomorrow’s Race 1.

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

To do this he will have to keep at bay Jaap van Lagen (Leopard Racing Volkswagen) and Daniel Lloyd (Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT), who qualified second and third and so achieving their best results since they joined the championship.

The Qualifying results also confirmed this track is better suited to the Golf and León rather then the other models. None of the Alfa Romeo and Audi drivers managed to advance to Q2, while Roberto Colciago (8th) and Mat’o Homola (10th) were the only Honda and Opel drivers to qualify in the leading group.

Homola will start from pole position on the reverse grid for Race 2 with Jean-Karl Vernay alongside him, while Attila Tassi – the current championship leader – will line up 13th on the grid for both races.

Qualifying 1: Morbidelli leads a Volkswagen 1-2-3

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Volkswagen drivers from three different teams set the first three fastest laps with Morbidelli (WestCoast racing) ahead of van Lagen (Leopard Racing) and Luca Engstler (Junior Team Engstler).

Tassi was the first to top the time sheet with a lap of 1:33.181 that was improved by Oriola’s 1:33.082 and then by Morbidelli’s 1:33.009. Oriola was the first to go under the 1:33 mark, but his provisional fastest time of 1:32.838 was disallowed for infringing track limits. It was then Vernay who jumped on top with a lap of 1:32.829, but Morbidelli raised the bar to 1:32.064, with Lloyd second (1:32.801).

The segment was disrupted once by a red flag with twelve minutes left on the clock, to sweep the gravel off the track after Møller spun at the chicane.

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

When the session resumed, Engstler posted a new provisional fastest lap of 1:32.024, which was soon improved by Morbidelli’s 1:31.421 and van Lagen’s 1:31.553.

The following drivers went through to Q2: Morbidelli, van Lagen, Engstler, Oriola, Lloyd, Vernay, Altoè, Nash, Homola, Colciago, Huff and Paulsen.

Among those who did not make the cut were the points leader Tassi, the Alfa Romeo duo of Borković and Kajaia and the Audi pair of Vervisch and Comini. The latter spoiled his chances with a mistake on his last attempt.

Qualifying 2: Morbidelli beats van Lagen

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Oriola posted a 1:31.954 on his first lap out, but Morbidelli improved immediately to 1:31.908, with van Lagen moving up to second (1:31.914).

Oriola responded with a new provisional fastest lap of 1:31.834, but Morbidelli was even faster with a 1:31.426 that nobody was able to beat.

Van Lagen improved to 1:31.669 to secure second position ahead of Loyd (1:31.714), Huff (1:31.821) and Oriola.

On their last attempts, Vernay managed to climb to ninth, securing a front spot on the reverse grid for Race 2, while Engstler outbraked himself and went straight on at Turn 1.

Quotes after Oschersleben Qualifying

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Gianni Morbidelli (first): “I had almost forgotten how it feels to be in front of everyone and on pole! It’s a nice feeling and it is great, not only for me, but especially for the guys in the team, who worked so hard. After two seasons fighting for the title, it was certainly frustrating for us to go through such a difficult first part of the season with the Golf, so this is the kind of result we needed and that helps boosting the motivation. I must say that the car here has a terrific performance level and feels very good to drive. It’s the first time this year I can drive it as I really want. Nothing is done, of course, but this is a good start and we have to carry one from here.”

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Jaap van Lagen (second): “I am happy to be in the TCR International Series for the second time this year. It has been a last-minute call from the team, and although I am driving almost every weekend, it is not easy to just come and do well. One always needs a little time to re-adjust to a front wheel-drive car and the rest. Today, the Golf worked really well and without a little mistake in the last corner, I think we could have been fighting for pole. First goal for me is to help Jean-Karl Vernay in the races. We will see how things develop, as Jean-Karl is not too close in neither of the grids. I would do my race only if there is no way to help him.”

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Daniel Lloyd (third): “It’s my first time in the top-3 since I joined the TCR, so I am pleased, although as a driver, you always aspire to more. Everything came out nicely today, despite all the dirt on the track, I just focused on having a clear gap in front and behind me, and tomorrow I’ll be definitely fighting for a podium position… at least.”

TCR Germany – Oestreich takes lights-to-flag win

 

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Despite the large field of 37 cars, the start and first lap were extremely orderly, with the two men on the front row, Niels Langeveld (Audi) and Pascal Eberle (SEAT) getting passed by Moritz Oestreich (Honda) and Kris Richard (Honda).

Luca Engstler (Volkswagen) was fifth, while the championship leader Josh Files (Target Honda) took P6 on lap 2, despite starting from the seventh row. The race’s first victim was Sheldon van der Linde (Audi), who retired in the pits on lap 2 with a technical problem.

On lap 5, Simon Larsson (Audi) hit the barriers at the chicane, prompting the deployment of the Safety Car. At the restart, things stayed pretty much the same, with Engstler moving up to 4th. Steve Kirsch (Honda) passed Files for 6th, but when he tried to attack Langeveld there was a slight contact and the Honda went off-track and rejoined in P13.

On lap 14, it was Files who went straight on after some rubbing with Langeveld, losing six positions. Shortly afterwards, Langeveld was passed by Florian Thoma (Volkswagen) and Tim Zimmermann (Audi) who moved up to 4th and 5th.

The race ended in drama, as at the beginning of last lap the engine of Richard’s Honda, that had been chasing the leader Oestreich for the entire race, blew at the beginning of the straight and caught fire. Oestreich therefore won under yellow flags, preceding Eberle, Engstler, Thoma, Zimmermann and Langeveld with Files finishing tenth.

Files maintains the leadership in the standings with 166 points; Thoma has climbed to second, one point ahead of van der Linde, but with a gap of 68 from the leader.

TCR Germany – Langeveld gives first win to Audi

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Niels Langeveld of Racing One gave Audi its first victory in the TCR Germany series, although the Dutchman is currently being investigated for an incident that eliminated Florian Thoma’s Volkswagen.

Thoma made an excellent start from P2 and took the lead ahead of Steve Kirsch (Honda), Luca Engstler (Volkswagen), Langeveld and Josh Files (Honda), while Gosia Rdest’s Audi was pushed against the wall and Sheldon van der Linde’s Audi stalled on the grid.

On lap 2, Langeveld took third from Engstler, but the Safety Car was out to allow the retrieval of the Honda of Jürgen Schmarl from the gravel trap.

At the restart there was a good fight for the lead between Thoma and Kirsch, with the Swiss keeping the advantage, while Kirsch was defending the position from Langeveld. A slight contact between them sent Kirsch’s Honda into the gravel trap, with the Safety Car out again, as Jasmine Preisig’s Opel was also stuck in the gravel.

Shortly after the restart, Thoma spun in the last corner and was luckily avoided by the other cars; he rejoined in P12. Langeveld inherited the leadership ahead of Files, who passed Engstler, with Race 1 winner Morits Oestreich (Honda) fourth ahead of Harald Proczyk (SEAT) and Tom Lautenschlager (Audi).

Files has further stretched his leadership in the championship classification to 87 and 88 points ahead of Oestreich and Thoma respectively.

The ADAC TCR Germany series will resume on 22 and 23 July at Zandvoort, Netherlands.

Gianni Morbidelli scores a clean sweep in Germany as Jean-Karl Vernay retakes the point lead

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Gianni Morbidelli is back in anger after so many months of disappointment and frustration.

The Italian driver had not been able to win a race since April 2016 at Estoril, but today he reclaimed his place amongst the leading players of the TCR International Series in a very authoritative way.

In fact, he won both races at Oschersleben, scoring the maximum tally of points at stake (55, including 5 for the pole position) and giving WestCoast Racing its first victories since the Swedish team switched to the Volkswagen Golf.

Morbidelli’s win in Race 2 was a real masterpiece, as he overtook Mat’o Homola’s Opel Astra only two hundreds metres from the finish line. No wonder that while he was overjoyed, Homola felt bitter for having lost a great opportunity to score Opel’s maiden win in the series.

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

The two German races proved to be ill-fated for some of the title contenders. M1RA’s Attila Tassi and Roberto Colciago, first and second in the standings before Oschersleben, left Germany without scoring, while Pepe Oriola pocketed only one miserable point in yesterday’s qualifying.

This all helped Vernay to retake the lead in the overall classification, one point ahead of Tassi; Colciago has slipped to third, with a gap of eight points, while Stefano Comini (sixth and fifth in the two races), is now only one further point adrift in fourth place. Oriola remains fifth, 43 points behind the leader.

Race 1: Morbidelli takes an authoritative win

Gianni Morbidelli converted his pole position into an authoritative and long awaited victory for himself and the WestCoast Racing team. The Italian driver made a perfect start and led from lights to flag, even in spite of the safety car intervention after an incident between Tassi and Vernay.

Daniel Lloyd claimed his first podium finish with a brilliant second place, while Rob Huff defended his third position from the assaults of James Nash.

Once again Morbidelli’s young teammate Giacomo Altoè proved consistent in finishing fifth, while Stefano Comini recovered from 17th on the grid to 6th at the chequered flag. A result that might prove crucial in the title fight, considering that none of the top-three drivers in the standings – Tassi, Roberto Colciago and Vernay – scored points.

It was an eventful race, with a number of contacts (that resulted in penalties for Vernay and Oriola), flat tyres and even a black flag to Stian Paulsen for repeatedly infringing the track limits.

RACE ONE

Grid – Vervisch was demoted (from 16th) to the back of the grid, due to an engine change

Start – Morbidelli starts well from pole and leads from Lloyd; Huff jumps to third into Turn 1, while van Lagen drops to fifth behind Nash and Oriola

2017-2017 Oschersleben Race 1---Start Race1_3.jpg

 

Lap 1 – Vernay and Tassi come together into Turn 1, they both spin and rejoin at the back

Lap 2 – Paulsen overtakes Borković for 11th

Lap 3 – Engstler overtakes Homola for 9th; Kajaia goes wide on the grass and rejoins

Lap 4 – Panis drives wide onto the grass and rejoins; Vernay hits Tassi and sends him off

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Lap 5 – The Safety Car is deployed to recover Tassi’s car; Colciago pits with a flat front tyre; Engstler retires with a pierced radiator

Lap 8 – The race resumes; Comini moves up to 8th overtaking Paulsen and Homola; Oriola overtakes van Lagen for 5th after hitting him; Vernay is given a drive-through for the incident with Tassi

Lap 9 – Kajaia overtakes Kroes for 12th

Lap 10 – Oriola is given a drive-through for the incident with van Lagen; Tassi rejoins, but is black-flagged as he received mechanical aid to exit from the gravel trap

Lap 11 – Homola defends his 7th position from van Lagen and Paulsen

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Lap 12 – Paulsen overtakes van Lagen for 8th, Borković retires with a pierced radiator

Lap 13 – Paulsen nearly loses his car and van Lagen retakes 8th

Lap 15 – Homola, Paulsen and van Lagen continue fighting; Kajaia joins the fighting trio

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Lap 17 – Møller pits with a flat front tyre; Paulsen is black-flagged for track limits

Lap 18 – Kajaia slows down with a flat front tyre

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Lap 19 – Morbidelli wins from Lloyd, Huff successfully defend third place from Nash

Race 2: Morbidelli encores after a pile up

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

It was a masterful overtaking manoeuvre that enabled Gianni Morbidelli to score his second race win of the day at Oschersleben. On the last lap and in the last-but-one turn, the Italian dived inside Mat’o Homola’s Opel to strip the young Slovak of his first victory at the wheel of the Astra.

The race was marred by a catastrophic pile-up at the start that involved eight cars and eliminated some of the top guns, such as Roberto Colciago, Pepe Oriola, Rob Huff and James Nash.

After the wrecked cars were removed, the race could finally start and offered a great fight between the first four drivers who were running bumper-to-bumper for the whole 15 laps.

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Homola tried everything to keep the Volkswagen Golf cars of Jean-Karl Vernay and Morbidelli behind, although they were clearly faster. Daniel Lloyd stuck to the tail of the leading trio, waiting for a chance to improve his third place.

After Morbidelli passed Vernay for second it was quite clear that Homola’s lead was under serious threat, as the Italian had a much faster pace. Eventually, Homola’s dream of giving Opel its maiden victory in the TCR International Series melted only a few hundreds metres from the chequered flag.

Amongst the survivors were Duncan Ende and Ferenc Ficza; the American finished seventh and scored his first points in the championship, while Ficza was classified tenth (despite a pit stop) and pocketed the first point as a KIA driver.

RACE TWO

Grid – Panis is missing following an engine failure

Start – Homola starts well, but there is havoc behind him; Colciago swerves to the left and hits Vernay who is pushed against Nash; Nash’s car collects Altoè’s, Colciago is t-boned by Oriola, while Altoè bounces to the other side of the track and crashes with Paulsen, Huff and Engstler; the race is red-flagged and the surviving cars retake their original grid positions

Re-start – Of the eight cars involved in the pile up, only Vernay’s can make the grid; once again Homola makes the best start

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Lap 1 – van Lagen goes wide at Turn 1 and drops to 6th; he and Comini swap paint

Lap 2 – Borković overtakes Kajaia for 8th; van Lagen stops with a flat front tyre

Lap 3 – Vervisch overtakes Tassi for 8th; Borković retires with a broken exhaust

Lap 4 – Morbidelli overtakes Lloyd for third; Kroes overtakes Møller for 9th

Lap 5 – Vernay is chasing Homola, 0.3 seconds behind

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Lap 6 – Ficza pits with vibrations and rejoins

Lap 7 – Kajaia retires with a flat front tyre; Kroes tries to overtake Vervisch for 6th, but goes off and retires

Lap 8 – Morbidelli overtakes Vernay for second; Møller and Demoustier fight for 8th

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Lap 9 – Homola, Morbidelli and Vernay are covered by only 7 tenths

Lap 11 – The leading quartet of Homola, Morbidelli, Vernay and Lloyd deliver a close battle for victory; Demoustier and Møller are given drive-through penalties for track limits

Lap 13 – Tassi retires with a flat front tyre

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Lap 15 – Morbidelli overtakes Homola on the last-but-one turn and wins; Homola keeps second ahead of Vernay and Lloyd

Driver quotes after the Oschersleben races

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Gianni Morbidelli (1st in Race 1 & Race 2): “There couldn’t be a better day than this. I am really happy for the entire team, and also quite proud of myself. It looks like we finally woke up and this gives us tremendous motivation. In Race 1, I had a good start and pushed to build a gap, but I had to do it all over again after the safety-car period. It wasn’t easy but everything went well. In Race 2, I was lucky to escape the big crash at the start. Without it, I certainly couldn’t have repeated the win, but this is motorsport and sometimes you need some luck. The pace of the car was excellent and I could do some nice overtakes on Lloyd and Vernay, always between turn 11 and 12, where I knew I was faster than the others. With Homola it didn’t work the first time, but then, in the very last lap, I succeeded. Now, we can go on holidays satisfied!”

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Daniel Lloyd (2nd in Race 1): “It was quite a good weekend for me, I am happy with the pace, as I am getting closer to the top guys. Gianni, though, was really unreachable in Race 1. In Race 2, I was lucky not to be caught up in the big crash, but my pace at the restart was not what we expected.”

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Mat’o Homola (2nd in Race 2): “Clearly, I am disappointed to lose a possible first win for Opel only two corners from the end, after controlling the entire race, but Gianni did a great job. We had done most of the job, always pushing and trying to save the tyres, but it wasn’t enough. Still, I think we have to see the positive side: we are making consistent progress and we were not expecting to have such a good pace on a track like this. All in all, we can be satisfied.”

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Rob Huff (3rd in Race 1): “I had a very good start in Race 1, but after 2-3 laps, it was clear to me that I didn’t have the pace to stay with the guys in front, so I focused in taking no risks, not ruin the tyres on the kerbs and control the SEAT cars behind me. In Race 2, I thought I was almost through the turmoil, after going left and right, right and left and almost stop to avoid the cars going in all directions. I was almost clear when I was hit quite violently from the back, and that was it.”

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay (3rd in Race 2): “To be leading the points standings after a weekend like this is almost incredible and makes me very happy. Especially after Race 1 in which I got no points. Race 2 was eventful as well. I was sandwiched at the start between Colciago and Oriola, there was nothing I could do. When the race restarted, I tried to resist to Gianni, but he was faster than me and had also to defend myself from Lloyd. I felt I was a little bit quicker than Homola but not enough to pass him for second.”

The TCR International Series will resume after the summer break at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit, Thailand, on September 2 and 3.

2017-2017 Oschersleben Race 2---06 Frederic Vervisch_129.jpg

As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as the members of the TCR Talk Facebook Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from the series.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2017 TCR International Series – Hungary

The TCR International Series visits Hungary for the first time

For the first time since it was launched three years ago, the TCR International Series visits Hungary and will race at the famous Hungaroring.

Built in 1986 near the village of Mogyoród, the circuit hosted the first Formula One Grand Prix to be held behind the Iron Curtain and since then the Hungarian GP has always taken place there. Its layout has been modified twice; in 1989 to remove the chicane after Turn 3 and then again in 2003, when the pit straight was extended and Turns 1 and 14 were modified.

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

The combination of different kinds of corners and the elevation changes, makes the Hungaroring one of the most interesting and demanding modern racetracks from a driver’s point of view.

The Hungarian event also marks the first time the TCR International Series supports the DTM.

Success ballast for Comini, Borković and Colciago

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

With a couple of third places at the Salzburgring, Stefano Comini took the leadership in the standings, but also won the maximum Success Ballast for Hungaroring.

Comini was the highest scorer in Austria, with 30 points, only one more than Dušan Borković, the winner of Race 1, who scored 29. Therefore Comini will carry 30 kilos of Success Ballast against Borković’s 20.

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Colciago, who won the second race, was the third best scorer and will be given 10 kilos of ballast (Thomas Jäger actually scored the same amount of points, but won’t be racing in Hungary).

As a result, Comini’s Audi RS3 LMS will weigh 1360kg (1285kg minimum weight + 30kg Success Ballast + 45kg Balance of Performance adjustment), while Borković’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta will have a running weight of 1305kg (1285kg + 20kg SB) and Colciago’s Honda Civic 1315kg (1285kg + 10kg SB + 30kg BoP).

The Austrian races shook up the standings

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay was only one of the drivers who had close encounters with the barriers at Salzburgring’s Turn 9, although his incident was far less disastrous than Tassi’s, Ficza’s and Huff’s.

However, when the Frenchman’s Volkswagen Golf GTI went off on the last-but-one lap of Race 1, it not only sidelined him for the second race, but also cost him the leadership in the Drivers’ standings that he’d held since the event in Bahrain.

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

By finishing third in both the Austrian races, Stefano Comini became the new leader for the first time in the current season. The Swiss’ tally of 125 points is only three points better than Roberto Colciago’s, while Vernay has slipped down to third position, twelve points behind his former teammate.

Despite the high speed shunt in which he destroyed his Honda Civic during Friday’s testing, Attila Tassi was able to take part in the rest of the weekend at the wheel of a new car that was hastily trucked from JAS’ workshop in Italy. This helped the young Hungarian to arrive at his home event while lying fourth in the classification, with a gap of 27 points.

Michelisz is the guest star for his home event

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

After celebrating on the podium at the Salzburgring as the M1RA team owner, Norbert Michelisz will be the guest of honour for this weekend’s TCR International Series event at the Hungaroring.

For his home race meeting, he will be at the wheel of a Honda Civic Type-R run by his own M1RA team alongside regular drivers Roberto Colciago and Attila Tassi.

One of the most highly-rated Touring Car drivers, Michelisz has already raced the TCR-spec Honda, taking part in several rounds of last year’s TCR Benelux series in which he claimed six victories.

“I have two goals for this weekend. The first one is to help Attila Tassi and Roberto Colciago in scoring as many points as possible. Both of them are fighting for the championship and M1RA’s main goal is to be successful as a team. I will be a guest driver in the event, so my personal interests are less important. On the other hand I would also like to have a podium finish in front of the Hungarian fans. This would be the best way to give something back them in exchange for their fantastic support,” Michelisz said.

Work in progress: Leopard Racing and M1RA

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Two teams are working hard to make up for the damage obtained at the Salzburgring.

Hungary-based M1RA returned to its workshop with the aim of assembling a brand new Honda Civic for Norbert Michelisz’s debut in the TCR International Series.

The plan for Michelisz’s participation in the Hungaroring event was seriously endangered when Attila Tassi crashed on Friday during a test session at the Salzburgring. In fact, Tassi’s replacement car was originally intended for Michelisz. However, as there was not enough time to build another car, it was decided to rent a TCR Civic from another team.

Leopard Racing had an even worse weekend in Austria, as both Rob Huff and Jean-Karl Vernay crashed at Turn 9 during Race 1, a few minutes from each other.

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Vernay’s Volkswagen Golf was extensively damaged, however it can be repaired. And the team is currently working on stripping and rebuilding it in a temporary workshop near Budapest.

Huff’s Golf, on the other hand, suffered from terminal damage so a brand new car for him has been dispatched from SEAT Motorsport in Martorell, Barcelona. It is due to be delivered to the team overnight between Wednesday and Thursday, which will leave less than thirty-six hours for the team to complete it and check everything before Huff will sit at the wheel for the first practice on Friday afternoon.

The ‘Michelisz effect’ attracts a number of Hungarian drivers

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

You could call it the ‘Michelisz effect’. In fact, there is no doubt that Norbert Michelisz’s successful career has triggered an avalanche of young Hungarian drivers in different Touring Car series.

It is no wonder, then, that eight locals will make up the majority of the TCR International Series field at the Hungaroring. Two of them are regulars Attila Tassi and Ferenc Ficza, while another is Michelisz himself.

Zengő Motorsport enters one KIA and four SEAT cars

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

The Zengő Motorsport team intends to do things in a big way at home and has entered no fewer than five cars: one KIA cee’d and four SEAT Leóns.

The KIA will be in the hands of Ferenc Ficza, one of the drivers who escaped spectacular high-speed shunts at the Salzburgring. In the first Hungarian race, Ficza will drop to the back of the grid thanks to an engine change that occurred before the Austrian event.

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

The four SEAT cars will be driven by Dániel Nagy, Csaba Toth, Csaba Mór and Anett György.

Nagy is the most experienced of the group, having raced for the team in the FIA World Touring Car Championship. He has also already made an appearance in the TCR International Series, two years ago at the Red Bull Ring, when he created a surprise by posting a brilliant third fastest lap in Qualifying.

Unicorse to run a Giulietta for Márk Jedlóczky

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

The Unicorse Team will run a Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR for Márk L. Jedlóczky.

After successfully playing handball, 18-year old Jedlóczky began his racing career in 2014 with three victories from the four slaloms in which he took part. In 2015 and 2016 he competed in the Hungarian FRT Series, a mix of slalom and rally events on asphalt, finishing as vice-champion last year.

During the current season he had his very first experience in TCR cars, driving a Zengő Motorsport SEAT León in the opening event of the FIA Central European Zone Circuit Championship at the Hungaroring, where he dominated the class D6-5 in qualifying and both races.

István Bernula drives for Botka Rally Team

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

A second KIA cee’d TCR will be run by Botka Rally Team for István Bernula.

The team, managed by Levente Kazinczky, was among the first to place an order for the STARD-built KIA and has just received the racing car.

István Bernula is the driver who will have the honour of driving the Korean car in its maiden race meeting. Besides racing mostly in Hungary, the 34-year old Bernula has already gained some international experience in the Suzuki Swift (2nd in 2014) and Lotus Exige European cups. Bernula has been a triple Suzuki champion, once in Europe (2015) and twice in Hungary (2015 and 2016).

Norbert Michelisz on pole for his home races with Vernay second and Tassi third

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Norbert Michelisz’s pole position at the Hungaroring was eagerly anticipated, especially since he had been fastest in both the Free Practice sessions.

Unsurprisingly, Michelisz did not let his fans down. After being stripped of the fastest lap in Q1 and finishing behind Jean-Karl Vernay, Hungary’s sports hero responded by setting a new lap record for the TCR cars of 1:52.740.

For a brief moment there was an all-M1RA front row for Race 1, as Attila Tassi had posted a provisional second fastest lap behind his ‘boss’, but Vernay spoiled the party with a lap of 1:53.354.

Mat’o Homola placed his Opel Astra fourth, ahead of Pepe Oriola’s SEAT and Roberto Colciago in the third M1RA Honda. Rob Huff and a brilliant Stian Paulsen ranked seventh and eighth, while Daniel Lloyd had his ninth fastest lap disallowed for not respecting the track limits.

This promoted the WestCoast Racing duo of Gianni Morbidelli and Giacomo Altoè to ninth and tenth, which means that they will fill the front row on the top-ten reverse grid for Race 2.

Qualifying was extremely disappointing for the Audi and Alfa Romeo drivers, as none of them managed to even make the cut for Q2.

After a frustrating start in Practice 2, Ferenc Ficza completed his first laps in the brand new Zengő Motorsport KIA cee’d. It was, however, just a shake down for the Korean car that has still to show its potential.

Qualifying 1: Vernay beats Michelisz

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Vernay was the very first driver who was able to be faster than Michelisz since TCR action began at the Hungaroring. The Frenchman and his Volkswagen Golf posted a fastest lap of 1:53.030 in the dying moments of Q1. On his last lap, Michelisz improved as well, but not enough; he settled into second position with a lap of 1:53.209.

The Hungarian actually posted the fastest lap (1:52.847), however it was disallowed for exceeding track limits. A number of other drivers were hit by the same penalty for the same infringement.

Tassi was third with a lap of 1:53.067 that had provisionally placed him on top of the time sheet after Michelisz’ penalty and before Vernay’s final effort.

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Møller and Paulsen did a great job, advancing to Q2 for the first time, while Vesnić was soon sidelined by a technical problem.

Among the top drivers who did not make the cut were Nash (13th), Vervisch (14th), Kajaia (16th), the points leader Comini (17th) and Borković (18th), meaning that there were no Audi, nor Alfa Romeo cars in Q2.

The following drivers went through: Vernay, Michelisz, Tassi, Oriola, Altoè, Lloyd, Homola, Huff, Møller, Colciago, Morbidelli and Paulsen.

Qualifying 2: Michelisz set pole position

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Homola was the fastest after the first flying laps, with a time of 1:53.495. However the ten-minute segment was red-flagged around halfway, when Møller made a mistake while braking into Turn 1 and crashed into the barriers.

When action resumed, less than five minutes were left on the clock, meaning that the drivers had the possibility to complete only two timed laps.

Michelisz was immediately able to post a time of 1:52.740 that gave him pole position; on his last lap Tassi was clocked at 1:53.406 and provisionally climbed to second, but Vernay improved to 1:53.364 and demoted the young Hungarian to third.

Qualifying update: Homola excluded from Qualifying

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Mat’o Homola had all of his qualifying times cancelled by the Stewards following the report of the Technical Delegate that found the Opel Astra did not conform to the homologation paper.

Should the car be modified to return within conformity, Homola will be allowed to start in Sunday’s races from the back of the grid.

Two drivers will also be demoted to the back of the grid because of engine changes: Frédéric Vervisch (who had qualified 14th) and Ferenc Ficza (23rd). Ficza should have paid the penalty in the previous event at the Salzburgring, but couldn’t because he destroyed his car in a crash during the Free Practice.

What the fastest drivers said after Qualifying

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Norbert Michelisz (first): “It’s an amazing day, very nice to be on pole at my home track, in front of my fans, and driving for the first time a car of my team… I was quite emotional about it since yesterday. It’s being a wonderful experience and I want to thank all the people in the team, I am so proud of them. The car behaved well, although we still have some understeer, but if you make the fastest lap, you can’t complain. Tomorrow, in the races, I will try to help Attila and Roberto, if I can, but of course, in a sportive way and without messing around! This is my main goal, to help the team scoring points, although I don’t hide that a podium finish in front of my crowd would be great.”

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay (second): “First of all, I would like to say how great it is to have another top-class driver such as Norbert in the series. The presence of guys like him or Rob Huff is really a plus, also for us drivers. Today’s result makes me very happy, as it comes as a nice reward after the very difficult week the team had. Last Sunday, at the Salzburgring, we finished with two wrecks instead of two cars and I too wasn’t in a very good shape… To be able to be here with two cars in perfect conditions and me relatively fit is simply great. This is a good track for the Golf and one I like a lot, so tomorrow the objective will be to score as many points as possible. I don’t think we will be in a position to beat the Honda cars, which are very fast, especially at the start, but if I can score as many points as Colciago and Comini, it will be good.”

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Attila Tassi (third): “We did a few changes in the set-up of the car that worked well. I did a little mistake in Q2, which sent me off the limits, and my time was disallowed, but all in all, I am pretty satisfied. Tomorrow, I hope in a good start and a good race, it is not entirely true that you can’t overtake, there are a few places where you can do it, but I will not share my secrets… Racing at home, after the big shunt in Austria, and alongside Norbi is very special, but I do not feel more pressure than usual. It’s good to have Norbi… out of the car, that’s one serious rival less, but it is also nice to have him racing, as he can contribute a lot with his feedback and knowledge.”  

More quotes after Hungarian Qualifying

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Ferenc Ficza: “I really took the day as a shake-down, but the 4-5 laps I could do in Qualifying were very interesting to get a first impression about the car, which is very positive. It behaves well and has a lot of power, I think there it has a high potential.”

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Davit Kajaia: “Both Dušan and I missed Q2 and there was little more we could do. This, with all these slow and medium corners, is the worst track of the season for the Giulietta…”

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Stefano Comini: “With so much more weight because of the BoP and the Success Ballast, the car is simply undrivable and even dangerous. It feels like a tank, not a car!”

Attila Tassi wins twice and leads the standings

2017-2017 Hungaroring Race 1---Attila Tassi (1)

Attila Tassi turned 18 recently and couldn’t have hoped for a better way to celebrate his birthday. In fact, the Hungaroring event turned into a triumph for him, the M1RA team and Norbert Michelisz who played the double role of team principal and driver.

Tassi broke his duck and claimed his first victories in the TCR International Series, which enabled him to jump from fourth to first in the Drivers’ classification with a margin of six points ahead of his teammate Roberto Colciago.

Michelisz accomplished his mission of ‘bodyguard’ in both races, protecting Tassi’s shoulders in Race 1 and Colciago’s in Race 2, and stealing previous points from Jean-Karl Vernay twice. The Frenchman tried everything to overtake Michelisz, but in the end had to settle with a third and a seventh that earned him enough points to stay in touch with the two leaders, 13 points behind Tassi and seven behind Colciago.

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

As for the other title contenders, Stefano Comini had a nightmare weekend, struggling to stay on the pace with the full Success Ballast onboard, and scored only one point, dropping from first to fourth in the standings, 25 points behind Tassi.

Pepe Oriola returned to the podium by finishing second in Race 2 and so climbed to fifth in the standings with a gap of 42 points.

After scoring his first points last week in Austria, Jens Reno Møller performed brilliantly in the second race, leading for 10 out of the 14 laps and finishing third, claiming a podium place for the first time. His and Stian Paulsen’s results (the Norwegian was eighth in Race 2) proved that in TCR the smaller teams can actually fight on equal ground with larger and richer outfits.

Race 1: Tassi wins as Michelisz’s plan is successful

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Norbert Michelisz proved that he’s not only a superstar driver, but also a fine strategist. After setting pole position yesterday, he made it clear that his aim was to help his protégé Attila Tassi to win his first race and to claim a podium result for himself.

His plan was a complete success!

The icing on the cake was Roberto Colciago’s fourth place that propelled the Italian driver to the top of the standings, while the previous leader, Stefano Comini, did not score and so dropped to fourth.

Tassi, Michelisz, the whole M1RA crew and the many spectators couldn’t hide their emotion when the Hungarian anthem was played on the podium.

There was a lack of position changes among the top drivers, while a number of battles raged for the other positions and several drivers were warned for repeatedly infringing the track limits.

After starting from the back of the grid because of a technical infringement in Qualifying, Mat’o Homola completed a strong recovery to finish 10th; Ferenc Ficza obtained an encouraging 16th position with the debutant KIA cee’d of Zengő Motorsport, although he was later dropped to 19th by a 30-second penalty for a grid position infringement.

RACE ONE

Grid: Vervisch (engine change) and Homola (technical infringement) are both demoted (from 14th and 4th) to the back of the grid; Ficza is also dropped (from 23rd to 24th) because of a penalty received in the previous event.

Warm up lap: Bernula’s KIA remains in the pit lane as the team is working to solve a gearbox problem

Start: Michelisz and Tassi make a great start and Michelisz allows Tassi into the lead; behind them, Colciago and Vernay swap third position a couple of times

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Lap 1: Vernay keeps third ahead of Colciago and Oriola; Ende retires with differential problems

Lap 2: Vernay is threatening Michelisz’s second place; Huff follows in sixth position and is chased by Lloyd and Nash; Borković pits after contact with Comini, then rejoins

Lap 3: Paulsen drives on the gravel and pits after a contact with Morbidelli; Huff stops on the track with a pierced radiator

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Lap 4: Homola recovers to 12th, Ficza to 16th

Lap 5: Morbidelli is chasing Nash who is 7th

Lap 6: Kajaia defends the 10th place from Vervisch and Homola

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Lap 8: Colciago and Oriola run two-abreast while fighting for 4th; Vervisch stops on track with a differential problem

Lap 9: Comini and Møller fight for 12th; Demoustier, Ficza and Nagy are immediately behind them

Lap 10: Demoustier overtakes Møller for 13th

Lap 11: Altoè overtakes Morbidelli for 8th

Lap 12: Homola overtakes Kajaia for 10th

Lap 13: Nagy overtakes Ficza for 15th

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Lap 14: Tassi claims his maiden win ahead of Michelisz and Vernay

Driver quotes after the Hungaroring Race 1

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Attila Tassi (winner): “I am really happy. To win my first TCR International race here at home, in front of my home crowd, is just a dream come true, the best feeling I had so far in my career. I took a good start, and clearly, Norbi protected my… shoulders, I only had to focus on the corners and preserving the tyres, without having to look into the mirrors. In the last couple of laps, I started having some brake and understeer problems, but kept everything under control.”

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Norbert Michelisz (second): “It all went according to the plan, but I must stress that Attila really won this race on his own merit, taking a perfect start. He completely deserved this first win, and he has done tremendous progress this year. I know exactly how he must feel at this very moment, and I also feel emotional about it, it’s like winning myself. During the race, I just tried to leave Attila some breathing space, but I had to make every effort to cover the lines and defend my position from Jean-Karl, who was faster in some portions of the track. Now, we should avoid over-celebrating, there is another race later and we need to stay focused.”

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay (third): “It was a pleasure to fight with Norbi, really a great moment. I took a good start, but not good enough to pass the Honda cars, which are so fast at the start. Still, I could pass Colciago, we fought for a couple of corner, but I managed to stay ahead. I am happy with this result, as the objective was precisely to score some heavy points.”

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Roberto Colciago (fourth): “It’s not a bad result under the circumstances. Something changed in my car after three laps, there was a sudden drop of performance, we don’t understand why. It has nothing to do with success ballast.”

Race 2: Another win for Tassi and podium for Møller

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Attila Tassi completed his and M1RA’s perfect home weekend by claiming another victory and so became the first TCR International Series driver to score two wins in the same weekend since Pepe Oriola in Bahrain last year; a feat that drove the Hungarian fans crazy and propelled the 18-year old Tassi to the top of the standings.

Jens Reno Møller was the other hero of the race, as he led for most of the 14 laps and eventually finished third; the first podium result for the Dane that came out of the blue considering that he crashed his Honda Civic yesterday during the Qualifying, which forced his team to work until 5:00am.

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Oriola was clearly determined to score as many points as possible in order not to lose contact with the points leaders; he was able to move up from fifth to second, overtaking Colciago, Altoè and finally Møller on the last lap.

Norbert Michelisz completed his job, by finishing sixth and keeping Jean-Karl Vernay at bay for the whole race, which helped his teammates Tassi and Colciago to build a margin over the Frenchman in the standings.

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Two other drivers deserve mentions: Giacomo Altoè and Stian Paulsen. Even younger than Tassi, Altoè did his best to obtain his first podium; eventually he finished immediately behind the top three, but showed he has the speed and maturity to become a top driver. As for Paulsen, he finished eighth and so finally scored his first points in the International Series.

RACE TWO

Grid: Nagy’s SEAT is missing due to an oil leak from the engine

Start: Møller sprints from the pole position, followed by Altoè and Tassi who jumps from eighth position to third; there is a series of contacts as the field negotiates Turn 1 and as the dust settles, the count of wrecked cars consists of Kajaia’s Alfa Romeo, Morbidelli’s Volkswagen and Lloyd’s SEAT

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Lap 1: the safety car is deployed

Lap 4: the race resumes

Lap 5: Michelisz overtakes Paulsen for 6th; Huff overtakes Demoustier for 12th

Lap 6: Tassi overtakes Altoè for second; Oriola overtakes Colciago for fourth

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Lap 7: Altoè defends his third place from Oriola; Homola overtakes Demoustier for 13th

Lap 8: Comini overtakes Huff for 11th; Borković retires with power steering failure

Lap 9: Comini, Huff and Homola have a close fight for 11th with a few contacts; Ende retires with electrical problems

Lap 10: Tassi closes the gap from Møller to three tenths

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Lap 11: Tassi takes the lead from Møller; Vernay tries in vain to overtake Michelisz

Lap 12: Oriola overtakes Altoè for third; Vervisch stops on the track with a broken suspension; Vesnić retires with brake problems

Lap 13: Oriola overtakes Møller for second

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Lap 14: Tassi claims his second victory of the day, from Oriola and Møller who finishes on the podium for the first time

Driver quotes after the Hungaroring Race 2

2017-2017 Hungaroring Race 2---09 Attila Tassi_184.jpg

Attila Tassi (winner): “It’s unbelievable what was happening this weekend! I could never expect such a day and I am really happy. I turned 18 last Wednesday and this was really a great present! I took a very good start, but there was a slight contact with Altoè in turn 1, and my steering got a little bit damaged. Still, I could pass him shortly after and then started chasing Møller when he made a small mistake. I am now leading the standings, which is great, but it doesn’t mean much, as the fight is so close and the leader keeps changing…”

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Pepe Oriola (second): “I really wanted to finish on the podium after some recent disappointments, and I am very happy with the result and with my race. We changed something in the car between Race 1 and Race 2 and it proved effective. Being able to overtake Colciago, Altoè and Møller on such a track was not bad at all. My only problem was at the restart after the safety car, I was caught a little by surprise, as the radio was not working. It was also a good result for staying in the fight for the championship, which will go on to the very end. Still, today’s hero is Attila, I want to congratulate him warmly, and I know what it is to clinch one’s first success at a very young age, he has a bright future ahead. We also welcome him in the selected club of drivers that have won both races of a same event, we aren’t so many!”

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Jens Reno Møller (third): “Twenty-four hours ago we were looking at a severely damaged car and almost packing to go home… now we are on the podium, it has been a fantastic comeback, so I am obviously very happy. We just told ourselves that we could not let go the opportunity of starting from the pole in Race 2 and we decided to have a try on fixing the car… We are a small privateer team, with five guys that worked until 5 am to repair everything and did it wonderfully. I took a great start and tried to build a gap, I think I did quite a good job. Tassi could only pass a few laps from the end, when I did a small mistake at turn 12. By then my tyres were dead, and eventually also Oriola passed, but third is a great result, given that our target is the European trophy finale in Adria…”

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Giacomo Altoè (fourth): “It has been a tough race, I never sweat so much, but it’s a good result, actually the team’s best this season, although it is a little bit disappointing to miss the podium by so little. At the start, I had to keep Tassi at bay and dived very early into first corner. The back of my car slid and I hit him slightly, luckily with no damage for either. Oriola’s pressure was really heavy for most of the race and I could resist up to the moment my tyres were ok. The car has improved a lot, the tests we did at Adria before the Salzburgring actually helped to understand many things about the Golf. The improvements were not so evident in Austria, because of the long straights, but were much more visible here, and we are very confident ahead of Oschersleben, which should suit the Golf.”

Ferenc Ficza is positive about the KIA’s potential

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Despite only taking delivery of the brand new KIA cee’d TCR early on Saturday, Ferenc Ficza demonstrated the car’s future potential by finishing 15th and 14th after twice starting from the back of the grid.

In fact, the Korean car had stopped during its very first lap in yesterday’s Free Practice due to a broken throttle cable. Therefore, Ficza was finally only able to drive the KIA for the first time during Qualifying and treated the session as a shake down. He qualified 23rd and lost another position on the grid due to a penalty from the previous event.

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

In both races, the young Hungarian was able to recover, although another penalty for a grid position infringement dropped him from 15th to 19th in Race 1.

The second race saw him again climbing up to 14th, which would have earned one point for KIA in the Model of the Year Trophy should the car not have been racing under a temporary homologation form.

“I was able to complete both races, which was an achievement in itself considering that we missed both free practice sessions and the car only turned a wheel for the first time during Qualifying. There is still a lot of work to do; the set-up has to be done from scratch, and I hope that we will have the budget to do some testing, but the car has great potential. It feels completely different from anything I have driven so far, but I am really impressed,” Ficza said.

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

The series will resume at Oschersleben’s Motorsport Arena, Germany for rounds 13 and 14 on July 8 and 9.

As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as the members of the TCR Talk Facebook Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from the series.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2017 TCR International Series – Austria

Alpine challenge for the TCR International Series competitors

For the third time the TCR International Series returns to the Salzburgring, one of the championship’s favourite locations thanks to its superb alpine setting, the local people’s warm welcome and the characteristics of the racetrack itself; fast, demanding and perfectly suited to Touring Car competition.

The two previous visits of the series provided four different winners in very different weather conditions.

2016-2016 Salzburgring Qualifying---08 Mikhail Grachev_83 (1)

Kevin Gleason (Honda Civic) and Michel Nykjær (SEAT León) won the 2015 races in the sunshine, while Mikhail Grachev (Honda Civic) won last year’s first race on a dry track, but under the threat of rain, benefiting from a technical issue that stopped Pepe Oriola’s SEAT with only four laps to go.

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

The rain arrived in time for the second race, flooding the track; Jean-Karl Vernay (Volkswagen Golf) made fewer mistakes than anybody else and surfaced as the winner.
Set up is crucial at the Salzburgring, to avoid issues with wear of the front-left tyre. It is also important to survive the risks of a pile-up at the first chicane and avoid high-speed contacts that may result in massive damage to the cars.

Colciago, Vervisch and Comini will carry ballast

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Roberto Colciago, Frédéric Vervisch and Stefano Comini all carry Success Ballast during the next event of the TCR International Series at the Salzburgring.

Colciago was the highest scorer in the previous events at Monza with 47 points, which means that his Honda Civic will be laden by the maximum 30-kilo ballast, while Comtoyou Racing’s teammates Vervisch and Comini will carry 20 and 10 extra kilos on board their Audi RS3 LMS cars.

As a result, Colciago’s Honda will weigh 1345kg (1285kg minimum weight + 30kg Success Ballast + 30kg Balance of Performance adjustment), while the running weight of Vervisch’s and Comini’s cars 1350kg (1285kg + 20kg SB + 45kg BoP) and 1340kg (1285kg + 10kg SB + 45kg BoP) respectively.

Just as in Spa-Francorchamps, car performance is due to be especially affected at the Salzburgring because of the long uphill part and hard braking points.

A three-way fight to lead the standings

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

The previous event in Monza gave Roberto Colciago and Stefano Comini the opportunity to close the gap from Jean-Karl Vernay, who jumped to the top of the standings at the series’ third round, Race 1 in Bahrain.

Colciago was able to cut the gap by twenty-five points and Comini by seven, which means that they are currently lying in second and third, 16 and 18 points behind Vernay respectively.

Colciago’s teammate Attila Tassi ranks fourth, 37 points from the leader, with Pepe Oriola in fifth position, a further ten points adrift.

Something new in a strong twenty-three-car field

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

A strong field of twenty-three cars will compete at the Salzburgring, where the series welcomes some new teams and drivers.

The returns of Rob Huff and Duncan Ende

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Both Rob Huff and Duncan Ende were forced to skip the previous event in Monza.
The Briton had already committed to race in the WTCC event at the Hungaroring; in Austria he will rejoin the TCR International Series for the rest of the season as Jean-Karl Vernay’s teammate at the wheel of a Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI car.

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

After suffering with the performance of their SEAT León car, Ende and Icarus Motorsport decided to take a pause to replace the DSG gearbox with a sequential racing unit. Now they return to the championship with the confidence of running a more competitive car.

Demoustier joins Homola at DG Sport Compétition

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

From the Salzburgring event, Grégoire Demoustier will join DG Sport Compétition as Mat’o Homola’s teammate.

The 26-year old Frenchman has gained significant experience in different categories, including professional series like the FIA GT and Touring Car World Championships.

“Even though I have the experience of two WTCC seasons, I will need to get used to the Opel Astra TCR. This is why I have not set myself a precise goal for Salzburgring. There I will focus on taking my bearings at the wheel of the car and becoming acquainted with the team.”

“Watching the TCR races I saw that drivers fight hard for positions, but I’m not worried about this. I’m very excited to begin this new chapter in my racing career,” said Demoustier who drove a Volkswagen Golf TCR last year during the TCR Benelux finale at Mettet.

Thomas Jäger to drive for Kissling Motorsport

 

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Twenty-three-year old Austrian driver Thomas Jäger will make his first appearance in the TCR International Series for his home race meeting at the wheel of an Opel Astra TCR run by the Kissling Motorsport team.

“It is going to be my first experience in a front-wheel drive racing car,” explained Jäger who has raced so far in karting, Formula and rear-wheel drive Touring cars. “We tested the Astra TCR three weeks ago and I felt immediately at ease driving it. Now I will be focusing in doing my best in what is also my first race ever at the Salzburgring and in one of the most competitive Touring Car series in the world.”

Seasonal debut for the Top Run Subaru WRX TCR

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

The Top Run-built Subaru WRX STI TCR will make its season debut in the International Series after the Italian engineering company has worked to update the Japanese car with the aim of improving reliability.

“We have recently completed a very satisfactory test at Adria, where the car has run without the lesser technical issue. And this make us confident that we will be able to show its actual potential in Austria,” said team manager Renato Russo.

Top Run’s regular driver Luigi Ferrara will be at the wheel of the Subaru.

Milovan Vesnić is ready for his maiden appearance

2017-2017 Salzburgring Friday---31 Milovan Vesnic_53

After years of racing in different European racing series, multiple Serbian and FIA Central European Zone Touring Car champion Milovan Mikica Vesnić is now ready for his maiden appearance in the TCR International Trophy.

The 40-year old Vesnić joins with the aim of taking part in the TCR European Trophy event at the end of the season, just like Stian Paulsen and Jens Reno Møller.

“TCR is the next step for me and my team. We are a small team, but we have a lot of experience. My family has been involved in motor sports for more than forty years and we are not afraid to fight with the world’s top teams and drivers. Our main goal in 2017 is to present ourselves and our country at our best,” said Vesnić who will drive an Audi RS 3 LMS run by the all-Serbian racing team ASK Vesnić.

Pit Lane Competizioni enters an Audi for Enrico Bettera

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

One of the very first Italian teams to commit to TCR, Pit Lane Competizioni will make its first appearance in the International Series fielding an Audi RS3 LMS for Enrico Bettera.

The team is already taking part successfully in the TCR Italy series with Bettera’s Audi and a SEAT León for Nicola Baldan who won the first race in Misano last Saturday. Pit Lane Competizioni is also running a parallel programme in the 24H Series.

“This is a new and stimulating challenge. We started in TCR last year with one win and three podiums, this season we have finished second in the Silverstone 24 hours, now we are ready for the next step. I haven’t fixed any goal, because the level of the International Series is extremely high, but we can learn a lot by racing against the best teams and drivers,” commented Bettera who was a three-time Touring Car champion in the Italian Cup (2013 to 2015) before switching to TCR Italy in 2016 in which he scored one race win on his way to being classified sixth in the final standings.

A TCR class in the 2018 IMSA Continental Tire Challenge

2017-2017 Monza Race 2---Start Race2_12 (1).jpg

North American debut in January at Daytona International Speedway…

WSC Ltd, the rights holder for TCR, and International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), today confirmed plans for a TCR class to begin competing in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, beginning in 2018.

The TCR class will run in addition to the two existing Continental Tire Challenge classes, Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) next season.

“We began our due diligence process on the potential introduction of the TCR platform more than a year ago, and formally announced that we were exploring the concept last year,” said IMSA CEO Ed Bennett. “We engaged our automotive partners and teams throughout the discovery process and determined that TCR would be an attractive addition to the Continental Tire Challenge. We are pleased to work together with WSC CEO Marcello Lotti and Sporting and Series Director Nunzia Corvino to introduce what we believe will be a popular class to IMSA fans and participants.”

Through its partnership with WSC, IMSA will use TCR cars fully homologated by WSC in the new Continental Tire Challenge class. The TCR class is projected to slot in between GS and ST, based on its current level of performance.

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

As the market develops for TCR-spec cars, IMSA has the additional, exclusive right to establish TCR USA and TCR Canada as standalone series. IMSA, in cooperation with WSC, also now holds the right to sublicense the proper use of TCR specifications to other sanctioning bodies in the territory as well.

“TCR has quickly become the standard global Touring Car platform,” said Lotti. “Our goal was to once again create a base for Touring Car racing. The crucial part about it was to keep the costs for the cars low to ensure equality of opportunity. In North America, we believed IMSA was the most professional partner available in the market and we could not be more pleased to establish this partnership together.”

Current TCR manufacturers with a presence in North America include Audi, Ford, Honda, Alfa Romeo, KIA, Subaru and Volkswagen.

TCR cars will make their Continental Tire Challenge debut next January at the Daytona International Speedway during the three-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona, with their first race planned for the day preceding the 2018 Rolex 24.

Mat’o Homola sets pole in Qualifying as Opel and Alfa provide front row for Race 1

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

For the second time this season, Mat’o Homola and his DG Sport Compétition Opel Astra emerged as the fastest combination in the Qualifying session. However, unlike in Bahrain where he was demoted by a grid penalty, the young Slovak starts from pole position for Race 1.

Qualifying confirmed that the gaps in lap times at the Salzburgring are the smallest and positions were disputed by thousandths of a second. Homola’s fastest lap in Q2 of 1:25.481 beat Dušan Borković’s 1:25.552 by 71 thousandths, while Pepe Oriola qualified in third, a further six thousandths adrift.

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Attila Tassi ranked fourth, a result that couldn’t even have been hoped for 24 hours earlier, after his massive shunt in testing. Local driver and TCR newcomer Thomas Jäger claimed a brilliant fifth position in the Kissling Motorsport Opel Astra, beating International Touring Car top guns such as James Nash, Rob Huff, Stefano Comini, Gianni Morbidelli and Roberto Colciago.

The latter will start Race 2 from pole position on the top-ten reverse grid.
The most disappointed driver today was Davit Kajaia, who set the fastest lap in Q1, but had it disallowed by the Stewards for improving under yellow flags.

Q1: Kajaia’s fastest lap disallowed

2017-2017 Salzburgring Friday---16 Davit Kajaia_22

There was a lot of position-swapping during the first twenty minutes of Qualifying, with no fewer than seven drivers taking turns to top the time sheet.
Homola set the first significant laps of 1:26.737 and 1:26.204, but then the leadership moved to Comini (1:26.0369) and then to Jäger (1:26.011), Daniel Lloyd (1:25.984) and Colciago (1:25.913).

With only 30 seconds left on the clock, Kajaia posted an impressive 1:25.864 that he achieved by improving his sector 2 time while that was under yellow flag due to Stian Paulsen’s car stranded in the gravel trap at Turn 5. This meant that the Stewards disallowed Kajaia’s time, which dropped him to 14th and out of Q2.

The battle then raged for the other positions, with Rob Huff, Frédéric Vervisch and Gianni Morbidelli who were all able to make the cut at the last gasp and kick out the championship leader Jean-Karl Vernay, who dropped to 13th.

The following drivers went through to Q2: Colciago, Lloyd, Tassi, Jäger, Comini, Borković, Huff, Homola, Oriola, Vervisch, Nash and Morbidelli.

Q2: Homola steals pole from Borković

2017-2017 Salzburgring Friday---70 Mato Homola_13

Borković began at a stunning pace, posting a provisional fastest time of 1:25.689 and nearly matching it on the following lap (1:25.698).

Tassi (1:25.636) and then Homola (1:25.629) dropped the Serbian to third, but Borković jumped on top again with a lap of 1:25.558.
However, Homola had the last word and settled the matter with the pole position time of 1:25.481.

When the chequered flag was waved, Oriola was clocked at 1:25.558 that gave him the third place, dropping Tassi to fourth.

What the fastest drivers said after Qualifying

2017-2017 Salzburgring Saturday---Homola pole position

Mat’o Homola (1st): “I have always had good results here in Salzburgring, so I know this track suits me and I like the fast corners. From the beginning, we had some minor problems in every session but we changed some things for Qualifying and the car behaved really well. We were guessing at some of the set-up things, but you can see that they worked. It’s one thing to win Qualifying, but you get more points in the races so that’s what I have to concentrate on. I don’t know how to measure the risks I took, but I know I wasn’t 100% in Turn 9. One mistake can ruin your whole weekend and I know I need the points.”

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Dušan Borković (2nd): “Yesterday, we were trying to change some things on the car to improve the corner speed because we knew we were struggling. In Q1 I had some traffic and I made a few mistakes but I was pushing. We are still struggling a little bit in the second sector because of the bad aero but we will see tomorrow what will happen with all of us. In Q2, I knew the tyres were fresher in the first few laps but I made some stupid mistakes. By the third lap the tyres were gone. I really like the Salzburgring – I crashed last year when I was P2, so hopefully this year I will finish both races, but you can be sure I will push.”

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Pepe Oriola (3rd): “Everybody always wants to get a tow here in Salzburgring and we had a really good strategy within the team which worked in Free Practice and Q1. I was swapping positions with James (Nash) and Daniel (Lloyd) and the others were trying to get a tow from us. At one time, Rob (Huff) was in the middle with us and then Colciago too so I was really lucky to get the time on the last lap, but I know I could have been even faster. The Alfa cars are really strong in the first part of the straight, but as Dušan said, we know they have aero problems. We are back on the pace – it’s been a long time since I did a Qualifying press conference, so it’s good to be back!”

Attila Tassi got a brand new car

2017-2017 Salzburgring Friday---09 Attila Tassi_4

Miracles sometimes happen! Thanks to some behind-the-scenes logistics overnight, Attila Tassi will be able to take part in the TCR International Series event at the Salzburgring after escaping unscathed from a major shunt.

The young Hungarian driver was discharged from the medical centre after a thorough check and declared able to race, if only he had a car…

His Honda Civic had suffered extensive damage in the high-speed impact against the Armco barrier at Turn 9. It was impossible to fix the car at the track, so the Civic was stripped and its shell will be sent to JAS for a possible repair.

While the M1RA mechanics were working on the wreck, phone calls were exchanged between the team and JAS, and soon a new car was loaded onto a flat-bed truck that left Milan on an overnight journey to Austria.

The truck arrived at the circuit at 4:00am where the team crew leapt into action to apply the livery and the car finally passed scrutineering. Tassi will be dropped to the back of the grid for Race 1 because of the engine change.

Team principal Norbert Michelisz said: “It has been a fantastic effort from everybody at JAS and in the team. We all wanted to do our best and give Attila the possibility to race, because our aim is to win the championship.”

Ferenz Ficza crashed during Practice 1

2017-2017 Salzburgring Saturday---55 Ferenc Ficza_50

Another Hungarian driver, another big shunt.

After Attila Tassi’s crash at Turn 9 in yesterday’s test session, Ferenc Fizca hit the barrier hard a few metres further down the track during this morning Free Practice 1.
Ficza was quickly out of the car; he walked away, shocked but apparently unhurt.

He was first transported to the circuit’s medical centre for precautionary checks and then sent to the local hospital for X-Rays as he was complaining of pain in his ribs.
He was eventually discharged and declared fit to race next week at the Hungaroring.

Borković and Colciago share the honours in Austria as Comini takes the Championship Lead

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

This year’s Austrian weekend of the TCR International Series will be mostly remembered for the crashes at Turn 9 that wrecked four cars and, in the case of Jean-Karl Vernay’s incident, shook up the standings.

In fact, the French driver lost the series’ lead and dropped to third behind both the new leader Stefano Comini and Roberto Colciago.
Even worse, the Leopard Racing team has the arduous task of rebuilding two cars (Vernay’s and Rob Huff’s) in the few days before Friday’s free practice at the Hungaroring.

The good news is that these high-speed crashes proved how safe the TCR cars are, as all four drivers escaped unhurt apart for a bruise to Huff’s left elbow.

2017-2017 Salzburgring Saturday---03 Rob Huff_122

Dušan Borković claimed an authoritative win in Race 1, as did Roberto Colciago in Race 2. Mat’o Homola celebrated his and Opel’s first podium in the International Series (second in Race 1).

The other podium finishers were also happy: Attila Tassi (second in Race 2) could not have hoped for such a result after his destructive incident on Friday, but he was rescued by the combined efforts of M1RA and JAS that ‘materialized’ a second car for him; Comini put in his usual show, a mix of attack and defence that was worth two third places and the leadership in the points.

Another driver who had reasons to rejoice was Jens Reno Møller, who scored in both races, fighting on equal terms against far more experienced competitors

Results remain provisional pending an appeal.

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017
The Lukoil Craft-Bamboo team lodged a protest against four cars (the Alfa Romeos of Kajaia and Borković and the Opels of Homola and Jäger), requesting technical checks of their turbochargers.

Following the report of the Technical Delegate, the Stewards of the Meeting rejected the protest, but Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Team has decided to appeal.

Race 1: Borković wins as Leopard duo crash out

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Dušan Borković took a light-to-flag victory – the second for him and the third for GE-Force and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR – in a race that turned to drama for Leopard Racing, as both Rob Huff and Jean-Karl Vernay crashed at high speed at the infamous Turn 9. Luckily both drivers escaped shocked, but unhurt.

The result was decided by the two perfect sprints that Borković performed at the start and the re-start after the first safety-car period. In both cases the Serbian was able to keep at bay the pole-sitter Mat’o Homola and his Opel Astra.

As Homola was forced to concentrate on defending his second position, first from Pepe Oriola and in the final stages from Stefano Comini, Borković created a small gap for the lead.

Behind him, Homola eventually managed to retain second place, while Comini moved up to third in his Audi RS3 LMS overtaking the SEAT cars of Oriola and James Nash. Just before the second safety car intervention, local driver Thomas Jäger managed to overtake Oriola and Nash as well to grab a brilliant fourth.

Jens Reno Møller completed a spotless race, finishing as the best of the Honda drivers in an impressive eighth position.

With Vernay off (and sidelined for the rest of the event) and Roberto Colciago scoreless following a collision with Daniel Lloyd, Comini took advantage of the situation, moving to second in the standings, only three points behind Vernay.

RACE ONE

Grid: Tassi and Huff are both demoted (from 4th and 7th) to the back of the grid due to engine changes; Colciago was also dropped (from 10th to 13th) because of a penalty received in Monza

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Start: Borković has better reflexes than Homola and takes the lead ahead of the pole sitter, Oriola, Nash and Jäger

Lap 1: Møller and Colciago overtake Lloyd and Morbidelli for 8th and 9th

Lap 2: Oriola and Nash are chasing Homola

Lap 3: Comini overtakes Jäger for 5th

Lap 4: Huff (17th) and Vernay (15th) try to recover

Lap 5: Homola defends his second place from Oriola, Nash and Comini

Lap 6: Vernay overtakes Morbidelli for 13th; Kajaia overtakes Jäger for 6th

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Lap 7: Paulsen retires after a clash with Morbidelli

Lap 8: Comini overtakes Nash for 4th; Colciago and Lloyd make contact

Lap 9: Comini pips Oriola for third; Vesnić and Ende make contact at the first chicane, the former remain stranded in the gravel, the latter loses a front wheel; Huff crashes at high speed at Turn 9, the safety car is deployed

Lap 12: The race resumes; the leading quartet of Borković, Homola, Comini and Oriola is covered by only one second; Jäger overtakes Nash for 4th

Lap 13: Jäger overtakes Oriola for third

Lap 14: Vernay crashes just a few hundred metres before the spot of Huff’s incident; the safety car is deployed again

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Lap 15: The race is red-flagged, Borković wins from Homola, Comini and Jäger

Race 2: Colciago and Tassi make 1-2 for M1RA

2017-2017 Salzburgring Race 1---05 Roberto Colciago_166

Roberto Colciago and Attila Tassi finished first and second, ending in glory a weekend that had started in the worst way for M1RA and Honda after Tassi’s crash in Friday’s free practice.

While Colciago dashed from pole position and escaped on the way to his third victory of the season, Tassi made a great start as well, jumping to fourth; then he was able to overtake James Nash and Gianni Morbidelli to grab the second position that he defended until the end despite pressure from Stefano Comini.

The winner of Race 1 Dušan Borković ended up in the gravel – maybe due to a broken driveshaft – and so did Pepe Oriola, while a few other drivers (Kajaia, Demoustier, Bettera) had flat tyres because of debris on the track.

Thomas Jäger encored his fourth place and Jens Reno Møller scored again; Gianni Morbidelli was classified fifth, the best result for him and WestCoast Racing so far.

RACE TWO

Grid: Both the Leopard Racing Volkswagen cars of Vernay and Huff are missing after their shunts in Race 1; Paulsen starts from the pit lane, Vesnić doesn’t start as a rear wheel was locked after his Race 1 incident

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Start: Colciago sprints from the pole, Morbidelli struggles to keep second place

Lap 1: Tassi overtakes Nash for third

Lap 2: Tassi and Morbidelli make contact and swap positions a couple of times; Paulsen pits and rejoins

Lap 3: Tassi overtakes Morbidelli for second

Lap 4: Morbidelli drops to fifth behind Comini and Oriola

Lap 5: Kajaia and Jäger make contact while fighting for 8th position; the both overtake Homola for 7th and 8th

Lap 6: Borković goes off into the gravel trap a Turn 9; Paulsen pits again

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Lap 9: Tassi’s second place is under attacks from Comini and Oriola; Morbidelli, Nash and Jäger fight for 5th position; Bettera and Ende pit with flat tyres, only the Italian rejoins

Lap 10: Jäger overtakes Nash for 6th

Lap 11: Jäger overtakes Morbidelli for 5th; Oriola spins off into the grave trap at T9, the safety car is deployed; Demoustier pits with a flat tyre

Lap 12: Vervisch pits with oil pressure problems

Lap 15: The race resumes as Kajaia pits and rejoins. Meanwhile Homola takes the escape road at the first chicane and drops to 10th

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Lap 17: Colciago wins from Tassi whilst Comini retains second place despite the pressure from Jäger

Quotes from the podium finishers

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Dušan Borković (1st Race 1): “When you win a race, the question is always asked ‘you made it look easy’ but it really wasn’t easy. I knew I had to get a good start, as it would have been very tough to overtake Mat’o if he got a better start than me. I was scared that he would overtake me in the second sector with the slipstream but he didn’t manage to do it. Same with the safety car, but I managed again to have the inside line. The second race was disappointing because I had a problem with a driveshaft after Jäger twice pushed me wide at the chicane. Comini did a great job, but he will have the most Success Ballast next week.”

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Roberto Colciago (1st Race 2): “I had a good first race, but I was pushed out by someone else. In Race 2, I had a good start and then Attila was fighting with Comini – I was looking in the mirror and saying ‘thanks’! That was really the key to my win. In this championship, in every race you can say it’s me and Comini or me and someone else or Comini and someone else; there are so many fast drivers and the ballast changes. Today I was lucky with the ballast, unlike in Spa. Every race is a story. To talk about the championship, we have to wait until the end.”

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Mat’o Homola (2nd Race 1): “I scored more points this weekend than in all the previous races together! For sure, I wanted to win the first race but Dušan had a really good start. I almost overtook him twice, but the second time I didn’t want to take any major risk because the points are so important for me. It wasn’t easy to keep Stefano behind me, but he had a puncture and that helped me. After the safety car, I got a slipstream from Dušan towards the end of the race, so I was lucky for that. I’m sorry for all the drivers who crashed at Turn 9 over the weekend – I’m really pleased that they’re all okay.”

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Attila Tassi (2nd Race 2): “After the crash on Friday, we weren’t even sure that we could take part in Qualifying or the races, so I want to say a huge thanks to my family, to the team and to JAS for the fast delivery of the brand new car. It’s a great result for me and for the team and I’m very happy. For the first few laps as I went through Turn 9, it wasn’t scary but I was building up the speed again. If I was scared, I wouldn’t have got back in the car. Hungary is the home race for me and the team and I’ve been waiting all season for it, so my aim is to have my first win in TCR there.”

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Stefano Comini (3rd in both races): “This was not a bad weekend for me at all. It’s like a game of roulette here in Salzburgring, because every session it’s different. You need to have big respect for Turn 9 because a lot of drivers crashed there. It’s amazing what TCR has done with the cars because they were scary crashes but here is ‘Attilino’ finishing second after a big crash. It’s good to know that we are working with safe cars. I don’t actually remember much about the races, only that some overtaking moves were good and that I had a puncture! If you want to overtake here, you have to take risks so you can defend quite easily. After only two and a half months, we are leading the championship with a new team, a new car and a last-minute project.”

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

The series resumed at Budapest’s Hungaroring for rounds 11 and 12 seven days later…

As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as the members of the TCR Talk Facebook Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from the series.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2017 TCR International Series: Monza

TCR returns to Italy’s ‘Temple of Speed’

The fourth race meeting of the 2017 TCR International Series takes place on Monza’s super-fast Autodromo, which is known worldwide as the ‘Temple of Speed’ another legendary motorsport venue visited by the series, after Spa-Francorchamps where rounds 5 and 6 were run last week.

The International Series has already competed at Monza, in 2015, providing two very lively races in which groups of cars were running abreast into every corner.

2017-2017 Monza Friday---10 Gianni Morbidelli_55

Local hero Gianni Morbidelli scored a double victory at the wheel of a WestCoast Racing Honda Civic, but he had to fight hard to recover and beat his competitors.

In Race 1, Morbidelli had a poor start from pole and eventually emerged as the winner after a four-way fight with the SEAT cars of Pepe Oriola, Andrea Belicchi and Stefano Comini.

The second race was even more thrilling, as Fernando Monje took the lead in his Opel Astra. The Spaniard was chased by a group of six cars that included Morbidelli, Belicchi, Oriola, Comini, Jordi Gené and Kevin Gleason. Positions were swapped several times and contacts were made. Finally Morbidelli beat Gené and Monje to the line by mere inches, with the latter giving Opel its best result so far in the series.

Will Monza produce a seventh different race winner?

2017-2017 Monza Friday---23 Pierre-Yves Corthals_47

After the first three events of the season, Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay has been able to build a cushion of points between himself and his rivals. The Frenchman has scored in all of the six races held so far, finishing on the podium three times, including his first victory of the year in the second race at Spa.

Vernay’s margin amounts to 25 points ahead of Stefano Comini, while Attila Tassi,Dušan Borković and Roberto Colciago rank from third to fifth with gaps of 38, 40 and 41 points respectively.

However, considering how level is the performance between the top cars and drivers, it’s a safe prediction that the title fight will be very hard-fought.

A look at the statistics explains everything. The six races held so far have produced six different winners at the wheel of five different models of cars: Alfa Romeo, SEAT, Honda, Audi and Volkswagen (in chronological order).

Only the Opel Astra has not won a race yet, but has already shown its potential with the 1-2 in Bahrain Qualifying and the victory claimed by Mat’o Homola in TCR Benelux a couple of weeks ago. In fact, Homola and his DG Sport Compétition teammate Pierre-Yves Corthals have frequently been handicapped by bad luck .

Along the straights of Monza, outright speed will be a factor, which could be an advantage for the Honda and the SEAT cars, while Comini and Vernay will have to cope with the extra weight of the Success Ballast.

With such a close field, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Monza produces a seventh different race winner, or even an eighth…

Colciago, Morbidelli and Alfa Romeo: the Italian Factor

2017-2017 Monza Qualifying---16 Davit Kajaia_108

The Autodromo is one of the favourite places for Italian motorsport fans, especially when they can cheer representatives of the national colours, either drivers or cars.

Roberto Colciago in the M1RA Honda Civic Type-R will be one of the men to watch. Monza is his – and JAS Motorsport’s – home racetrack and the reigning TCR Italy champion is eager to make up for a disappointing Belgian weekend, when the Success Ballast greatly affected the performance of his Civic on the steep slopes of Spa.

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Gianni Morbidelli too has a special feeling with the Autodromo, where he won both races on the occasion of the TCR’s first visit in 2015. And on top of this, the former F1 racer is eager to make up for a disappointing start of the season that saw him struggling to set up the WestCoast Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI.

However, quite possibly the Tifosi’s strongest support will go to the Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta cars driven by Davit Kajaia and Dusan Borković. Both the Georgian and the Serbian have already savoured the sweet taste of victory in the previous rounds, but success in Monza would have a very different meaning.

In fact, the last time an Alfa Romeo won a Touring Car race at the Autodromo dates back to 2006…too long a wait!

Success Ballast for Comini and Vernay

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

In the Monza event, Success Ballast will only be carried by Stefano Comini and Jean-Karl Vernay, the race winners of the previous event at Spa-Francorchamps.

Comini was the best scorer in Belgium, with pole position, victory in Race 1 and third in Race 2 that brought him 45 points, but also 30 kilos of Success Ballast. Vernay, the current points leader, scored 39 points in Spa and so will be given 20 extra kilos.

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

The 10-kilo Success Ballast for the third best scorer will not be allocated, as Benjamin Lessennes (who pocketed 31 points in his home race meeting) will not race at Monza.

As a result, Comini’s Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS will weigh 1360kg (1285kg minimum weight + 30kg Success Ballast + 45kg B alance of Performance adjustment), while the running weight of Vernay’s Leopard Racing WRT Volkswagen Golf GTI will be 1315kg (1285kg + 20kg SB + 10kg BoP).

Jaap van Lagen replaces Rob Huff at Monza

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Jaap van Lagen will replace Rob Huff at the wheel of the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI for this weekend’s race meeting at Monza.

Huff, who joined the team last week at Spa, is forced to skip Monza because of a previous commitment and will be back from the following event at the Salzburgring.

With Jean-Karl Vernay currently leading the TCR International Series standings, the team did not want to miss the opportunity of fielding its second car and picked van Lagen who is both experienced and fast enough to provide good support to the Frenchman.

“I’m very much looking forward to my first TCR event ever at Monza! Especially because I’m joining a top team and I will be driving a competitive car. For me it’s a good opportunity to come back to Touring Car racing after a few years with LADA Sport. I hope I will be able do a good job and score important points for the team!” van Lagen said.

Cappellari joins the TCR International Series in Monza

2017-2017 Monza Qualifying---76 Daniele Cappellari_1

Daniele Cappellari, a regular competitor in TCR Italy, will join the International Series for the Italian event at Monza.

At a time when big articulated trucks line up behind the garages at each racetrack and hospitality suites fill the paddocks, Cappellari and his partner and team manager Fabiola bring their SEAT León on a trailer and sleep in a camper van like in the ‘good old days’, proving that the category is really affordable for independent teams and drivers.

And competing with a family-run team in this way does not affect results, as was proved by finishing in fifth position in last year’s TCR Italy.

Now, Daniele is looking forward to his first international appearance at Monza: “I feel very excited and I’m sure I will remember the Monza weekend for the rest of my life. I love Touring Car racing and when I was a boy I never missed a Super Touring race on TV, but I couldn’t even dream of taking part in an International event at Monza! Whatever will be, I will be happy. But I also hope to show off and find some support for the future. It will be a dream come true and I dare to hope that it will not be a one-off…”

Gabriele Tarquini, a spectator with an interest…

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Touring Car legend Gabriele Tarquini was a very attentive spectator in the Monza paddock over these two days, and had many hands to shake…

It’s nice to see so many friends, but I am not here only to socialize, I have come to see the future rivals…” admitted the Italian with a big smile.

“Il ‘Cinghio’ came to Monza from Misano, where he completed another test with Hyundai’s future TCR racer, the New Generation i30.

“The development and testing phase are going on smoothly and positively,” explained the former World Champion and official test driver of the Korean brand.

“I can say it is a well-born car. Things are definitely being done in the proper way. It is still premature to say anything about a race debut, but the time will come for sure!”

Qualifying – Frédéric Vervisch took his maiden pole

2017-2017 Monza Friday---06 Frederic Vervisch_48

In a very close Qualifying, Frédéric Vervisch took his maiden pole position in the TCR International Series. The Belgian was impressive throughout the whole session, in his only second Touring Car appearance.

It was also the second consecutive pole for Audi and Comtoyou Racing, after the one claimed by Stefano Comini at Spa. Six brands were represented in the top 7, all covered by seven tenths, proving the competitiveness of the field.

The M1RA Honda Civic cars of Roberto Colciago and Attila Tassi dominated most of the two parts of the session, but were eventually beaten by the Audi.

Davit Kajaia was an excellent fourth-fastest with the GE Force Alfa Romeo Giulietta, preceding the DG Sport Compétition Opel Astra of Mat’o Homola, the best of the Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT León cars of Pepe Oriola and the best of the Volkswagen Golf GTI cars, the Leopard Racing Team WRT machine of Jean-Karl Vernay.

Stefano Comini was only 8th, after a difficult session, ahead of James Nash and Hugo Valente. The two Lukoil Craft-Bamboo drivers will fill the front row of the top-ten reverse grid for Race 2.

Qualifying 1: Colciago was fastest at home

2017-2017 Monza Friday---05 Roberto Colciago_63

The session started under the sun and with perfect conditions. It was immediately a slipstreaming exercise, with the three Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT cars of Oriola (2:01.078), Valente and Nash, leading in that order.

Shortly afterwards, it was the DG Sport Compétition Opel Astra cars taking the advantage with Corthals (2:00.946), but Oriola retook the lead (2:00.153) before being beaten by the Honda Civic cars of Tassi (2:00.063) and Colciago (2:00.090).

With six minutes to go, Vervisch put his Audi on top (2:00.021). Shortly afterwards, the Hungarian young boys made a hit, with Tassi back on top (1:59.610) ahead of Ferenc Ficza (1:59.895) in the Zele Motorsport SEAT León.

In the dying moments of the session, though, Colciago pipped everybody with a lap of 1:59.601. The Italian beat Tassi, Ficza, Vervisch, Oriola, Vernay, Homola, Kajaia, Valente and Nash. The last two promoted to Q2 were Comini and Jaap van Lagen.

Those who did not make the cut were the two WestCoast VW Golf cars of Morbidelli and Altoè, the GE Force Alfa Romeo of Borković, Corthals, Paulsen, Cappellari and Møller.

Qualifying 2: Vervisch beat the Honda boys

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

As Valente went straight at the Roggia on the first fast lap, Colciago confirmed immediately his leadership (1:59.859), ahead of Homola, Comini and van Lagen. In the second fastest lap, Colciago improved (1:59.246) and Tassi moved up to second (1:59.361), with Kajaia third.

It was then Tassi who took the provisional pole on his last lap (1:59.131) before being beaten by Colciago (1:59.097). Eventually it was Vervisch (1:58.997) who went faster than the two Honda cars. Kajaia (1:59:469) was an excellent fourth, flowed by Homola, Oriola, Vernay, Comini, Nash and Valente who took pole for Race 2.

What the fastest drivers said after Qualifying

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Frédéric Vervisch (1st): “Before the weekend, everybody knew that the Audi had good top speed but you still have to do it, the speed has to be there and Monza is not an easy track. I’m really, really pleased that Audi and the team gave us such a good car and I hope we can have a bit more pace than we had at Spa in the race. We discussed slipstreaming and we tried it yesterday, but it didn’t really work and so we decided not to do it.”

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Roberto Colciago (2nd): “Until this morning, I didn’t know if I could even go in the car; I’m surprised I could drive, let alone be P2! I think I have a problem with the discs in my back, which I damaged yesterday going across the kerbs. It started at Spa but I had a massage during the week, which helped. After FP2 yesterday I was really bad and I didn’t sleep much, so I don’t know what will happen in the race.”

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Attila Tassi (3rd): “It feels good. We worked a lot during Free Practice yesterday to set up a good car for Qualifying and for the races. Of course, I have a really experienced teammate who is at his home track so that is a big plus for me because he has taught me lots of small things about Monza. In the race, I will try to do the same kind of start I did at Spa and then defend hard.”

Colciago and Tassi make it a 1-2 finish for Honda as Vernay maintains his lead in the standings

2017-2017 Monza Race 1---Podium Race1_4

Roberto Colciago was the first driver to take a second win in this year’s TCR International Series. The Italian, who lives a few kilometres from the Autodromo, completed a brilliant performance in a very lively Race 1 at Monza to beat his young teammate Attila Tassi and giving M1RA and the Honda Civic an impressive 1-2 finish.

Pepe Oriola, with the Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT León, finished third ahead of Jean-Karl Vernay (Leopard Racing Team WRT Volkswagen Golf GTI) who had a relatively quiet race and scored useful points that helped him to maintain the championship lead with a 24-point margin ahead of Colciago. Ferenc Ficza (Zele Motorsport SEAT León) was classified fifth, beating pole sitter Frédéric Vervisch (Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS) by inches.

Once again, Monza provided the ingredients for a spectacular race, with plenty of duels and contacts that jeopardized the hopes of potential contenders such as Valente, Homola, Comini and Borković. They were all able to salvage some points at least, something that Nash, Morbidelli, van Lagen and Kajaia could not.

RACE ONE

Start: Vervisch starts well from pole, but Colciago and Tassi pass him before the first chicane

2017-2017 Monza Race 1---05 Roberto Colciago_162

Lap 1: Homola and Oriola make contact at the first chicane, also involving Comini and Morbidelli. Homola spins and rejoins whilst Altoè goes out in the gravel at the Curvone following a contact with Valente. Colciago leads from Tassi, Vervisch and Kajaia

Lap 2: Kajaia touches Vervisch at the first chicane as Vernay goes straight on

Lap 3: Colciago is being chased by Tassi, Oriola, Vernay, Nash, van Lagen, Ficza and Valente whilst Vervisch has dropped to 10th ahead of Homola. There is contact between Valente and Ficza at the Parabolica

Lap 4: Ficza and Nash go straight on at the chicane as Vervisch makes contact with Valente and cuts the Roggia chicane, gaining two positions

2017-2017 Monza Race 1---06 Frederic Vervisch_146 (1)

Lap 5: There is a battle for 6th between Vervisch, Valente, Nash, Borković, Homola, and Morbidelli, with plenty of contact involved.

Lap 6: At the first chicane, Borković hits Morbidelli then Comini overtakes them both for 9th as Homola passes Vervisch and Nash for 6th.

Lap 8: Vervisch, Valente, Borković and Morbidelli keep fighting as Colciago has a four-tenths lead over Tassi who is trailed by Oriola, Vernay and Ficza  

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Lap 9: Tassi and Oriola get closer to Colciago, but the Hungarian goes wide at Lesmo 2 handing the second place to Oriola as Corthals and Kajaia retire in the pits

Lap 10: Tassi attacks Oriola and re-takes the second place at the Roggia however there is contact and a fender of Oriola’s SEAT rubs against a rear tyre as Vernay closes the gap from the Spaniard

Lap 11: Colciago wins ahead of Tassi, Oriola, Vernay, Ficza, Vervisch, Valente, Homola, Comini and Borković

Fizca drops to tenth after penalty

2017-2017 Monza Qualifying---55 Ferenc Ficza_78

The many investigations that followed the first race ended up in only one driver being penalised: Feren Ficza.

The young Hungarian was given a 10-second time penalty for gaining an unfair advantage. In fact Ficza’s Zele Racing SEAT León cut through the first chicane during the fourth lap of today’s Race 1 and moved up a couple of places in the process.

Ficza eventually finished in fifth position, but the penalty dropped him down to tenth.

Quotes from the Race 1 podium finishers

2017-2017 Monza Race 1---05 Roberto Colciago_130

Roberto Colciago (1st): “This morning, I didn’t know if I could race because my back was aching so badly, but luckily I had no pain once I was in the car. I couldn’t get away from the others because the tow is so important here in Monza and so I just concentrated on not making any mistakes. Attila pressured me from the start, so it’s good for the team that he has the same pace as me. When I was in Spa, it looked like I was racing with the ambulance because of the Success Ballast, so I’m really happy to win at my home track.”

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Attila Tassi (2nd): “It’s a great result for the team and for me as well. The start was just how I imagined it and I ended up behind Roberto. I was then a bit less aggressive and so the others could catch up with us. I made a mistake two laps from the end and Pepe overtook me, but then at the end he damaged his rear bodywork in the chicane so I overtook him on the straight and then defended the position. Roberto has been racing here in Monza for thirty years – nearly twice as long as I am old – and so he knows every little thing about the place which is really useful for me.”

2017-2017 Monza Race 1---74 Pepe Oriola_198

Pepe Oriola (3rd): “I had a really good start and I came into the first chicane side by side with two or three cars; I got a push and hit Homola, he spun and I’m really sorry, it wasn’t my intention. When I was up to third, I was trying to catch the Honda cars but it was really tough to follow them. Then I waited for a mistake and it arrived, but then Attila and I then had a little touch. I think SEAT has to work on the rear fenders of the car; it was only a little contact but this doesn’t have to happen. It was impossible to stop Attila, in the last 250 metres of the straights the top speed of the Hondas is amazing.”

Comini wins after a close but fair fight with Colciago as Only eighteen points cover the top three in the standings

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Stefano Comini won his second race of the year in a breathtaking Race 2 at Monza. The reigning double champion of TCR International clinched the win in his Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS at the end of a thrilling battle. Comini made a great start, managing to take the lead on the first lap, but could never build a substantial gap. In the final part of the race he had to defend himself from the attacks of Roberto Colciago.

The winner of Race 1, at the wheel of the M1RA Honda Civic, made a stunning charge through the field, climbing from ninth on the grid up to P2. He even managed to pass Comini on the penultimate lap, but the Swiss responded immediately afterwards and then was able to defend P1 until the chequered flag. With the first 11 cars finishing within 4 seconds, it was a typical, exciting and close Touring Car race at Monza, with plenty of action and duels. Frédéric Vervisch took third with the second Audi RS3 LMS, completing the excellent day for Comtoyou Racing, preceding the Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT León of James Nash and the Leopard Racing Team WRT Volkswagen Golf GTI of Jean-Karl Vernay.

The Frenchman still leads the standings with 113 points, but Colciago and Comini are now only 16 and 18 points behind respectively. The title fight is just starting to heat up!

RACE TWO

Grid: The engine on Van Lagen’s car was changed after Race 1, which demoted the Dutchman to the back of the grid

2017-2017 Monza Race 2---Start Race2_12

Start: Comini makes an excellent start from row 2, overtaking Valente, who comes off the worst in a first chicane incident with Vernay and Oriola as Tassi is also pushed into a spin and collects Borkovic, who retires

Lap 1: Comini leads from Nash, Vernay, Oriola, Homola, Colciago and Vervisch

2017-2017 Monza Race 2---01 Stefano Comini_316

Lap 2: Homola and Oriola fight for fourth

Lap 3: Vervisch and Colciago move up to fifth and sixth overtaking Homola; Colciago overtakes Vervisch for fifth

Lap 4: Colciago passes Oriola for fourth

Lap 5: Vervisch passes Oriola for fifth

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Lap 6: Colciago passes Vernay for third at Lesmo 1 as Comini manages to build a small margin

Lap 7: Vervisch and Vernay are fighting for fourth; the Belgian passes at La Roggia, while Homola passes Oriola for sixth at the same spot; Colciago takes second from Nash; Kajaia takes seventh from Oriola

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Lap 8: Tassi passes van Lagen for 11th as there is a contact at the braking point of the first chicane, Morbidelli spins and Altoè cuts straight. Paulsen pits with a steering wheel issue

Lap 9: Colciago completely cuts Comini’s advantage and sticks to the Audi’s rear bumper

Lap 10: The first seven cars are covered by 1.5 seconds; Colciago takes the lead by passing Comini from the outside at the first chicane, with Vervisch doing the same with Nash for third; at the braking for La Roggia, Comini retakes the lead

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Lap 11: Vernay cuts the first chicane but retakes his previous position; Colciago makes a last attempt at the braking point before the Parabolica, but Comini keeps the inside line and wins by 0.170 second. Third is Vervisch, ahead of Nash, Vernay, Homola, Kajaia, Oriola, Tassi and Ficza, with Van Lagen 11th…all those within 4 seconds!

Colciago gets grid penalty for the next race

2017-2017 Monza Race 2---05 Roberto Colciago_235

Roberto Colciago will be dropped five places on the starting grid for the first race at the Salzburgring.

The Stewards deemed that the Italian driver caused an incident on lap four of today’s Race 2 at Monza. In the collision Frédéric Vervisch was pushed into the back of Mat’o Homola’s car and then straight-cut the Ascari chicane. 

No further action were taken after the other investigation on the first lap incident at the first chicane that involved Jean-Karl Vernay, Pepe Oriola and Vervisch.

Quotes from Race 2 podium finishers

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

Stefano Comini (1st): “Yesterday was really a bad day for me; Valente hit me and accelerated to make me spin, but today was great. It was a funny first lap but I knew with the Success Ballast I had to get into the lead as soon as possible. It was difficult to keep the position, but it was fun. The solution to the brake problem was to get into the lead, so more cool air goes into the brakes. Yesterday was really dangerous, and in the last three laps today I had to use all my strength to brake because the car wasn’t slowing down.”

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Roberto Colciago (2nd): “I was impressed with Stefano today because he was really fast; I was in the slipstream but I couldn’t stay with him. My Honda was perfect in every single corner and this was the maximum I could do today. I don’t even want to think about Spa, which is the worst circuit to have ballast, and it’s why I was so impressed by Stefano today. He doesn’t live very far from me, so both of us wanted to win in Monza this weekend – it’s very special to win here. I tried my best to overtake him but it was impossible.”

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Frédéric Vervisch (3rd): “Congratulations to Stefano, who did an amazing job, and I think the job from the whole team was really great. We’ve had the pace from the beginning and it was disappointing in Spa that I didn’t have the pace in the race. Yesterday was a bit ‘stock car’ but I’m very happy today and the next step is to go for victory. Apart from the result, all the races have been great fun; the category is like karting! I still have to get used to it but the Audi is a great car and so I hope the next time I will be where my mate is.”

The series will resume in Austria, at the Salzburgring, on June 10 / 11 for rounds 9 and 10.

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

After watching the fun and frolics from Monza, the main subject that was the talk of the event was driving standards during the weekend.

There were two important points on this subject.

Many fans were upset over the contact that saw Mato Homola lose several places as others cut the first chicane and that he did not gain those places back. A protest was lodged by both Homola and DG Sport Competition after the second race.

2017-2017 Monza Race 2---21 Giacomo Altoe_113.jpg

The other talking point related to the poor driving standards was the release sent out by WestCoat Racing, whose drivers Gianni Morbidelli and Giacomo Altoe both saw their races ruined by contact.

Team Manager James Nixon was quite clear on his thoughts from the weekend’s activities…

“It appears the International series has some of the worst driving standards currently in any series I watch.”

“Sadly, most of these incidents seem to go un-noticed by the people that count! We were passed yet again more times off the track than on, but no positions given back. Maybe it’s better to have no rules but it’s not the kind of motorsport we want for the team. As a team we need to look at our options and decide if we continue to support this philosophy of racing.”

Whilst WestCoast Racing have had a difficult year so far as they adapt to the VW Golf TCR, it fair to say that the loss of this team from The TCR International Series would be a big blow. I expect that there will be some stern words said at the Salzburgring next month about driving standards…

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As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as the members of the TCR Talk Facebook Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from the series.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2017 TCR International Series: Spa-Francochamps

Legendary Belgian track welcomes back the TCR drivers

The third race meeting of the 2017 TCR International Series takes place on the demanding racetrack of Spa-Francorchamps in the Belgian region of the Ardennes: A legendary circuit in motorsport history. 

For the second consecutive year the series runs at Spa as a support event to the 6 Hours race, the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

In 2016 Honda and Volkswagen shared the honours, with Aku Pellinen and Jean-Karl Vernay claiming one victory apiece. 

On Saturday afternoon in the first race, Pellinen led from lights to flag in a WestCoast Racing Honda Civic and led home the SEAT León cars of Pepe Oriola and pole-sitter Dušan Borković .

On the Sunday morning, the second race was dominated by the trio of Leopard Racing WRT Volkswagen Golf GTi cars, with Vernay winning ahead of Stefano Comini and Antti Buri.

The event also marked the debut in TCR of two 1.6-litre Peugeot 308 Racing Cup cars run by the Sébastien Loeb Racing and driven by Jimmy Clairet and Grégory Guilvert. 

A twenty-four-car field and six brands represented

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

The TCR International Series has already raced twice in the current season, at Rustavi International Motorpark – the first international race meeting ever hosted by Georgia – and at the Bahrain International Circuit, one of two appearances with Formula One.

For its first European event, the series presents itself in top form, with a strong field of 24 cars – including Touring Car superstars Rob Huff and Tom Coronel.

Jean Karl-Vernay of Leopard Racing arrives at Spa as the points leader with a tally of 52, but the Frenchman is shadowed by GE-Force’s Dušan Borković and M1RA’s Roberto Colciago who are lying only one and two points adrift respectively.

Just a handful of points behind are Pepe Oriola of Lukoil Craft-Bamboo (45),Borković’s teammate Davit Kajaia (39), Oriola’s teammates Hugo Valente (38) and James Nash (34) and Colciago’s teammate Attila Tassi (36).

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

There are four different car models in the top eight positions: Volkswagen Golf, Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Honda Civic and SEAT León.

However, in Spa it will be wise to keep an eye on the Audi SR3 LMS and the Opel Astra. The performance of both cars is definitely improving, as it was recently proved by Stefano Comini and Mat’o Homola. The Swiss and his Comtoyou Racing Audi won two TCR Benelux sprint races at Spa ten days ago and on the same weekend Homola drove the DG Sport Compétition Astra to set pole position and win another sprint race. The young Slovak had already claimed an impressive pole in Bahrain.

The same Success Ballast for Borković and Colciago

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Dušan Borković and Roberto Colciago, the race winners of the previous event in Bahrain, will both carry 30 kilos of Success Ballast at Spa.

The Serbian drove his Alfa Romeo Giulietta to victory in Race 2 after finishing fourth in Race 1, which gave him 37 points, while the Italian and his Honda Civic Type-R scored the very same amount of points by Qualifying fifth, winning Race 1 and finishing fifth in Race 2.

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

The running weights of their cars will be 1345 kilograms for Colciago’s Honda (1285kg minimum weight, plus 30kg of Success Ballast and 30kg of Balance of Performance adjustment) and 1315 kg for Borković’s Alfa Romeo (1285kg + 30kg SB).

Hugo Valente, who Qualified fourth in Bahrain and then was classified second and third in the races with his SEAT León, scored 36 points, only one short of his rivals. And that point is worth 20 kilos, as the Frenchman will carry the 10 kilos of ballast imposed to the third best scorer, for a running weight of 1325kg (1285 + 10 SB + 30 BoP).

Rob Huff joins Jean-Karl Vernay at Leopard Racing

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

In Spa the spotlight was on Rob Huff, who joins championship-winning squad Leopard Racing Team WRT for the remainder of the TCR International Series.

The 2012 FIA World Touring Car champion has already had his first experience with the team, sharing a Volkswagen Golf GTi with his new teammate Jean-Karl Vernay at the opening round of the TCR Benelux series ten days ago, also in Spa. There, Huff and Vernay took four podium finishes from four sprint races on Sunday.

Huff will compete in seven of the eight remaining events alongside current championship leader Vernay, with the task of supporting the Frenchman’s title bid.

Huff said: “It’s fantastic to join Leopard Racing Team WRT in this year’s TCR International Series. The deal came after the Benelux race event, which was a success despite having to learn a new team, a new car and category. I had a great time getting to know the team at Spa, and I think we’re going to have a great rest of the season together. TCR is also a brilliant championship to be involved in. There’s a lot of future Touring Car talent rising up through there, and also great door-to-door racing. As the levels of the cars are balanced, it’s a lot less about the car but the driver. For someone who started racing in mono-brand trophies, like me, it’s extremely appealing. It’s also very nice to again be in a series launched and run by Marcello Lotti and his team, who know the business inside-out and are like a family.”

Tom Coronel makes a one-off appearance at Spa

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Touring car specialist Tom Coronel will make his first appearance in the TCR International Series this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps. 

The Dutch driver will be at the wheel of a second Honda Civic Type-R car run by the Boutsen Ginion Racing team, alongside that of his 17-year old teammate Benjamin Lessennes. One of Coronel’s commitments during the current season is taking part in the TCR Benelux in which he shares a Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda with the series’ reigning champion Stéphane Lémeret.

At Spa his car will be officially backed by Honda Benelux, who are determined to make Tom Coronel one of their top ambassadors, as confirmed by Paul Tomanek, the President of Honda Benelux: “The Dutch market is an extremely important market for Honda; we are thrilled to be able to count on his popularity and his talent behind the wheel to boost the dynamism of the brand in the Netherlands.”  

The Dutchman does not hide his ambitions: “TCR is a fairly new category but one that all drivers closely follow. After a race in the Benelux championship, taking part in an event of the TCR International Series is naturally very exciting, especially since Spa isn’t too far away for my fans and the level looks particularly high so the races should be extremely thrilling.”

Paulsen and Møller begin their European campaign

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---11 Jens Reno Moller_33

The third race meeting in Spa will represent the beginning of the European campaign for Stian Paulsen and Jens Reno Møller; they both will take part in the International Series European events with the aim of competing in the TCR European Trophy final at the Adria International Raceway in October.

Paulsen, 29 years old from Norway and 2012 winner of a FIA European Touring Car Cup, will be driving a SEAT León TCR run by his own team.

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

“I am very excited by this programme. Looking further ahead I will be working to add a couple of overseas events in 2018 and eventually taking part in the full International Season in 2019,” he said.

A regular participant in both the Danish and the Scandinavian Touring Car championships and winner of the 2009 DTC Independent title, Møller will be at the wheel of a Honda Civic Type-R for Reno Racing.

 “I am excited for coming back to racing after a five-year break and can’t wait to work with JAS Motorsport again, as they have built a very competitive car. The new TCR category is really attractive for privateers and provides top class racing, with a lot of very quick drivers. I expect to struggle in the first part of the season, but I will work hard to be in the right part of the field during the season.” said Møller.

Six local drivers for the joy of Belgian fans

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Belgian fans will have reasons to rejoice, as six of their favourite drivers will be racing in Spa. Besides Pierre-Yves Corthals who drives the DG Sport Compétition Opel Astra, five of the TCR Benelux competitors will be making their first appearance in the TCR International Series for their home race meeting: Benjamin Lessennes, Frédéric Vervisch, Maxime Potty and the brothers Edouard and Guillaume Mondron.

Benjamin Lessennes teams up with Coronel 

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17-year old Benjamin Lessennes will drive the very same Honda Civic Type-R car run by Boutsen Ginion Racing he regularly uses in the Benelux championship.

After finishing eighth in the 2016 championship and claiming his first victory in the season’s finale at Mettet, Lessennes has just begun the new season with a couple of podiums last weekend at Spa: second in Race 1 and third in Race 2.

And it was perhaps an omen that in both the sprint races he was joined on the podium by Stefano Comini and Jean-Karl Vernay, guest stars of the TCR Benelux event.

“This is a real opportunity to see where I am facing the elite of the TCR International Series. The challenge is great, but I hope that I will be at their level and achieve a good result during this prestigious race meeting!” said Lessennes.

Comtoyou Racing add a second car for Vervisch

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---06 Frédéric Vervisch _24

After running a solitary Audi RS3 LMS for Stefano Comini in Rustavi and Bahrain, Comtoyou Racing will add a second car from the next weekend in Spa.

The team, that enjoyed success in the first event of the TCR Benelux scoring three victories out of the four sprint races (two with Comini and one with Sheldon van der Linde) has signed Frédéric Vervisch for the rest of the season.

The 30-year old Vervisch faces his first commitment in Touring Cars, after many seasons in single-seaters and GT racing.

The Mondron brothers with Delahaye Racing