2017 TCR International Series: Georgia

So, here we are. The Opening round of the 2017 TCR International Series is upon us and what a weekend of action it has been. Here’s the round up of all the news, qualifying and reports from the races as the first weekend of TCR action got underway…

TCR International Series unveils full season entry list

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For its third season, the TCR International Series has attracted twenty full season competitors, using seven different brands of cars. The entry list can be seen here.

Promoter Marcello Lotti commented: “The TCR International Series is growing further in its third season and we are very pleased with the arrival of new brands, like Audi and KIA, and new teams. We are also delighted to see that the decision to change the format of the European Trophy is resulting in some competitors already entering in the European events of the International Series.”

The full field will hit the track on the occasion of the third race meeting of the season, at Spa-Francorchamps with the FIA World Endurance Championship, while sixteen cars will took part at Rustavi International Motopark in Georgia and eighteen in the second event.

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“The deadline that was fixed to ship the cars to Georgia was very close to the Balance of Performance test, which made life difficult for the teams in the preparation of their programmes. As a result, some of the cars could not be delivered in time for the shipping,” explained Lotti.

These are the second cars of Comtoyou Racing, Leopard Racing and Icarus Motorsport, plus both the Zengő Motorsport’s KIA cee’d cars.

The field will grow even further thanks to the local drivers who will enter on a race-by-race basis and those competitors who are committing to take part in the International Series’ European events in order to qualify for the TCR European Trophy final at Adria International Raceway.

Stian Poulsen, Milovan Vesni ć and Jens-Reno Møller have already confirmed theirparticipation, but more are due to join, like Kevin Gleason and Grégoire Demoustier.

These will be confirmed in due time.

Super Taikyu launches a class for TCR cars Japan’s endurance series begins in Twin Ring Motegi

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The Super Taikyu Organization and WSC Ltd are pleased to announce that a new class for TCR cars has been included in the 2017 Super Taikyu Series, the Japan-based endurance championship that has established itself as one of the leading racing series in Asia.

Four TCR-spec cars – two Audi RS 3 LMS TCR and two Honda Civic Type-R TCR – have been entered in the new “ST-R” Class for the season opener, at Twin Ring Motegi on April 2. The class will finally be named ST-TCR as from the second round at Sugo and a Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR is also expected to join from the third round at Suzuka Circuit.

Harumi Kuwayama, secretary-general of the Super Taikyu Organization Executive Office, explained: “This agreement was made possible because both parties have the same aim of promoting and developing customer racing for Touring Cars. In the process of expanding the Super Taikyu Series, we are pleased to enter into such a partnership and we look forward to establishing an even better relationship and making our series popular on a global level.”

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TCR promoter Marcello Lotti, said: “The launch of a class for TCR cars in the Super Taikyu Series is another target we have achieved. After establishing three regional and national TCR series in Asia, China and Thailand, this agreement helps us to reach Japan with its important automotive market and its major car manufacturers. TCR-spec cars have already shown outstanding performance and reliability in different endurance series and we believe that, with their arrival in the Super Taikyu, they will surprise many Japanese fans as well.”

The Super Taikyu joins a list of endurance series and events that have already created a TCR class: the 24H Series, the 24H TCE Series, the ADAC 24H Nürburgring, the VLN Langstrecken Meisterschaft Nürburgring, the 1006Km of Palanga (Lithuania) and the 1000Km of P ärmu (Estonia).

The TCR International Series kicks off in Georgia with a historical event for local motorsport fans

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The third season of the TCR International Series kicks off this weekend at Rustavi International Motopark, in an event that makes history for Georgia’s motor sport.

In fact, TCR brings international racing to the Country for the first time ever, to the delight of the many local fans.

The event is supported by the governmental agency MIA Force the president of which, Archil Talakvadze said: “With this race meeting, Georgia claims its position on the world map of automobile racing. This will be a spectacular season opener for those who wish to attend exciting action on the track and discover the stunning landscapes, ancient culture and hospitality of Georgia at the same time.”

TCR promoter Marcello Lotti commented: “We are proud and honoured that the Government of Georgia has chosen TCR as the first international series ever to visit their beautiful country. I have personally discovered Georgia’s sights and the warm hospitality of its people when I was in Tbilisi last year, so I am sure that Rustavi will become one of the favourite destinations of our teams.”

Three titles at stake: Drivers’, Teams’ and Model of the Year

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The 2017 TCR International Series will award three titles at the end of the season.

Stefano Comini, Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing and the SEAT León TCR are the reigning champions in the Drivers’ and Team’s Championships and the Model of the Year award respectively.

The scoring system is the same for all three classifications: 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 points awarded to the best five classified in the Qualifying final results; 25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 and 1 points awarded to the best ten classified in each race.

In the Team’s Championship and the Model of the Year award, the best two cars classified of each team and model score points.

The forces at play – round up of the opening event

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

Though twenty competitors have entered the International Series for the full season, only sixteen of them will took part at Rustavi International Motopark.

TCR promoter Marcello Lotti explained why: “The deadline that was fixed to ship the cars to Georgia was very close to the Balance of Performance test, which made life difficult for the teams in the preparation of their programmes. As a result, some of the cars could not be delivered in time for the shipping.”

These are the second cars of Comtoyou Racing, Leopard Racing and Icarus Motorsport, plus both the Zengő Motorsport’s KIA cee’d cars.

The full field will hit the track on the occasion of the third race meeting of the season, at Spa-Francorchamps with the FIA World Endurance Championship, while eighteen cars will take part in the second event at Bahrain International Circuit.

Comini in an Audi RS 3 LMS run by Comtoyou Racing

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

Double TCR International champion Stefano Comini will defend his title at the wheel of an Audi RS 3 LMS run by Comtoyou Racing.

“I received a number of offers, including the one from Comtoyou Racing. Team principal Jean-Michel Baert has hired François Verbist, whom I know well since we worked together in 2016 and this convinced me this was the best option. This project has been launched at the last-minute and we go to Georgia with very little preparation. I must say that trying to conquer a third crown in a row, with a third different car brand, is a very exciting challenge!” said Comini.

Leopard Racing confirmed Jean-Karl Vernay

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

Following its successful maiden season in 2016, Leopard Racing Team confirmed its commitment with the aim to defend its title in the Drivers’ Championship.

The team continues to work together with WRT that provides its experienced and professional structure and runs Volkswagen Golf GTi cars once again.

Jean-Karl Vernay, who was classified third in the 2016 TCR International Series has been confirmed at the wheel of the team’s first car: “I am very pleased to race in the series once again and with the same team. This is a nice change for me, because it’s the first time in that I’m able to take part in the same championship in two consecutive seasons. It is definitely a good thing, because it will make my life easier and will help me to be competitive straight away.”

A dream-trio for Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

Craft-Bamboo Racing continues its long-standing partnership with Lukoil and SEAT Sport after clinching the teams’ title in 2016 and narrowly missing out the drivers’ title twice in 2015 and 2016.

The team fields an impressive trio of Touring Car specialists: Hugo Valente, James Nash and Pepe Oriola.

New to the team, Valente said: “I’m very excited for this new challenge. For me it was important to get back to the front end of the field, as I wanted to be able to fight for podiums and victory at every event. I’ve seen the way Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing works, and to me it’s possibly the best opportunity that I’ve been given in the past couple of years.”

A runner up in last year’s Drivers’ Championship, Nash commented: “2016 was a great season and despite making many errors we still won the teams’ title and finished second in the drivers’. Obviously I would like to go one better this year and staying in the same environment gives me that opportunity.”

Oriola, vice-champion in 2015, added: “It’s my third year with the team and it feels like a real family. With my two teammates I hope we can win the teams’ championship and finally win the drivers title too!”

WestCoast Racing and Morbidelli switched to VW

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WestCoast Racing will campaign two Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR cars for the Italian pairing of Gianni Morbidelli and the 16-year old Giacomo Altoè.

The Swedish team has been a successful front-runner in the series since its inception in 2015 taking 14 race wins in the first two seasons with Honda Civic cars.

Morbidelli is in his third season with the team: “I’m really happy and excited to stay with WestCoast Racing. For this year, we have big expectations and the pressure that comes with that. We’re running a new car and we all have to get up to speed as soon as possible.  I’m glad to be back, after two seasons I know the potential and the guys. Overall I’m looking forward to it!”

Michelisz launched M1RA for title assault

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Hungarian motorsport hero Norbert Michelisz has launched his own team M1RA that runs a pair of Honda Civic TCR cars for Attila Tassi and Roberto Colciago.

Despite his young age (17) Tassi has proved his skill in last year’s TCR International Series in which he was classified 11th and took a deserved podium finish in Sochi, while the experienced Colciago has amassed a sizeable number of championship titles and now, aged 48, he is the reigning TCR Italy champion and was a race winner in TCR International in Malaysia last year.

Michelisz explained: “For many years I have had ambitions of creating my own race team, but had always assumed that this would come at the end of my driving career. However, at the end of 2016, all the ingredients were in place to create M1RA. The right people, the right car and the right programme in TCR International, were all available, so this was the ideal time. We evaluated a number of different series, but for now, TCR International provided the best fit for our aims and objectives. We aim to win the championship. I know that sounds very ambitious for our first season, but I genuinely think that we have all the ingredients necessary to mount a serious challenge.”

Colciago said: “When I was offered the programme in the 2016 TCR Italy series, I was happy to accept. I just wanted to do well, but then things evolved quite quickly and unexpectedly. Here I am, facing my return to an international top-level series, with plenty of motivation. It is odd that I drive for a team that belongs to another driver, but strangest feeling is to have a teammate (Tassi) who is the same age as my daughter!”

Corthals and Homola in DG Sport’s Opel Astra cars

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DG Sport Compétition announced Pierre-Yves Corthals and Mat’o Homola as the drivers of the two Opel Astra TCR cars entered for its maiden season in the International Series.

The 22-year old Homola has established himself as one of the most competitive young Touring Car drivers; last year he was one of the title contenders in the TCR International Series, claiming one race win and ranking 5th in the Drivers’ Championship. “I’m excited to race again in this series and I’m pleased to be part of DG Sport, an experienced team that claimed the TCR European Trophy in 2016. I believe there is a huge potential in the combination between the team and the new Opel Astra TCR”

Corthals has been confirmed by the team after last year’s successful campaign that saw ‘Pilou’ winning the TCR European Trophy and finishing runner-up in the TCR Benelux. The Belgian driver has also worked together with the Opel Motorsport technicians to develop the 2017 version of the Astra. He said: “I am very pleased to take part in the International Series. Because I know well the potential of the car, I think that we have all the cards to be able to compete for the top positions. The fact that nobody knows the Rustavi track and that we have a very professional team makes it an ideal context to start the season.”

Kajaia and Borković teammates in Alfa Romeo cars

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Georgia’s Davit Kajaia and Serbia’s Dušan Borković team up at the wheel of Alfa Romeo Giulietta cars run by the new Georgia-based GE-Force team.

Kajaia has already had the opportunity to drive the Romeo Ferraris-built Giulietta TCR quite recently in the TCR Middle East series, showing promising performance of the Italian car.

Michela Cerruti, who developed the Giulietta for the Italian engineering company during the past season, explained: “In the last two years we have been working hard to bring Alfa Romeo back to its success in motorsport. Today we are very excited and proud, because the Georgian Government and MIA Force have decided to invest in our product and support Kajaia. On top of this, the choice of calling Borković to drive the second car is another guarantee to achieve important results during the season.” 

Borković added: “GE-Force and Romeo Ferraris have set a plan that was really trustworthy and appealing to me. They have long-term ambitions that make me confident. I feel a great responsibility and a challenge, as we aim for improving and upgrading the car throughout the upcoming season.“

The team has also entered a third car for the two first events of the season.

The first American team in TCR: Icarus Motorsports

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Icarus Motorsports – the first American team to join TCR – entered the International Series with two SEAT León TCR cars.

Duncan Ende, co-founder of the team, is also the first driver: “We started the team specifically for the TCR International Series and we are thrilled to be joining the championship with SEAT Sport. The TCR formula is enjoying tremendous success worldwide and Touring Cars were one of my first loves when I discovered racing, so I’m chomping at the bit to get out there myself after ten years racing GTs and prototypes!”

Ferenc Ficza starts the season with Zele Racing

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Hungarian youngster Ferenc Ficza has been the first driver signed by Zeng ő Motorsport to race one of the two STARD-built KIA cee’d TCR cars that will hit the track on the occasion of the third event of the season at Spa-Francorchamps.

In order not to miss the opportunity to score some valuable points in the first two events of the season, Ficza will be driving a SEAT León TCR run by Zele Racing at Rustavi and Bahrain.

Georgia’s hero Davit Kajaia claims pole position in the Romeo Ferraris-built the Alfa Romeo Giulietta

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

Davit Kajaia claimed his and the Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta’s first pole position in the TCR International Series with an impressive performance in Q2 at Rustavi. The local hero posted a lap time of 1:40.693, to the joy of Georgia’s motorsport fans who are expected to flock to the track tomorrow to cheer for him.

Earlier today, Kajaia proved to be among the fastest drivers, fighting with Hungarian youngsters Attila Tassi and Ferenc Ficza for the top positions in the two Practice sessions.

In Qualifying he made a flawless job, advancing beyond Q1 with the third fastest lap behind the pair of M1RA Honda Civic cars of Roberto Colciago and Tassi. Then, Kajaia annihilated the field in Q2, being the only driver to complete a lap under 1:41.00

Tassi and Ficza qualified in second and third, with Jean-Karl Vernay fourth in the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi. Colciago will share the third row of the grid for Race 1 with reigning champion Stefano Comini, who was sixth in the Comtoyou Racing Audi RS 3 LMS.

Eventually, five different brands of car manufacturer were represented in the top six positions.

Giacomo Altoè qualified his WestCoast Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi in tenth position and so will start Race 2 from pole thanks to the reverse grid, with Pepe Oriola (Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT León) alongside him.

The first race will start tomorrow at 13:35 local time, with second one following at 15:35.

Qualifying 1: M1RA duo leads the field

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

The M1RA Honda Civic Type-R cars of Colciago and Tassi led the field in Q1, after an exciting escalation of improving lap times that lasted throughout the twenty minutes.

Kajaia opened the hostilities with provisional fastest laps of 1:42.731 and 1:42.252; the Georgian then had a further improvement (1:42.096) disallowed for trespassing track limits. The same penalty hit several other drivers, namely Comini (three times), Oriola, Ende and Tassi.

Colciago jumped to the top of the list a first time with a lap of 1:42.145, however he was soon demoted to second by Ficza who completed two consecutive fastest laps: 1:42.137 and 1:42.080.

With only two minutes left Colciago responded and broke the 1:42.00 barrier, clocking an impressive 1:41.777. In the dying seconds, Tassi (1:41.900) and Kajaia (1:41.968) recovered second and third places respectively.

Also on his last lap, Altoè improved from 12th to 7th, while the Lukoil Craft-Bamboo trio of Oriola, Nash and Valente filled the last three positions (10th to 12th) that gave them access to Q2. Borković was the first driver to miss the cut, as he was sidelined by a steering rack failure.
The following drivers advanced to Q2: Colciago, Tassi, Kajaia, Ficza, Vernay, Homola, Altoè, Morbidelli, Comini, Oriola, Nash and Valente

Qualifying 2: Kajaia beats Tassi and Ficza

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

On his first quick lap, Oriola clocked a 1:42.150 that provisionally placed him on top of the time sheet, but the Spaniard was soon demoted by the Hungarian duo of Tassi (1:41.286) and Ficza (1:41.294).

With three minutes to go, Kajaia stopped the clock at 1:40.693, a new lap record for the TCR cars at Rustavi International Motorpark, which meant pole position for the delighted Alfa Romeo driver. Just before the end, Vernay and Colciago advanced to fourth and fifth.

Once again, several drivers – Nash, Valente and Altoè – had lap times disallowed for infringing track limits, while Morbidelli went off and beached his car onto the gravel trap at Turn 4.

What the fastest drivers said after Qualifying

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

Davit Kajaia (pole positionI: “It’s an amazing feeling to be on pole and I am obviously very proud to achieve my first pole here at home, in front of my fans and all the people who support me. I really want to thank everybody in the team for their great work. The car seemed to fly and the changes we made after free Practice 2 worked beautifully. I did not expect such a gap, although I must say that I really put all my heart into my fast lap.”

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Attila Tassi (second fastest): “I am obviously happy of this second position, everything went very well and honestly, I didn’t expect to be in first row, nor faster than my experienced teammate Colciago.”

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Ferenc Ficza (third fastest): “It has been an amazing start of the weekend and I am both surprised and happy about my performances. I was already happy being here and part of the TCR, so the good results are a bonus. In Q1, I did a couple of small mistakes, but still, third fastest is great. And it’s nice to have two Hungarians in the top three.”

More quotes after the Qualifying session

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Michela Cerruti, GE-Force / Romeo Ferraris: “I can’t describe what this pole means for the whole team, after all the hard work we have put on this project. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing on the screens and are, of course, very happy. We realized during the TCR Middle East Series that we were heading upwards, after all the development work done during the winter, but this exceeded any expectation. To clinch the pole here in Georgia, the home of Davit and our sponsors, adds an emotional spin. It is so important for our Georgian partners and the entire country… Davit has been simply fantastic. It is true that he knows the track inside out, but still, he did a terrific job and gave everything he had, despite all the pressure on his shoulders. I must admit he is impressing me in the way he approaches things: he works a lot, listens and he’s able to improve all the time.”

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Jean-Karl Vernay (4th fastest): “We have progressed well and I am happy with the car. In Q2, it turned out that I had a broken bearing, which probably cost me a couple of tenths, but even without it, I don’t think I could have done better than third. The Alfa seemed unreachable…”

Mat’o Homola (12th fastest): “We progressed throughout the session and that was promising, it means we are improving step by step. Unfortunately, Q2 wasn’t that good, the changes we made were not effective. We still improved something, but less than our competitors. We need to work more on the set-up, but it’s a good start, if we keep in mind that this is my first real time with the Opel.”

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Gianni Morbidelli (7th fastest): “I am very happy with the work done, we are progressing and going in the right direction. Given that this is our first time with the Golf, being only one tenth behind Vernay, who is our reference, is very positive. For sure, I could not have gone faster today; I was at the limit and went even beyond once, when I lost the car in a breaking point and finished in the gravel.”

Giacomo Altoè (10th fastest): “It was a good session and I am happy with the result, although I think we can and we have to improve the set-up. One of my lap times was canceled because of track limits, but luckily, it wasn’t my best time. Starting in pole for Race 2 is nice but also a big responsibility.”

Georgian fans delighted by first TCR experience as local hero Kajaia and Oriola share victories

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

The third season of the TCR International Series couldn’t have started in a more exciting way, as the first-ever visit by the series to Georgia’s Rustavi International Motorpark resulted in two breathtaking races that delighted the thousands of fans that crowded the grandstand to full capacity.

The icing on the cake for them was local hero Davit Kajaia’s victory in the first race at the conclusion of a thrilling four-way fight that involved cars of four different brands. The Georgian policeman showed speed and a cool head in keeping his pursuers at bay and giving the first victory to the Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

The second race victory went to Pepe Oriola and his Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT León, which meant that for the third consecutive year the young Spaniard opened the season with a victory and so established himself as a candidate for the title fight once again.

The event also offered the young Hungarian duo of Attila Tassi and Ferenc Ficza reasons to be satisfied – each claimed one second place – together with Honda, Audi and Volkswagen (all of whom obtained podium positions).

The reigning champion Stefano Comini experienced very mixed fortunes on his first appearance at the wheel of the Audi RS 3 LMS. He first made up for a disappointed Qualifying by fighting for a podium place in Race 1, but then was forced to retire in Race 2 thanks to the consequences of a collision with his former teammate, which occurred after the end of the first race.

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Although Opel struggled to stay on the pace of the faster cars and lost Mat’o Homola at the start of Race 2, the brand was eventually rewarded by its first TCR International points scored by Pierre-Yves Corthals.

Race 1 – Kajaia and Alfa Romeo win a breathtaking first race 

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

The 2017 TCR International Series kicked off with a breathtaking wet race at Rustavi International Motorpark.

Georgia’s local hero Davit Kajaia and his Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta run by the GE-Force team claimed a fantastic victory after a close fight that involved five drivers representing four different brands of car manufacturers.

After sprinting from pole position, Kajaia pushed to the limit and created a gap in the first half of the race, while Attila Tassi (M1RA Honda Civic Type-R), Ferenc Ficza (Zele Racing SEAT León) and Stefano Comini (Comtoyou Racing Audi RS 3 LMS) where fighting behind him.

Once Ficza managed to overtake Tassi and close the gap, Kajaia was able to keep him at bay, while Comini and Roberto Colciago (M1RA Honda Civic Type-R) were also chasing the leading pair.

Eventually the crowd roared when Kajaia crossed the finish line with a slim margin ahead of Ficza, while Comini kept third place despite Colciago’s last effort.

RACE ONE KEY FACTS

Grid: the track is still wet after it rained the whole morning

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

Start:  Kajaia takes the best start, from Tassi, Ficza and Colciago

Lap 1: Comini and Vernay make contact, Comini moves up to fifth; Borković and Valente clash

Lap 2: Comini overtakes Colciago for fourth

Lap 3: Borković overtakes Morbidelli for ninth

Lap 4: Tassi is under pressure from Ficza and Comini

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

Lap 5: Homola overtakes Valente for 11th

Lap 6: Ficza overtakes Tassi for second

Lap 7: Comini overtakes Tassi for third; Valente pits for repairs

Lap 9: Colciago overtakes Tassi for fourth

Lap 10: Ficza closes in on Kajaia

Lap 11: Kajaia leads shrinks to four tenths

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

Lap 12: Kajaia, Ficza, Comini and Colciago are nose to tail

Lap 13: The first four are covered by less than one second

Lap 14: Ficza knocks on Kajaia bumper, but the leader maintain the position

Lap 15: Colciago dives inside Comini at Turn 1, but the reigning champion maintains second place as Kajaia wins from Ficza, Comini and Tassi

Quotes from the Race 1 podium finishers

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Davit Kajaia (winner): “I am more than happy, it is so great to win my first race here at home, I have no words… I just want to thank my country for all the support, the team that did a fantastic job and TCR for bringing such a great show to Georgia. The race was very tough. My start was good and I could build some gap, but as from lap 6, my front tyres started to suffer and then I had to fight to keep Ficza at bay.”

Ferenc Ficza (second): “I am very happy was second, it’s a good result. My start wasn’t that great, then I could pass Tassi, but Comini’s car was getting larger and larger in my mirrors. At the same time, we were reducing the gap to Kajaia and got really close but there was no way to pass him.”

Stefano Comini (third): “First of all, I want to congratulate Davit for his fabulous win, he did a superb job. I am very happy for all Georgians, who have welcomed us so warmly. My race was good, to finish on the podium for our first race as a team and with the Audi is an excellent result. I had a contact with Jean-Karl Vernay on the first lap; I had the inside line and he hit me. He went sideways and I actually pushed him a bit to get his car straight again. After crossing the line, he hit me on purpose breaking my radiator, which was so silly…”

Race 2 – Oriola keeps up impressive opening event record

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

Pepe Oriola confirmed his winning record in the opening event of the TCR International Series; after being victorious at Sepang in 2015 and Bahrain in 2016, the Catalan won the second race in Georgia.

Oriola beat his Lukoil Craft-Bamboo teammate Hugo Valente, while Attila Tassi claimed third position ahead of Jean-Karl Vernay. While the two SEAT León cars of Oriola and Valente pulled away when the race resumed after the safety car, there was a red-hot fight for the fifth position. Eventually Dušan Borković managed to resist the pressure from the likes of Ferenc Ficza, James Nash and Roberto Colciago, while Pierre-Yves Corthals finished tenth and became the first Opel driver to score championship points.

Following the race 2, the Stewards reviewed video evidence of two incidents and handed 30-second time penalties to Valente (who dropped from second to ninth) and Colciago (who dropped from sixth to 12th) for overtaking under yellow flags.

RACE TWO KEY FACTS

Grid: the track is drying, all cars are on slicks; Comini lines up at the end of the pit lane

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

Start: Altoè sprints ahead of Oriola and Valente

Lap 1: Abkhazava hits Homola at Turn 1, the Slovak’s Opel spins and stalls; there is battle for the leading positions: Oriola and Valente overtake Altoè who drops to third ahead of Tassi, Vernay and Morbidelli

Lap 2: the safety car is deployed to recover Homola’s car

Lap 4: the race resumes

Lap 5: Tassi overtakes Altoè for third; Borković overtakes Morbidelli for fifth; Ficza overtakes Kajaia for ninth

Lap 6: Comini pits and retires

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Lap 7: Nash overtakes Morbidelli for sixth

Lap 8: Colciago overtakes Morbidelli for seventh

Lap 9: Oriola pulls away from Valente

Lap 10: Nash overtakes Borković for fifth

Lap 11: Colciago and Nash go wide and Borković retakes fifth; Ficza overtakes Nash for sixth

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Lap 13: Borković, Ficza, Nash, Colciago, Morbidelli and Nash have a close battle

Lap 14: Ficza makes a mistake and drops behind Nash and Colciago

Lap 15: Ficza and Colciago make contact, Ficza stops and retires

Lap 16: Kajaia overtakes Morbidelli for eighth

Lap 17: Oriola wins from Valente, Tassi and Vernay; Borković keeps fifth ahead of Colciago who overtakes Nash for sixth; Corthals claims the last point

Quotes from the Race 2 podium finishers

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

Pepe Oriola (winner): “It’s the third year in a row that I manage to win a race in the opening event of the TCR International Series, it seems that I come always strong out of the winter… It’s really nice to win a race after the difficult event we had, with a bad qualifying and lots of trouble. My start wasn’t great, because I was on a line still humid and my wheels got spinning, but I could keep Hugo behind, then I pushed hard to try to build some advantage. It wasn’t easy because it was not very clear if it was raining or not and as the race leader you always risk to be caught by surprise first…”

Hugo Valente (second): “It’s great for the team to end a difficult weekend with a 1-2. It’s also a good result for me for a first outing with a new team and a new car. At the start, I got side-by-side with Pepe, we even touched slightly, and after that my steering wasn’t that precise on left turns. I coul never really attack Pepe, but the objective was to score heavy points.”

Attila Tassi (third): “I am happy with the podium and with my performances throughout the weekend. I could not hope on such a weekend before it started, especially given that I was driving the Honda for the first time. In Race 2, Pepe and Hugo were far away in front, but I had a good fight with Vernay and could defend third.”

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2017 TCR International Series – calendar

2 April – Rustavi International Motopark, Georgia

16 April – Bahrain International Circuit (F1 event)

6 May – Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium (WEC event)

14 May – Autodromo di Monza, Italy (ELMS event)

11 June – Salzburgring, Austria

2 July – Hungaroring, Budapest (GT Open event)

9 July – Motorsport Arena Oschersleben, Germany (with ADAC TCR Germany)

3 September – Chang International Circuit, Buriram (with TCR Thailand)

8 October – Zhejiang International Circuit, China (with TCR China)

26 November – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi (F1 event)

After this resounding start, the series will resume over the Easter weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit in the frame of the Formula One Grand Prix.

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!!!

 

TCR News Roundup…March 2017 Part 2

With the TCR International Series getting underway in Georgia during the first weekend in April, the news is now coming thick and fast regarding Driver and Team line-ups for the 2017 season. Here are some more of those announcements:

Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing Continue Winning Partnership with Lukoil and SEAT Sport

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

Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing will continue their long-standing partnership with Russian oil giant Lukoil and Spanish car manufacturer, SEAT Sport.

Lukoil has titled sponsored the team and its three SEAT Leon Cup Racer TCRs since the inaugural season began in 2015. They have enjoyed much success together, taking 2nd in both the teams’ and drivers’ championship in their first season of competition. In 2016 Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing secured the teams’ title by a dominant 73 point margin and took second in the drivers’ championship, narrowly missing out on the top spot by only 3.5 points but cementing themselves as one of the strongest contenders for 2017.

Lukoil and SEAT Sport join Craft-Bamboo Racing for the third consecutive TCR International Series season and are focused on building on their past success to take both the drivers’ and teams’ titles. Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing has been a constant front-runner in the championship over the past two seasons and will be pushing themselves even harder to continue their string of top results, ensuring they are in the leading position come the final round.

The team will once again run three cars, with the trio displaying an updated livery for the 2017 season. The 2017 livery is an evolution of Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing’s 2016 design but features more aggressive geometric patterns on the flank of the car. A revised design on the front end gives the SEAT an even sharper look, while white wheel arches at the front help to define the wider track of the Leon Cup Racer TCR. The livery is tied up with a dominantly red back end contrasted with a blacked out rear valance to complete the 2017 package.

Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing Confirms Nash, Oriola and Valente for TCR International Series

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Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing is proud to announce a fresh and exciting driver lineup for the 2017 TCR International Series season that features a strong mix of highly experienced and successful touring car drivers. Hugo Valente, James Nash and Pepe Oriola form the trio of drivers that will be fighting for TCR International Series glory alongside Lukoil and SEAT Sport in 2017.

New to the team for 2017 is Hugo Valente, the seasoned World Touring Car Championship driver who started his WTCC career in 2013. Valente continued his rise and signed as a factory driver with Lada Sport Rosneft in 2016 before finishing the competition in 12th place. Valente joins Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing and now returns to SEAT where he started his touring car career in the French SEAT Leon Supercopa in 2012. His experience in high level touring car racing and behind the wheel of the SEAT Leon will be invaluable as he quickly gets accustomed to the new car, new circuits, and the competition.

James Nash is back for his second TCR season with Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing and the Brit has the sole intention of claiming the drivers’ championship title he so narrowly missed out on by only 3.5 points in Macau last year. Nash rejoins the 2016 TCR Teams’ Champions and hopes to build on his immensely successful 2016 track record where he claimed 11 podiums from 22 races, the most out of any driver in the series. His calculated driving style and consistency in the #54 SEAT Leon throughout his inaugural season were key factors in his ability to challenge the more experienced TCR drivers of the competition. With a year behind the wheel of the SEAT Leon now under his belt, Nash will be starting this season in a much stronger position and is sure to be one of the top contenders for the drivers’ title in 2017.

Pepe Oriola completes Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing’s trio of drivers and joins the team for the third consecutive season. After an incredibly successful two years behind the wheel of the SEAT Leon, the young gun is heading into the 2017 season with his eyes firmly set on the drivers’ championship title. The Spaniard has been a constant front runner ever since the series’ began in 2015 and is proving to be one of the fastest SEAT drivers on the grid. Oriola took 2nd place in his debut season with an incredible 12 podiums and continued his string of success in 2016, taking four wins and a total of nine podiums that would see him lead the championship on multiple occasions throughout the season before finishing fourth overall.

Oriola has been a dominant force in the championship and after just missing out on the title in 2015 and continually trading the top spot on the ladder throughout 2016; the young but highly experienced touring car driver is back with Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing to claim the title he has been so tantalizingly close to over the past two years.

The team has their eyes firmly set on taking both the drivers’ and teams’ championship titles this season and with the careful selection of Hugo Valente, James Nash and Pepe Oriola for their 2017 driver lineup, Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing has ensured that they have the best chance at victory when the season kicks off in Georgia on April 2nd.

PAULSEN AIMS AT THE TCR EUROPEAN TROPHY

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The 2017 TCR European Trophy has found its first pretender in Stian Paulsen. The 29-year-old Norwegian plans to qualify for the final event at Adria by taking part in all the European rounds of the TCR International Series, driving a SEAT León TCR run by his own team.

Paulsen has earned a solid reputation at the wheel of front-wheel-drive touring cars, claiming race victories in the German Volkswagen Polo Cup (2007), the Belgian Renault Clio Cup (2008) and the SEAT León Eurocup (2014/16). He was also crowned champion in the Single-Make Trophy of the 2012 FIA European Touring Car Cup.

“I am very excited by this programme. The plan is to take part in the five European rounds of the TCR International Series and then in the TCR Europe final at Adria. 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,” Paulsen said.

ICARUS MOTORSPORTS TO ADD A SECOND CAR FROM SPA

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Icarus Motorsports will begin its maiden season in the TCR International Series with only one SEAT León car for Duncan Ende in Georgia and Bahrain.
The second car will be run from the third event, at Spa-Francorchamps.

Ende explained: “Unfortunately we suffered some significant delays which held our cars up in customs. The timetable was far too short to properly update both cars to 2017 specs for the first race, so we elected to focus our resources on doing the job right on a single car, postponing the debut of the second car when the series returns to Europe.”

The team has yet to unveil the name of its second driver.

Norbert Michelisz launches M1RA for TCR International title assault

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It is our great pleasure to present to you a brand-new racing team from Hungary, M1RA, to contest the TCR International Series in 2017.

Founded by Hungarian motorsport hero Norbert Michelisz and renowned race engineer David Bári, M1RA will field a pair of Honda Civic Type R TCRs in the series from its base in Kecskemét.

Bári will be Team Principal while Michelisz’s main role will be helping to promote and nurture the next generation of Hungarian racing talent. The drivers will be Hungarian Attila Tassi and Italian Roberto Colciago while the Race Engineers will be Bári (Tassi) and Giancarlo Bruno (Colciago).

TCR series Sochi, Russia 02 - 03 July 2016

Despite his age, 17-year-old Tassi will enter his sixth year of racing in 2017. A regular race winner in the Hungarian Suzuki Swift Cup from 2012-15, he finished 11th in TCR International last year despite only joining the series midway through the season, and took a deserved podium finish in Russia.

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

The experienced Colciago, by contrast, made his race debut in 1981 and has amassed a sizeable number of championship titles including the Italian Formula 3 crown in 1990 and several national touring car crowns in Italy and Sweden. Now aged 48, he is the reigning TCR Italy champion and was a race winner in TCR International in Malaysia last year.

M1RA has shaken down both cars at Cervesina recently and will make its race debut at the TCR International season-opener at the new Rustavi International Motorpark in Georgia on April 1-2.

The season will be spread across 10 rounds across Europe and Asia and conclude at the Yas Marina Circuit in the UAE on November 26-27 in support of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Q&A with Norbert Michelisz, Team Owner:

What has driven you to establish M1RA? “For many years I have had ambitions of creating my own race team, but had always assumed that this would come at the end of my driving career. However, at the end of 2016, all the ingredients were in place to create M1RA. The right people; like David Bári, the right car; the Honda Civic Type R TCR, and the right programme in TCR International, were all available, so this is the ideal time.”

Why have you chosen to race Hondas in TCR International? “We evaluated a number of different series, including WTCC2, but for now, TCR International provided the best fit for our aims and objectives. In terms of the choice of machinery, I raced a Honda Civic Type R TCR several times in TCR Benelux last year and won six races, so I know how good a car it is. It’s a proven championship winner and my relationship with JAS Motorsport – who build the cars – is also very strong as they run the factory Civics I race in the FIA World Touring Car Championship. There was no other car under consideration really and it will form a very strong basis for our team.”

What will your role be with M1RA? “I’ve been heavily involved in setting up the team, even down to the name; Mira is the name my wife, Johanna, picked out for our daughter, who is due to be born later this month and so it’s a name that’s very close to my heart. But now my primary focus is on my ‘day job’ as a factory Honda driver in the WTCC and on fighting for the title, so my role within M1RA will focus on nurturing and developing the next generation of Hungarian racing talent. This starts with Attila Tassi who, like me, started out in Sim Racing and is one of the few people in the past 10 years who has beaten me! David Bári will be Team Principal. He is an extremely talented engineer with a lot of experience and success behind him in touring-car racing and he will do a great job. I’ve been very close to the Bári family for a long time as David’s brother, Gergo, is my Race Engineer in the WTCC.”

What are your ambitions for the season? “To win the championship. I know that sounds very ambitious for our first season as TCR has some very strong and experienced teams and drivers, but I genuinely think that we have all the ingredients necessary to mount a serious challenge. Attila has incredible potential and has already been a podium finisher in his first season while Roberto is an experienced championship winner in touring cars and will definitely be a force to be reckoned with. Nobody thought 10 years ago that a sim racer like me could be a genuine contender for major racing titles, so I think we’re in a good position to show people what we can do.”

HYUNDAI SIGNS GABRIELE TARQUINI AS TCR TEST DRIVER

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Hyundai Motorsport has signed Gabriele Tarquini as the lead test driver for the TCR project, which was announced last month. The Italian will work alongside the engineers and designers in the Customer Racing department throughout the development phase of the new car.

Tarquini brings a wealth of experience from a career in motorsport to the project. Over nearly 25 years driving for manufacturer teams in both national and international series at the highest levels of touring car competition he has established himself as one of the most successful drivers, winning three championships, including the FIA world title in 2009. However, when he begins his testing work with Hyundai Motorsport next month will be his first time at the wheel of a car built to the TCR regulations.

Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing manager Andrea Adamo said: “To be able to bring such an experienced driver into the project at this early stage is a big step forward. Gabriele Tarquini is recognized as one of the most successful current touring car drivers. However, he has also shown his ability to work with a team, helping to develop a project for competition. For us this is very important.

The TCR marketplace is growing, but it is very competitive, with a number of top manufacturers building models for the regulations. Because of this we need to take full advantage of all of our test running over the coming months so we can deliver a strong car to our customers that they can be competitive with in the full range of championships worldwide where TCR specification designs are welcomed.”

Tarquini said: “I’m very pleased to have joined Hyundai Motorsport and their TCR project. You can see from their rally team that they are working at a very high, a very professional, level. This will be my first time developing a TCR car so to be the lead test driver for the project is an exciting new challenge for me. I am looking forward to getting started and using my experience start developing a car from almost a blank sheet of paper. I met with some of the engineers on the project when I visited the team’s headquarters and I’m confident that we can work together to make the car competitive for a very tough set of regulations.”

The team plans to enter a second car as from the third race meeting of the season at Spa.

Tarquini will begin his test work with the team next month, with the first completed cars sold to customers planned for delivery in early December.

COMINI IN AN AUDI RS 3 LMS RUN BY COMTOYOU RACING

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Double TCR International champion Stefano Comini will defend his title at the wheel of an Audi RS 3 LMS run by Comtoyou Racing.

“I received a number of offers, including the one from Comtoyou Racing… Jean-Michel Baert, the boss of the outfit, has hired François Verbist, whom I know well since we worked together in 2016. I hold him in great esteem and this convinced me this was the best option. This project has been launched at the last-minute and we’ll go to Georgia with very little preparation. There, our goal will be to score as many points as possible. I must say that trying to conquer a third crown in a row, with a third different car brand, is a very exciting challenge!” Comini said.

Based in Waterloo and involved in the European VW Fun Cup since the end of 2015, Comtoyou Racing has seized the opportunity that presented itself. “Sometimes, in life, there are chances you cannot let go. Especially, when all the pieces of the puzzle seem to come together nicely,” acknowledges Jean-Michel Baert, the Team Principal. “This project has seen the light in less than one week! Audi Sport Customer Racing wished to see an Audi RS 3 LMS in the TCR International Series and, as I am a long-time customer with them, they lured me a bit… At the same time, François Verbist was available to organize the team, from a technical and logistical point of view. In addition, Stefano Comini was without a drive a few weeks from the start of the season, and the idea of having the #1 on our car was very appealing. In five days, we have set up everything and fetched the car from Audi Sport Customer Racing at Neuberg. It is now on its way to Georgia.”

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Well known for his role at Team WRT since 2010, François Verbist will be a key element in the new organization, contributing all his experience and competence. “It’s crazy how fast this project has taken off! Between the first phone call with Audi Sport Customer Racing and the delivery of the car, only 48 hours had passed. We are happy to have their support, as they wish to showcase the competitiveness of the Audi RS 3 LMS in the global series. Everything has happened very late and, clearly, we’ll need a couple of races to be at the top, but I am sure that we have the best people in the team and that we will make it. On top, with Stefano, we have one of the very top drivers. It is a huge challenge, but we are here to bid for the title!”

VESNIĆ TO RACE AN AUDI IN THE EUROPEAN TROPHY

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After years of racing in different European racing series, multiple Serbian and FIA Central European Zone Touring Car champion Milovan Mikica Vesnić will compete in the European events of the 2017 TCR International Series and in the final of the TCR European Trophy at Adria.

The 40-year old Vesnić will drive a brand new Audi RS 3 LMS run by the all-Serbian racing team ASK Vesnić.

“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 and our country at our best in TCR International. For the time being we have already the budget two-three events, but we are working hard to take part in all the five European rounds plus the final in Adria,” said Vesnić.

CORTHALS AND HOMOLA IN DG SPORT’S OPEL ASTRA CARS

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DG Sport Compétition announced Pierre-Yves Corthals and Mat’o Homola as the drivers of the two Opel Astra TCR cars entered by the Belgian team for its maiden season in the TCR International Series.

The 22-year old Homola has established himself as one of the most competitive young Touring Car drivers at an international level; last year he was one of the title contenders in the TCR International Series, claiming one race win and ranking 5th in the Drivers’ Championship. “I’m excited to race again in the TCR International Series, which I consider as one of the best and the most competitive touring car series. And I’m pleased to be part of DG Sport, an experienced team that claimed the TCR European Trophy in 2016. I believe there is a huge potential in the combination between the team and the new Opel Astra TCR. I am looking forward to new victories!” said Homola.

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Corthals has been confirmed by the team after last year’s successful campaign that saw ‘Pilou’ winning the TCR European Trophy and finishing runner-up in the TCR Benelux with six race wins. The Belgian driver has also worked together with the Opel Motorsport technicians to develop the 2017 version of the Astra. He declared: “I am very pleased to take part in the TCR International Series. Because I know well the potential of the car, I think that we have all the cards to be able to compete for the top positions. The fact that nobody knows the Rustavi track and that we have a very professional team, makes it an ideal context to start the season.”

Team manager Lionel Hansen is confident: “Even if its engine and gearbox haven’t been changed from last year, the Astra TCR underwent significant technical improvements: running gear, suspensions, aerodynamics and also the optimization of brakes and electronics. All this has made the car easier to drive to the limits, like we saw during the Balance of Performance test in Adria, where the Astra proved fast and reliable.”

ZENGŐ MOTORSPORT TO RACE STARD-BUILT KIA CARS

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Hungary-based Zengő Motorsport will run two STARD-built KIA cee’d TCR cars in the 2017 International Series from the third event of the season at Spa-Francorchamps.

The team, directed by Zoltán Zengő, has gained impressive experience in international Touring Car competitions, claiming brilliant results in the FIA European and World championships. The young Hungarian Ferenc Ficza, who will turn 20 in May, has been named as one of the two drivers.

I am very proud to announce that STARD and Zengő Motorsport have established what we expect to be a successful cooperation. I have been amazed by the perfection of the new KIA cee’d TCR that has been built and developed by STARD and highly appreciate their confidence in choosing us as their partner in the TCR International Series. We hope to be able to repay their confidence by reaching good results from the Belgian event onwards. We have named Ferenc Ficza as our first driver, because our mission at Zengő Motorsport has always been to take care of Hungary’s young and talented drivers!” said Zoltán Zengő.

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Michael Sakowitz, CEO STARD stated: “We are very pleased to have ZengőMotorsport, one of the most prestigious and successful Touring Car squads in recent years, with their leading driver Ferenc Ficza, running our brand new K:Force KIA cee´d TCR in its maiden season in the TCR International series. Zoltan Zengőgot in touch with us in 2016 about his project and we immediately realised that Zengö Motorsport and STARD shared the same competitive targets. We are very optimistic that this will be a successful partnership and we will fully support the team with our premium customer service. We are looking forward to a very exciting first season!“

TCR promoter Marcello Lotti commented:“This is an alliance to keep an eye on! I know ZengőMotorsport well and I consider it to be a very professional and ambitious team. At the same time, I was impressed by the determination that STARD has lavished on the KIA cee’d TCR project. There’s no doubt that the two together will do well.”

JENS MØLLER ENTERS A HONDA CIVIC IN THE EUROPEAN EVENTS

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Jens Reno Møller was the third driver to commit to take part in the European events if the TCR International Series in order to qualify for the TCR European Trophy final at Adria International Raceway in October.
Møller has been a regular participant in both the Danish and the Scandinavian Touring Car championships, mostly driving JAS Motorsport-built Honda cars and establishing a solid customer relationship with the Italian engineering company. A relationship that the Dane – who was crowned 2009 DTC Independent champion – has just renewed, as he will race in a Honda Civic TCR.

“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. For me the European final at Adria is where we need to show our potential and then we’ll see for next year. I am also very pleased because I managed to bring back all the team members who have been worked with me until 2010!” said Møller who had his first test in the car Tuesday and Wednesday at Spa.

LEOPARD RACING CONFIRMS INTERNATIONAL SERIES PROGRAMME

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

Following its successful maiden season in 2016, Leopard Racing Team confirmed its commitment to the TCR International Series with the aim to defend its title in the Drivers’ Championship.

The team will continue to work together with WRT that provides its experienced and professional structure. They will be supported by an important partner like Castrol, a company with a long and proven history in motorsports.

For the 2017 season Leopard Racing and WRT will run Volkswagen Golf GTi cars once again.

Jean-Karl Vernay, who was classified third in the 2016 TCR International Series, claiming three race victories and two pole positions, has been confirmed at the wheel of the team’s first car from the opening event at Rustavi.

The young Frenchman said: “I am very pleased to race in the TCR International Series once again and with the same team. This is a nice change for me, because it’s the first time in my racing career that I’m able to take part in the same championship in two consecutive seasons. It is definitely a good thing, because it will make my life easier and will help me to be competitive straight away. I know some of the racetracks, I know the Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR very well and I get along well with the team that proved to be very professional. I reckon it will be a bit difficult in the first two events, as I will have to race by myself, with no teammate. Despite this, I am very confident because we have a competitive package.”

FICZA BEGINS THE SEASON WITH ZELE RACING

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Ferenc Ficza will race in the first two events of the season at Rustavi International Motorpark and Bahrain International Circuit in a SEAT León TCR run by Zele Racing.
After several years in single-seater and GT championships, the Austrian team, directed by Michael Zele, is ready to make its maiden appearance in the TCR International Series.

“We had the opportunity to enter the International Series and have taken up the challenge. To us everything is new, but I am sure we will learn quickly what it takes to be competitive. We are all excited to be on the grid and are looking forward to work with TCR and SEAT,” Zele said.

“It’s great to be back in the International Series with such an experienced team. I am sure we will have a lot of fun out there,” said Ficza who made occasional appearances in the 2015 TCR International Series and will drive a KIA cee’d TCR for Zengő Motorsport from the third event at Spa-Francorchamps onwards.
Zele Racing will either sign a driver for the rest of the season or entrust the SEAT to race-by-race guest drivers.

A second car will be fielded from the third event of the season at Spa-Francorchamps and until the end of the season.

 

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

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!!!

 

 

TCR News Roundup…March 2017…

So, there’s been quite a bit of news over the past four weeks regarding the TCR International Series and also the crucial TCR Balance of Performance test that takes place at the Adria circuit in Italy.

Here’s the round up of the recent news and activities…

Hyundai Motorsport announces its TCR project

Hyundai Motorsport announces its TCR project

Hyundai Motorsport has chosen to develop a TCR car for its first steps into circuit racing. The project, built to compete in the growing number of TCR championships around the world, continues the growth of Hyundai Motorsport. The company was established in 2012, and consists of the rally-winning WRC team and the Customer Racing department.

The new car will be based on the New Generation i30, which was launched last year. The racing version is designed to take advantage of the best qualities of the road-going model, which went through its own rigorous testing plan, including mileage on the Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit.

In line with current TCR regulations the car will be powered by a two-litre turbocharged engine from within the Hyundai range, and fitted with a six-speed gearbox and 100-litre fuel tank.

Work on the design began at Hyundai Motorsport in September 2016. The building and development of the cars will also be completed at the company’s headquarters in Alzenau, Germany.

Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “The beginning of our first project specifically for circuit racing is a very important step for Hyundai Motorsport. The TCR regulations have proven incredibly successful, and are being embraced by a growing number of series around the world. By representing Hyundai in these championships our TCR car will promote the manufacturer in motorsport, together with our WRC and R5 projects. The coming months will be very busy for the Customer Racing department, with the TCR development running alongside the continuing support of our existing customers. I know, though, that we will create a strong car for an increasingly competitive category. Let’s look forward to seeing it on TCR starting grids.”

TCR Promoter Marcello Lotti said: “We are delighted to welcome Hyundai into the ever-growing TCR family. The arrival of the Korean manufacturer adds even more prestige to a long list of famous brands that have decided to embrace the TCR concept and compete with their production models in an expanding number of racing series worldwide. We can’t wait to see them join the International Series where we believe that they will be competitive straight away.”

The i30 TCR is scheduled to begin testing in early spring, while the first deliveries to customers are planned for December.

Adria hosts the Balance of Performance two-day test
The test will be concluded in the Pininfarina wind tunnel

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Ten different brands will take part in the TCR Balance of Performance test next week. The test, aimed at finalising the BoP for the upcoming season, will take place on March 1st and 2nd at the Adria International Raceway in Italy.

The models to be tested in Adria are: Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Audi RS 3 LMS, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, KIA c’eed, Opel Astra, Peugeot 308, SEAT León, Subaru WRX STi and Volkswagen Golf GTi. Audi, SEAT and Volkswagen will run two cars, with the DSG and the sequential gearboxes.

Drivers Nicola Larini and Andrea Belicchi have been appointed to test all the cars according to the programme prepared by the TCR Technical Bureau.
“We have confirmed Nicola for the third consecutive year, as his vast experience and speed have already proved instrumental in supplying our technicians with all the information they need. This year we have added another Touring Car expert in Belicchi, because we have so many cars that it would be an impossible task for only one man to test them all,” explained promoter Marcello Lotti.

After the track test, all cars will be transported to Grugliasco, near Turin, where their drag and lift coefficients will be measured in the Pininfarina wind tunnel on Friday, 3 March.

The results of the three-day test will be unveiled by the middle of March and they will dictate the BoP for all the TCR series worldwide.

On the day before the test – Tuesday 28th February – the technical delegates of the different TCR regional and national series will take part in a Technical Seminar during which they will be briefed by Andreas Bellu, Chief of the TCR Technical Bureau, and Umberto Fasolo, TCR Technical Delegate, about the regulations and scrutineering procedures.

WestCoast confirms drivers and a switch to Volkswagen for 2017 TCR campaign

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Swedish Touring car specialists WestCoast Racing are pleased to announce that they will campaign Volkswagen Golf TCR machinery in the 2017 TCR International Series with Gianni Morbidelli returning for his third season with the team and will be joined by promising 16-year-old Giancomo Altoè.

WestCoast Racing have been front-runners in the series since its inception in 2015, taking an unprecedented 14 wins in the first two seasons and putting themselves on top in the outright victory statistics.

Italian Superstars champion and ex F1 ace Morbidelli is keen to expand on his 14 podium visits, while Altoè makes the jump from the Middle East Series after a debut podium finish in the Abu Dhabi round.

Moving from single seaters in 2017, Altoè will partake his first full season in Touring Cars with WestCoast Racing, while Morbidelli is a known quantity to the team and will be pivotal in adapting to the new Golf TCR.

“I’m really happy and excited to do another season with WestCoast Racing,” said Morbidelli. “For this year, we have big expectations and the pressure that comes with that. We’re running a new car and we all have to get up to speed as soon as possible. I’m glad to be back, after two seasons I know the potential and the guys. Overall I’m looking forward to it!”

Altoè is also looking forward to his new challenge. “The team has a lot of experience in Touring Cars. I really like the atmosphere in team, everyone is very professional and friendly, so I’m really happy to join WestCoast Racing. It’s a big change from the Middle East Series with the Volkswagen Golf but I really enjoy the TCR category and I’m looking forward to it.

“My goal for the season is to learn as much as possible. I know Gianni very well, he’s very experienced and I hope with him as a teammate in WestCoast we can make of my first year in Touring Cars a success!”

Team Principal Dick Jönsson Wigroth explained the thinking behind the switch of manufacturer for the coming season.

“We decided the time was right to take the opportunity to make the switch to Volkswagen which took the Championship in 2016,” he explained. “We had a number of options and thought long and hard about which manufacturer would offer the best chance of a WestCoast Championship and chose the Volkswagen as we believe it offers the best overall package.”

WestCoast Racing will be making further exciting announcements ahead of the 2017 TCR International Series which gets underway in Georgia on April 2.

The BoP test took place at Adria and Grugliasco

TCR International Series Balance of Performance Test, Adria 1 -

The test to establish the Balance of Performance for the upcoming season of all the TCR series worldwide took place last week in Italy, first at the Adria International Raceway and then in the Pininfarina wind tunnel at Grugliasco.

Nine brands of car manufacturers were represented; each one had appointed its own test driver to set up the cars before the official TCR testers Nicola Larini and Andrea Belicchi took over to go through the BoP programme.

The list of test drivers included:

Mario Ferraris in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Swiss lady Rahel Frey in both the Audi RS3 LMS DSG and SEQ cars, Roberto Colciago in the Honda Civic, Mike Halder and Janis Baumanis in the KIA C’eed, Pierre-Yves Corthals in the Opel Astra, Aurélien Comte in the Peugeot 308, Miguel Molina in the SEAT León DSG, Jordi Gené in the SEAT León SEQ, Luigi Ferrara in the Subaru WRX STi and Dieter Depping in both the Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG and SEQ cars.

The FRD Motorsport-built Ford Focus that was also due to join the test did not show up as it still stuck in Amsterdam because of a problem with custom clearance.

In a sunny Adria Larini and Belicchi worked hard while testing the twelve cars.
The first day was dedicated to the performance test that consisted of a five-lap timed stint on the track, with all the cars running on the minimum weight of 1285 kilos, except for the 1.6-litre Peugeot 308 that benefited from a 100-kg reduction.

On the second day the TCR technical department focused on the coast down tests for evaluating the cars’ aerodynamics and fluency; in this case the cars accelerated and were left rolling in neutral, back and forth on the pit straight.

During both days the cars were placed in turns on the rollers of the dynamometer bench to measure dissipation of power, shaft-power, shaft-torque and boost pressure.
At the end of the second day the racing cars where trucked to Grugliasco, where drag and lift coefficients were measured in the Pininfarina wind tunnel on Friday.

The BoP results will be unveiled by the middle of March and they will dictate the BoP for all the TCR series worldwide.

TCR promoters from all over the world met in Italy

TCR promoters from all over the world meet in Italy

Promoters of fifteen TCR championships and series gathered for a general meeting in view of the upcoming season, at the Adria International Raceway, on the eve of the BoP test.

The following TCR series were represented: International, Asia, Baltic, Benelux, China, Germany, Ibérico, Italy, Middle East, Portugal, Russia, Scandinavia and Spain; the promoters of 24H Series/24H TCE Series and VLN attended as well. The TCR Thailand promoter was linked by video conference.

Different topics were discussed; it was agreed to freeze car homologations for three years – until the end of 2019 – and to limit the number of engines to one per season. However, one engine change will be allowed with a reduced penalty (a five-place drop on the grid), while further changes will be penalised with a drop to the back of the grid.

It was also agreed that cars running under temporary homologation will not be eligible to score points in any championship.

TCR promoter Marcello Lotti commented: “It has been a very constructive meeting and it proved even further that all the members of the TCR global community share the same views and work together to strengthen the worldwide alliance.”

Technical delegates attended seminar at Adria

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

The first ever TCR Technical Seminar was also held at the Adria International Raceway in Italy.

Technical delegates from twelve TCR championships and series worldwide attended a meeting that was hosted by Umberto Fasolo, the Technical Delegate of the International Series.

The first part of the meeting was devoted to analysing details of the TCR Technical Regulations and Technical Form. Later, Fasolo briefed his fellow technicians on the procedures for inspecting and scrutineering the cars.

Finally, electronics engineer Florian Eich explained the use of the Smart Data Logger that has been developed by Ingenieurbüro Krug and has been adopted in order to control the boost pressure limits that will be fixed for each model after the Balance of Performance test.

After the meeting the delegates had the opportunity to visit the garages and have a close look at the cars.

The BAPRO dynamometer hard at work in the BoP test

TCR International Series Balance of Performance Test, Adria 1 -

The Balance of Performance test inaugurated a collaboration between TCR and BAPRO, an Italian company specialising in the development and production of chassis dynamometers for cars and motorbikes.

BAPRO Export Manager Mauro Sgarbi said: “Our company has developed a long standing experience with customers like Magneti Marelli, Maserati and Ducati, but the cooperation with TCR marks our very first step into motor sports. This will help us to develop a series of products dedicated to racing cars that will combine affordable costs with accuracy in measurements.”

Chief engineer Mattia Serafin explained: “The bench that we are using in Adria is based on rollers inertia and performs power tests. We place the car on the rollers and, after a brief warm up, we launch it in a controlled acceleration. This enables us to measure dissipation of power, shaft-power, shaft-torque and the boost pressure.”

TCR promoter Marcello Lotti commented: “We are very pleased with this cooperation. BAPRO offers high technology products at an affordable cost. We are confident that their dynamometer will prove to be an efficient scrutineering tool on site, during some events of all the TCR series worldwide.”

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!!!

 

2016 TCR International Series Finale: Macau

A four-way fight to decide the Drivers’ Championship

The battle for the second TCR International Series Drivers’ title will be decided this upcoming weekend on Macau’s street circuit.

Two pairs of teammates – James Nash and Pepe Oriola of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil and Stefano Comini and Jean-Karl Vernay of Leopard Racing – will face in a four-way fight, representing two brands, SEAT and Volkswagen respectively.

Nash has a lead of 17 points over last year’s champion Comini. In third place, a further 16 points adrift, is Oriola while Vernay lies fourth, 39 points off the lead. Both Oriola and Vernay have acknowledged that the title is all but beyond them and so both have pledged to help their teammates, but Macau is widely regarded as being a complete lottery and impossible to predict and so the pair aren’t out of the fight just yet…

Just as in 2015, when Comini was crowned the category’s first ever champion, the final races are set to provide some thrilling battles.

tcr_macau_race-2

Track activity took place on Thursday morning with a 30-minute Free Practice; a second Practice session followed on Friday, while the Qualifying session split into Q1 (25 minutes) and Q2 (15 minutes, for the twelve fastest in Q1) will be run on Saturday in the early morning.

The two back-to-back races will took place on Sunday morning; the finishing order of Race 1 used to determine the grid for Race 2, the famous Guia Touring Car Race.

Success Ballast only for James Nash’s SEAT

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

Current championship leader James Nash will be the only driver to carry the Success Ballast on board his car during the TCR International Series final race meeting. The Briton’s SEAT León will be laden by 30 extra kilos, as Nash emerged as the best scorer in the previous race meeting.

At Sepang, Nash collected 33 points, more than the two race winners of the Malaysian event: Roberto Colciago (30) and Kevin Gleason (29). However, none of them will take part in the season’s finale.

Nash’s SEAT will weigh 1345 kg, against the 1315 kg of the Honda Civic and other SEAT cars, while the Volkswagen Golf cars will run on 1285 kg.

Tiago Monteiro and Josh Files join the final party

The season-ending weekend won’t just be all about Nash, Comini, Oriola and Vernay; the finale always attracts guest drivers and this year is no exception, with two newcomers who are more than capable of springing surprises. Portugal’s Tiago Monteiro will be in the third WestCoast Racing Honda Civic, while British driver Josh Files competes in the same Target Competition Honda with which he won this year’s TCR Germany title.

Earlier this season, Monteiro had made a couple of appearances at the wheel of the Civic TCR at Spa and Zandvoort.

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

“Thanks to my relationship with Honda I have been able to get to know the car in the TCR Benelux series where I won two races, and I enjoyed it right away! The car is quite easy to drive and very fun, as well as very competitive. So it was an honour and a great joy when I was invited to join the International Series for Macau! ” said Monteiro who is aware of the tough commitment:

“I know the level is very high. I know most of the front-runners, so I’m aware that the task ahead will be tough, especially as they have been doing the whole season with this cars. If I can be at the front, I will be glad and that’s my goal… But first of all, I intend to enjoy myself and give it all. I also know that the championship is being decided there, and I don’t want to interfere.”

2016-2016 Macau Thursday---50 Joseph Files_9.jpg

Files made a one-off appearance in the International Series, last year: “I am excited to return to Macau, especially at the wheel of my German championship-winning Honda Civic with my championship-winning team Target Competition! I feel this year we have a real shot to be right towards the front of the field! I genuinely can’t wait for the event to start. All I need to do is de-familiarise myself with the track and learn the Michelin tyres, whilst obviously tweaking the car to suit the conditions.”

“Will be a lot of fun, and a great feeling to come up against the TCR International guys, and of course Monteiro. As long as we stick to our normal routine and work ethic, we should hopefully been in the thick of it and have two really fun races. Obviously I don’t want to get in the way of any championship deciding battle though, so hopefully we can be in front of it!” Files declared.

Fulín and Belicchi are back with Mulsanne Racing

After fielding only one car in the three previous race meetings at Buriram, Singapore and Sepang, Mulsanne Racing will run two Alfa Romeo Giulietta cars once again in the season finale.

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

Petr Fulín will be back at the wheel after skipping Sepang for a previous commitment; the Czech driver will be joined by Andrea Belicchi in the team’s second Giulietta.

As Michela Cerruti is still undergoing medical checks since she suffered from the consequences of renal colic, Mulsanne Racing has called Belicchi to replace her.

The Italian driver was a regular competitor in last year’s TCR International Series, claiming one race victory and finishing sixth in the Drivers’ Championship; he also obtained a brilliant second place in Macau’s Race 2.

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

During the current season, Belicchi made two occasional appearances with TCR cars: driving an Opel Astra in the International Series opening at Bahrain and a Honda Civic in the ADAC TCR Germany at the Red Bull Ring where he finished second in Race 2.

WSC launches TCR Middle East Series

middle-east_1

The proliferation of TCR regional and national series continues with the launch of TCR Middle East.

During the TCR International Series race meeting at the Bahrain International Circuit earlier in the season, promoter Marcello Lotti had the opportunity to meet with local promoters and lay the foundations for the new regional series.

“We found a lot of enthusiasm from the promoters, the circuits and the National Sporting Authorities. It is clear that motorsport is gaining popularity in the Middle East, as has been proved by the building of several top-level racetracks and the success of international races such as the 24 Hours of Dubai. This is also helping local drivers to become more experienced and competitive, as we saw with the performance of Salman Al Khalifa and Hussain Karimi when they joined the TCR International Series during the F1 Grand Prix,” Lotti said.

Following further meetings, details have now been finalized and the TCR Middle East Series is now being announced as an international series for the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) zone organized by WSC Middle East.

The 2017 TCR Middle East Series will be run between January and March and will consist of three events: on 12/14 January at the Dubai Autodrome, 10/11 February at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit and 10/11 March at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Lotti added: “The idea was to establish a series that may be also interesting for Europe-based teams and drivers, offering them the opportunity to race on modern and demanding circuits with affordable budgets during what is considered the off-season in Europe. Which is why the series will finish in March, giving the teams enough times to ship the cars back for the beginning of the national championships.”

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The event featured a press conference that was attended by representatives of the local media and two test sessions that offered the local drivers the opportunity to sit at the wheel of a Volkswagen Golf TCR provided by Engstler Motorsport; 45 of them registered for the test.

Representatives of Audi Sport Customer Racing, JAS Motorsport and Romeo Ferraris were also present to meet the teams and explain the technical features of their cars and how to order them.

Bahrain International Circuit Chief Executive Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa commented: “We would like to thank TCR for their passion and drive in organising the first-ever TCR Middle East Series. We fully support this championship and we are excited to see its contributions to the vibrant motorsport culture in the region. We look forward to hosting the third and final round of the season in March of 2017 and we expect a full grid of some of the most talented racers from our part of the world.”

TCR promoter Marcello Lotti thanked Shaikh Salman and BIC before saying: “The TCR global community is growing faster than expected. We already have a number of regional and national series around the world, but we want more. The TCR Middle East is the latest addition and we are pleased to see that it is attracting so much interest from the local teams and drivers.”

 The Leopard Racing duo dominate the field as Vernay beats Comini in the fight for the pole position

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The Leopard Racing duo of Jean-Karl Vernay and Stefano Comini dominated the field in a Qualifying session that was spoiled by rain in its second and decisive part.

The young Frenchman set an impressive fastest lap in Q2 of 3:00.602 at the wheel of his Volkswagen Golf, beating his own teammate Comini by 0.491 seconds. The 2015 TCR International Series champion could have been even faster, but he was slowed down by Pepe Oriola on his last attempt. The Spaniard was also on a fast lap but could not give way to Comini until they reached the final sector where overtaking was possible.

Both Oriola and his Craft-Bamboo Lukoil teammate James Nash seemed less at ease in the wet than their rivals in the championship fight and eventually qualified seventh (Nash) and tenth (Oriola).

Guest star Tiago Monteiro drove his WestCoast Racing Honda Civic to third position, while Antti Buri surprisingly qualified fourth and best of the SEAT drivers, just ahead of Dušan Borković.

In terms of championship points, the Qualifying results mean that Comini has closed the gap to Nash from 17 to 13 points, while Vernay is still fourth, 34 points behind the leader but now only one behind Oriola.

The two final races of the TCR International Series will take place tomorrow at 10:05 and 11:20 over a distance of ten laps.

Q1: Oriola sets the fastest lap

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

Pepe Oriola was the only driver to break the 2:34 wall, as he posted a fastest lap of 2:33.480 that no one else was able to match.

The top drivers tried to post fast laps in the early stages in order to avoid problems with the traffic and the slower cars. Oriola (2:36.713), Mat’o Homola (2:36.646) and Tiago Monteiro (2:35.362) all clocked provisional fastest laps until Oriola eventually completed a lap of 2:33.480 that topped the time sheet for good.

Jean-Karl Vernay (2:34.121), Monteiro (2:34.217), Dušan Borković (2:34.415), James Nash (2:34.456), Josh Files (2:34.700), Stefano Comini (2:34.738), Homola (2:34.814), Sergey Afanasyev (2:34.821) and Attila Tassi (2:34.892) all improved and filled the positions between second and tenth.

The rain came with five minutes left, preventing any further improvements. Antti Buri and Gianni Morbidelli managed to claim the last two spots that granted access to Q2.

Among those who failed to make the cut were Andy Yan (13th – only one tenth slower than Morbidelli), Davit Kajaia (14th), Tin Sritrai (20th – he spoiled his chances crashing at the Police bend) and the two Alfa Romeo cars of Petr Fulín (21st) and Andrea Belicchi (25th) that suffered from turbo and gearbox problems respectively.

Mikhail Grachev missed the whole session, as he crashed at the Mandarin bend on his first lap out.

Q2: Vernay sets pole in the wet

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

As the rain eased, lap times dropped dramatically. Eventually the fight for the pole was restricted to the Leopard Racing teammates in their Volkswagen Golf cars.

On his last lap, Vernay claimed his second pole of the season with a lap of 3:00.602 that demoted Comini (3:01.093) to second.

Monteiro posted the third fastest lap (3:02.604), with Buri (3:04.393), Borković (3:04.442) and Morbidelli (3:04.723) in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

The Craft-Bamboo Lukoil title contenders Nash (3:05.033) and Oriola (3:05.936) qualified in seventh and tenth positions respectively.

Quotes after the Qualifying session

Jean-Karl Vernay (pole position): “It was a great session! We knew the Golf is very quick in the wet, we saw it at the Salzburgring and it proved here again. The key was to stay calm and go through the first laps, which were quite tricky and with very poor visibility. We raised the bar lap after lap, working together with Stefano, pushing and pulling each other. My last lap was the fastest, I knew it was a very good lap and just tried to avoid mistakes in the last sector.”

Stefano Comini (second fastest): “Second is very good, although my last lap was unlucky as I found Pepe Oriola on the way. He did not block me, everything was very correct, but he was slower. It would have probably meant pole, as the data in the dashboard were telling I was one second faster than in the lap that gave second, but it was good like that, it was a nice team result, and it was good to keep the championship battle alive. Actually, we were lucky to get the rain for Q2, it suited us well especially after the difficult Q1 I had, touching the walls four times. The best thing of the day, though, is that I could do the Melco hairpin with the handbrake, it was something I always wanted to do, it was great and now that box is ticked!”

Tiago Monteiro (third fastest): “After the difficult day yesterday, it’s nice to be in the top-three and retrieve confidence. Then, the conditions changed for Q2 and that was tricky, because it wasn’t wet the same way in all parts of the track, but the situation was the same for everybody. It was challenging for me, as I don’t know the car that well, so I preferred not to change much in the set-up and that was a good decision.”

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

Antti Buri (fourth fastest): “It was a good session for me, especially given it is my first time here. It wasn’t easy on the wet, but I felt comfortable with the car. It was a pity, though, because I believe that in normal dry conditions, we would have brought down the lap times by one second. The only trouble today is that I had no radio and the watch on the dashboard was not working, so I had no idea of how good the times were.”

James Nash (seventh fastest): “Q1 was simple, although I was deliberately blocked by Comini half-way through the session, and the team reported that to the stewards. In Q2, it was simply ridiculous to see how big is the gap with the Golf cars, but the god thing is that I’m still ahead of my team mates despite the extra weight.”

Pepe Oriola (tenth fastest): “Bad luck for me with the rain, Macau really does not like me. Q1 was fine and I stayed way within my limits not to take any risk, but on the wet in Q2 we were really struggling with no grip and no traction. It’s hard to believe that we are 5 seconds slower than our direct competitors.”

A further 20-kilo weight break for Alfa Romeo

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

A further weight break was granted to the Alfa Romeo Giulietta cars before today’s Qualifying session.

As a consequence, the two Italian cars entered by Mulsanne Racing for Petr Fulín and Andrea Belicchi will run at 1225 kilos with the drivers onboard.

Another amendment to the Balance of Performance, compared to the previous technical bulletin issued last Wednesday, was about the SEAT León TCR DSG model. As these cars cannot get down to 1230 kilos, they have been brought back to the original running weight of 1250. As a result they have been authorized to run with a 70mm ground clearance instead of 80mm.

Stefano Comini clinches a second successive Drivers’ title

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

Stefano Comini confirmed himself as the ‘king’ of the TCR International Series by winning a second consecutive Drivers’ title in what was, arguably, the most chaotic race meeting in the short history of the category.

Despite the fact that both races were dramatically shortened by red flags and suspensions, the Swiss driver was able to exploit the remaining track time to show his driving skill and strategic view. A perfect start meant Comini put himself in the best position to win Race 1 and reduce his gap from James Nash (who retired after a collision with another car) to a mere half point.

In the second race, Comini did not take any risks and let Tiago Monteiro, Jean-Karl Vernay and Pepe Oriola through to claim the podium positions, settling on a fourth place that granted him the title.

There was recognition too for the great efforts put in by Leopard Racing and Volkswagen Motorsport on their first season in TCR. The icing on the cake for them was Vernay’s third position in the Drivers’ standings.

Craft-Bamboo Lukoil teammates James Nash and Pepe Oriola had to bow to the Comini-Vernay duo and placed themselves second and fourth in the championship. Both would have deserved to be champion, but were victims of the Guia street circuit ‘law’ that always favours those who are good (or lucky) enough to keep out of trouble.

TCR promoter Marcello Lotti commented: “It was a shame that such an exciting season has come to an end with two races that were plagued by incidents and suspensions. We knew that this is always a risk you take when you decide to race in Macau but I’m afraid that this year, troubles have been increased by the decision to allow cars complying with different regulations to race together.”

This is also the reason why Macau has not been included in the provisional calendar of the 2017 TCR International Series.

Comini wins a chaotic Race 1, as Nash crashes

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

The first race turned into a complete chaos. A number of incidents prompted the red flag once and forced the safety car to intervene twice.

Eventually only five laps were completed, equating to 50% of the scheduled race distance. As a consequence only 50% of the points were awarded.

With Stefano Comini emerging as the winner and James Nash eliminated after he hit the wall, the gap between the two was reduced to only half-a-point before the final race, with the Briton still in the lead.

The only other driver still in contention – at least theoretically – was Jean-Karl Vernay, 25 points behind the leader.

RACE ONE KEY FACTS

Start: Comini takes the best start from Monteiro and Vernay

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

Lap 1: three local drivers crash into each other at T1; Morbidelli crashes at Mandarin; Vernay overtakes Monteiro at the Lisboa bend and moves up to second; Nash climbs to fourth ahead of Borković

Lap 2: The safety car is deployed; Afanasyev pits with engine problems

Lap 4: The race resumes after one lap behind the safety car, with only seven minutes left on the clock. Homola hits the barrier at the Lisboa bend and blocks the track; Buri, Files, Tassi and a number of other cars are stuck behind him. Nash hits the wall and breaks the rear left suspension

Lap 5: The safety car is deployed once again; Comini leads from Vernay, Monteiro, Borković and Oriola

Lap 6: The race finishes but the chequered flag is not being waved… the drivers resume racing, but they are slowed down by the full course yellow in the second half of the lap

Race 2 – Monteiro wins and Comini is champion

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

Another chaotic race saw Tiago Monteiro as the winner and Stefano Comini as the 2016 TCR International Series champion. This was the second consecutive title for the Swiss driver and the first one for Leopard Racing and the Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR car.

Once again a pile up caused by the drivers from the Chinese championship forced the clerk of the course to suspend the race that resumed with only two laps to go.

Once again half points were awarded.

Guest star Monteiro who had pipped Comini and Jean-Karl Vernay at the start, emerged as the winner ahead of Vernay, Pepe Oriola and Comini who clinched the Drivers’ title with only 3.5 points from Nash.

RACE TWO KEY FACTS

Grid: Nash is on the grid, after the Craft-Bamboo crew performed a miracle and repaired his car; Tassi and Buri start from the pit lane

Start: Monteiro sprints from the second row of the grid and takes the lead from Comini and Vernay

Lap 1: Borković and Oriola follow in fourth and fifth positions

Lap 2: Grachev, Files and Belicchi advance to sixth, seventh and eight respectively; Nash is up to ninth

2016-2016 Macau Race 2---74 Pepe Oriola_159.jpg

Lap 3: Oriola overtakes Borković for fourth; Nash overtakes Sritrai for ninth and Belicchi for eighth

Lap 4: Another pile up is caused by the drivers from the local championship at the Police bend; the track is blocked and the race is suspended

Lap 6: The race resumes after one lap behind the safety car with only two laps to go; Vernay overtakes Comini for second at the Lisboa; Files overtake Grachev for sixth

Lap 7: Oriola overtakes Comini for third; Yan overtakes Sritrai for tenth; Monteiro wins from Vernay, Oriola and Comini

Quotes from the podium finishers in both races

Stefano Comini (2016 TCR International Series Champion – 1st in Race 1: “Champion again, that’s simply great! Last year I won with my guts, this time with my head… It was a difficult challenge but we made it, and it has really been a collective effort. I want to thank everybody at Leopard Racing, at WRT and at Volkswagen Motorsport, and give special thanks to Jean-Karl, whose help was really crucial this weekend to get the success. It has been a tough season, we had a difficult start with the car, but then we improved race after race. At this moment, I can only say that I am very, very happy.”

Tiago Monteiro (3rd in Race 1; 1st in Race 2) – “The objective was to win Macau and I achieved it. It’s a race that means so much to any driver and a place so special for us Portuguese… I am very happy and it is a revenge on the bad luck when I lost the race one lap to the end two years ago… I knew the competition was going to be very tough in TCR and so it was. Still, it was a very strange and very long race, with so many interruptions, but the few laps of real racing were very intense. I knew I had to attack and did it at the start and the restart in Race 2, and that proved to be a smart move.”

Jean-Karl Vernay (2nd in Race 1 and Race 2): “I feel a little bit sorry for the fans, who did not get the real TCR show, but Macau is Macau… For us, the target was to help Stefano to become champion, and I am happy we made it. Second twice leaves me a little bit disappointed, I really wanted to win one of the races, but it wasn’t possible. In Race 2, in the two laps that were left I attacked hard, could almost try something on Tiago, who was very fast, but made a small mistake at the Melco hairpin, and that was it.”

Pepe Oriola (3rd in Race 2): “It’s a little bit of a pity that we could not offer a good show to spectators and TV watchers but it’s Macau…Personally, I am happy to be on the podium and of my performance, that’s really the only thing to say…”

James Nash (Vice-champion in the 2016 TCR International Series): “It was a good season but not good enough… It was a difficult and disappointing weekend, but that’s how things go sometimes. Regarding the incident with Homola, I don’t understand where he wanted to pass, there was no space, it was silly…”

TCR International Series unveils 2017 calendar

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

TCR SA unveiled the provisional calendar of the 2017 TCR International Series, the third racing season since the inception of the TCR concept.

The series is aiming to maintain its main feature: supporting three Formula 1 events once again. “We have already discussed with Formula One Management to be part of the Bahrain, Monaco and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix,” promoter Marcello Lotti said.

The season will kick off at the modern Rustavi International Motopark, marking the first visit of an international motorsport series to Georgia.

The third stop, between Bahrain and Monaco, will be at Spa-Francorchamps in support of the World Endurance Championship for the second consecutive year.

Three European race meetings will follow: at the Salzburgring, the Hungaroring (together with the GT Open) and Oschersleben (together with the ADAC TCR Germany series). 

The TCR International Series will then move to the Far East for the final part of the season. There it will race at the Chang International Circuit for the third time, before moving to Korea or China for the last-but one event and then to Abu Dhabi for the grand finale.

“It is definitely an exciting sequence of venues. The addition of Monaco, Georgia, Hungary and Abu Dhabi will add further glamour to the series and will also enable the TCR concept to broaden its horizons even further,” Lotti concluded.

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2017 TCR International Series – provisional calendar

2 April – Rustavi International Motopark, Georgia

16 April – Bahrain International Circuit (F1 event)

7 May – Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium (WEC event)

28 May – Circuit de Monaco (F1 event)

11 June – Salzburgring, Austria

2 July – Hungaroring, Budapest

9 July – Motorsport Arena Oschersleben, Germany

3 September – Chang International Circuit, Buriram, Thailand

8 October – Korea / China

26 November – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi (F1 event)

2016 TCR International Series: Malaysia

TCR returns to Sepang 18 months after the inaugural event

Two weeks after racing at Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit, the TCR International Series will be part of a Formula One event once again, this weekend at Sepang.

The Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix has a special place in TCR’s short history, because 18 months ago Sepang hosted the first-ever International Series event.

On that occasion, Stefano Comini made history by clinching victory in the series’ maiden race; the first step for him on the way to being crowned champion. Jordi Gené won the second race and was greeted by his younger brother Marc, former Ferrari tester and now F1 TV commentator.

As always, when it joins Formula One, the TCR International Series has to adapt its format to the Grand Prix timetable. In the case of Sepang, with GP2 and GP3 also part of the event, TCR competitors will first hit the track on Thursday for a 30-minute Practice session.

Activity will continue on Friday with a 30-minute Qualifying session split into Q1 (15 minutes) and Q2 (10 minutes, for the twelve fastest in Q1). , followed by the first race.

The second race will take place Saturday in the early afternoon, just before the F1 Qualifying. 

Leopard Racing cars to be laden by Success Ballast

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Leopard Racing teammates Jean-Karl Vernay and Stefano Comini will carry the two heaviest amounts of Success Ballasts in the next race meetings at Sepang.

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Vernay, the winner of the first race at Singapore, was the event’s best scorer with 38 points, while Comini – second and fourth in the two races – bagged 33 points. As a result, Vernay’s Volkswagen Golf will be laden by 30 kilos of Success Ballast and Comini’s by 20.

The third-highest weight addition of 10 kilos will be imposed to the B3 Racing Team SEAT León of Mat’o Homola who scored 26 points at Singapore.

With this success ballast added to the BoP, the running weights of the three cars will be 1315 kg for Vernay’s Volkswagen, 1305 kg for Comini’s Volkswagen and 1325 for Homola’s SEAT. The Craft-Bamboo Lukoil SEAT cars of James Nash and Pepe Oriola, who are first and third in the championship classification, will run on 1315 kg.

TCR Asia joins the International Series at Sepang

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

TCR Asia will join the TCR International Series for their penultimate event of the season.

The change in venue came about after a delay in the completion of the Zhejiang Circuit in China, the originally scheduled destination for the fourth race meeting of the season on 21/23 October.

Current championship leader Andy Yan from Hong Kong will drive one of three Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf cars, alongside Macau’s Filipe de Souza – who had already joined in Singapore – and International Series regular Davit Kajaia.

Two other Volkswagen cars will be run by TeamWork Motorsport for Macau’s Kevin Tse (currently second in the TCR Asia standings) and William O’Brien, born in the USA, but now resident in Hong Kong.

The Asian contingent will include one Honda Civic car entered by Team Thailand for Tin Sritrai (who made a one-off appearance in the International Series last year at Buriram) and, last but not least, Malaysia’s Douglas Khoo will race in his home event at the wheel of the same Viper Niza Racing SEAT León he drove at Singapore.

Nicky Pastorelli to drive the FRD Motorsport Ford Focus

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

FRD Motorsport has called up Nicky Pastorelli to drive the Ford Focus TCR at Sepang. The car successfully completed its maiden appearance in the TCR International Series at Singapore, where Martin Cao Hongwei finished 13th and 12th in the two races.

“We were pleased with those results. The car finished both races and all the sessions while showing constant improvement. All the testing in the world would not simulate true racing conditions and, in this respect, I think our car passed with flying colours. Finishing close to the points position on our debut event showed that the FRD Ford Focus TCR has great potential. Our race pace was encouraging, but most importantly we identified areas in need of improvement, so we have worked hard to refine our car for Sepang,” Said Kenneth Ma, president of FRD. 

Pastorelli, 33 years old born in The Hague, Netherlands, is an experienced single-seater and sportscar driver; a former champion in the Euro F3000 and a race winner in the FIA GT1 World Championship and the International GT Open, he has also been test driver for the Minardi and Midland Formula 1 teams.

He said: “I am excited to discover the TCR International Series, about which I have heard many nice things, and the Ford Focus. I have very good relationship with FRD engineering personnel from past experience, and they have called me in for this event. It is going to be interesting and challenging, as I don’t know the car, which is still in full development, I don’t know the track and this will be my first experience with a front-wheel drive touring car. But I like this kind of challenge!”

New Italian champion Colciago with Target in Malaysia

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Arguably one of Italy’s most experienced Touring Car drivers, Roberto Colciago who was crowned national champion last weekend at Imola, will make his maiden appearance in the TCR International Series at Sepang this week.

The 48-year old boasts an impressive racing CV that includes an Italian F3 title, victories in the Fuji International F3 League and the German F3 series before the switch to Touring Cars a category in which he was even more successful. At the wheel of Opel, BMW, Honda, Audi, Alfa Romeo and SEAT cars he amassed victories in the European, Italian, Spanish and Swedish championships that granted him two Italian and two Swedish titles.

Colciago retired from racing at the end of the 2010 season, but made a surprise comeback this year to drive an AGS Motorsport Honda Civic TCR in the Italian Touring Car Championship, in which he won eight races out of the twelve held so far on the way to clinch yet another title.

“The possibility to race at Sepang is the icing on the cake at the end of a very successful season. It’s no secret that the TCR concept had an important part in my decision to comeback to racing, as I believe this is the future for Touring Car competition for both the national and the international championships. I’m very looking forward to race in Malaysia and I will do my best for being competitive straight away with the top drivers of the TCR International Series,” Colciago said.

Michela Cerruti and Petr Fulín to miss Sepang

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Both Mulsanne Racing drivers, Michela Cerruti and Petr Fulín, will be forced to miss the next event at Sepang this week.

Cerruti is still suffering from the consequences of renal colic and is currently undergoing medical checks, while the Czech racer is committed to fight for the title of the FIA European Touring Car Cup at Imola on the same weekend.

The team will therefore run only one Alfa Romeo Giulietta in Malaysia that will be driven by Mario Ferraris, son of Romeo Ferraris the principal of the engineering company that has developed and built the car.

Mario is an experienced driver, with records in GT and Touring Car competitions, very often at the wheel of cars developed by the family firm, like the Fiat Cinquone Abarth in last year’s Italian Touring Car Championship.

“The choice to put Mario in the car is part of the technical development programme that we want to carry on in view of next season. He is very experienced in setting up and fine-tuning and will drive in a number of tests after the end of the season,” team manager Claudio Bortoletto explained.

Grid penalty for Rafaël Galiana at Sepang

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Whatever will be its qualifying result, Rafaël Galiana’s Honda Civic will be dropped ten positions on the grid for the first race at Sepang.

Target Competition’s French driver incurred in this penalty as the Stewards deemed him guilty of a collision with Neric Wei’s Volkswagen Golf on the seventh lap of Singapore’s Race 2, while they were fighting over 14th position.

Both, Galiana and Wei were forced to retire after the incident.

Audi launches RS 3 LMS TCR car in Paris

Audi RS 3 LMS

Audi became the latest car brand to confirm a TCR model when the German manufacturer took the wraps off the RS 3 LMS on its stand at the Paris Motor Show today. The car, in sedan form rather than a hatchback, will bring Audi’s legendary four rings into TCR and will expand the availability of Audi Sport racing cars to an even broader audience.

Audi Sport Customer Racing, which builds and markets Audi R and RS models for competition, plans to start deliveries of the new car to customers this December ahead of the 2017 season.

Stephan Winkelmann, Audi Sport Managing Director commented: “Audi has been active in motorsport at the highest level for generations. The Audi R8 LMS has since become the market leader in its segment. We have the same plans for the Audi RS 3 LMS, which offers customers an attractive opportunity to get started in Audi racing.”

Chris Reinke, the Head of Audi Sport Customer Racing, added: “The TCR market has even larger potential than that of the GT3 category. In 2016, there were ten TCR series with races in 18 countries, and more and more series are being added. With the TCR version of the RS 3 we’re also reaching countries where no GT3 races are held. The costs for a TCR car are very low. As a result, we’re going to win new customers for Audi Sport as well. In terms of support and parts supply, they’ll benefit from the experience we’ve been gathering with the Audi R8 LMS since 2009, which our GT3 customers have come to appreciate.”

Audi RS 3 LMS

Marcello Lotti, CEO of TCR Promoter WSC Ltd added: “We are delighted to welcome Audi to the TCR family, joining the other brands in the group Volkswagen and SEAT who have become regular winners in the International and National series. I think the decision to build and develop the SR 3 car demonstrates a clear belief in the TCR concept and I would like to thank Audi Sport Customer Racing for their commitment and enthusiasm in the project. The decision to reveal the car at the Paris Motor Show is also significant, as it presents the car in front of the world’s automotive media. I am looking forward to the Audi RS 3 LMS making its racing debut and I wish Audi every success in the future.”

Qualifying – Surprise pole position for Roberto Colciago

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

 

Freshly-crowned TCR Italy champion Roberto Colciago claimed a surprise pole position at the end of a breath-taking and closely-fought Qualifying session at Sepang.

At the wheel of his Honda Civic, run by Target Competition, Colciago consistently moved up the time-sheet and eventually posted an impressive lap of 2:15.021 in the dying moments of the session.

This demoted Pepe Oriola to second after the young Spaniard had led throughout the entire session, improving the provisional fastest lap twice: 2:15.799 and 2:15.086.

Actually, in the first half of the 30-minute Qualifying session, the top five drivers were extremely close: Oriola, James Nash, Kevin Gleason, Gianni Morbidelli and Mat’o Homola were all covered by less than two tenths.

Then Oriola’s second provisional fastest lap opened a deep gap between him and his pursuers. A gap that was filled little by little as far as the other drivers improved in turn.

Jean-Karl Vernay climbed to a provisional second position (2:15.296), ahead of his teammate Stefano Comini (2:15.311), Morbidelli (2:15.476), Nash (2:15.646), Colciago (2:16.675) and Homola (2:15.923).

Eventually, as the session was drawing to a close, Colciago hit the target and won pole, beating Oriola by 0.048 seconds; Mikhail Grachev jumped into third with a last lap of 2:15.155 and Homola moved up to fifth (2:15.310) behind Vernay.

The twelve fastest drivers were all covered by the same second. Team Thailand’s Tin Sritrai qualified in a brilliant tenth position, well ahead of the other TCR Asia drivers and winning pole position on the reverse grid for Race 2 in the process.

Rafaël Galiana was the only driver who missed the qualification maxima as he could not post a decent lap time due to lack of engine power.

Qualifying – What the pole sitter had to say

Roberto Colciago (pole position): “I had never seen the track before I arrived here yesterday, the timetable is very tight with only one Practice session and I didn’t know the car, so it was a very good result and so I must thank Target Competition, JAS Motorsport and the mechanics for doing such a good job. Yesterday, I spent the first part of the Practice learning the track and so I was a long way off going fast. We thought we had a problem with the front of the car so we fixed that and I learnt the track and so we are very happy with the result.”

Roberto Colciago beats Stefano Comini in epic battle, Only one point separates Comini and James Nash

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Roberto Colciago performed like Julius Caesar and completed a ‘veni, vidi, vici’ debut in the TCR International Series, claiming pole position and a race victory on the same day; a feat that no one has been able to achieve on their maiden appearance.

The race provided plenty of emotion, beginning with the fight for the lead between Colciago and Stefano Comini. They swapped positions, clashed and ran abreast, treating the spectators to some great entertainment.

Second place enabled Comini to retake the championship lead, albeit only one point ahead of James Nash. The young Englishman drove a sensible race, steering out of trouble but managing to recover from starting from eighth to record an important third place finish ahead of his teammate and rival Pepe Oriola.

There were close fights in the TCR Asia series as well, with Kevin Tse claiming the first victory in the season, both for him and TeamWork Motorsport. Tse managed to beat Andy Yan and Filipe de Souza, who finished second and third; Yan retained a comfortable margin in the standings.

RACE ONE KEY FACTS:

Grid: Morbidelli’s car is pushed into the pit lane with a steering failure; Galiana does not even join the grid, his car plagued by the same engine issues as in Practice and Qualifying

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Start: Colciago makes a good start, but Grachev does better and overtakes him on the outside before Turn 1

Lap 1: Colciago passes Grachev for the lead; the Russian loses also second place to Comini; there is commotion at the back of the field at Turn 4, when Yan cuts on the inside and cause a five-car collision, as a result Kajaia’s Volkswagen stops on the track

Lap 2: the safety car is deployed; Pastorelli pits to fix a problem with an exhaust manifold

Lap 4: the race resumes, Colciago leads from Comini, Grachev, Homola, Oriola, Nash, Vernay, Borković, Tassi and Afanasyev; Homola and Oriola make contact, Nash overtakes both and moves up to fourth; Comini overtakes Colciago at Turn 15

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Lap 5: Colciago and Comini run abreast; Colciago re-takes the lead; Sritrai pits with a loose turbo pipe

Lap 6: Grachev is under pressure from Nash, they make contact and Grachev slows down and retires; Nash moves to third, pursued by Vernay, Oriola, Borković and Tassi

Lap 7: Oriola overtakes Vernay for fourth at Turn 1

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Lap 8: Tse runs in 12th place, leading the TCR Asia field with a two-second advantage on Yan

Lap 9: Oriola tries to find a gap and pass Nash; Ferraris pits with brake problems

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Lap 11: Comini tries to overtake Colciago at the last turn, they clash, but Colciago resists and wins by one tenth; Nash finishes third ahead of Oriola, Vernay, Borković, Tassi, Gleason, Afanasyev and Homola; Tse beats Yan and De Souza in the TCR Asia race

Quotes from the podium finishers in Race 1

Roberto Colciago (winner): “I am really happy for everyone at Target Competition, for Giancarlo Bruno my engineer and the mechanics who gave me such a good car. I have to say it was a really great battle with Comini, so thanks to him for fighting so fairly. I know him well, so I know how much the win would have meant to him. It was the first time I made a start with the five lights system, so I was on the throttle too much and I touched Grachev just after the start. The thing is, I am a little bit old these days and so I have to fight at the start of the race, not the end!”

Stefano Comini (second): “I loved the fight with Roberto – he is an old-style driver inside and out, while I am just an old-style driver inside! I wanted to create a gap to the guys behind because I wanted to score as many points as possible ahead of the Macau races. Roberto left me a big space to pass, but I went wide at the next corner and he overtook me again as I didn’t want to risk making contact with him. I know his driving style from YouTube and I have a lot of respect for him, so I’m really delighted to have had such a good fight with him.”

James Nash (third): “I had a few problems with my brakes during the race and so it was tough going. If I’m honest, I didn’t think going from eighth to third was possible as I had a lot of good guys around me, so I had to make a few brave moves. Oriola had a few contacts during the race, which made life easier for me. We had a discussion in Qualifying about whether I should go out again or to stay where I was and the strategy worked well.”

Kevin Tse (winner of TCR Asia): “This was a fantastic result for me and for the team, so thanks to them. Luckily, I just avoided an accident in front of me, then the safety car came out and we were all grouped together but I managed to hold on to win. I know Andy (Yan) was concentrating on the title, so nothing will be decided until the final round in Macau.”

 Colciago and Gleason victorious in eventful races in Malaysia as Craft-Bamboo Lukoil secures Teams’ title

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

The unpredictability of the TCR International Series reached a new level at Sepang in Malaysia. The two races – supporting Formula One for the third and final time this season – saw victories by a driver competing in the series for the first time (Roberto Colciago in Race 1) and a driver who has missed much of the season (Kevin Gleason in Race 2), bringing the number of different race winners during 2016 to ten.

The Malaysian event was also a remarkable advertisement for the TCR community, which keeps on growing at a global level. It demonstrated that drivers coming from national and regional TCR championships (like Colciago, who won the Italian title last week, or Tin Sritrai, who is a front-runner in TCR Asia) can join the International Series and fight on equal terms with its leading competitors.

With just the two races in Macau remaining, four men are still in contention for the Drivers’ title – James Nash, Stefano Comini, Pepe Oriola and Jean-Karl Vernay – with 39 points covering the four and 55 still available, although Nash has now edged closer to the title, showing an impressive maturity that has helped him to steer away from trouble and consistently score crucial points.

The Teams’ title, on the other hand, was decided in Sepang, with Craft-Bamboo Lukoil now uncatchable.

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

TCR Asia competitors once again joined the International Series field and Race 2 saw Sritrai start from pole position on the reverse grid and lead for the first four laps before being hit by Comini, an incident that deprived him a possible overall podium. By finishing ninth overall in Race 2, Andy Yan of Liqui Moly Team Engstler secured the Drivers’ title.

Kevin Gleason wins as Stefano Comini gets penalty

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

TCR International Series competitors delivered another breath-taking race at Sepang, full of overtaking manoeuvres, clashes, spins, position-swapping and safety car interventions.

Kevin Gleason emerged as the winner, stepping back on top of the podium one year after his last victory at Singapore. The WestCoast Racing driver overtook the early leader Tin Sritrai just in time to avoid the carnage behind him.

The young Thai, who had been sidelined yesterday by a turbo failure, seemed well on the way to claim a sensational result – possibly an overall podium – but saw his dream swept away by contact with Stefano Comini.

That contact cost the reigning champion dearly; he was given a drive-through penalty, which was translated into a 30-second time penalty because he was informed during the last three laps of the race.

On top of this, after Pepe Oriola was involved in a door-to-door fight with a group of other drivers during the last lap, he eventually finished out of the points.

While all of this was happening, James Nash emerged as the biggest winner of the Malaysian weekend, as he re-took the Drivers’ series lead with an advantage of 17 points.

RACE TWO KEY FACTS:

Grid: All 23 cars are on the grid, including Galiana’s SEAT on which a new turbo has been installed

Warm up lap – The engine of Pastorelli’s Ford blows and spills oil onto the right side of the starting line; the field is stopped by the marshals at the end of the lap while dust is sprinkled onto the oil slick; the race will start behind the safety car in a single line over the reduced distance of 10 laps instead of 11

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Lap 2: The actual race starts, Sritrai leads from Gleason and Nash; Comini overtakes Morbidelli for fourth at Turn 15

Lap 3: Gleason tries to dive through the inside in Turn 1, but Sritrai closes the gap; Comini overtakes Nash for third

Lap 4: Comini, Nash and Morbidelli are in a close battle for third; Gleason overtakes Sritrai and takes the lead; Comini hits Sritrai who spins at Turn 14 and re-joins in 11thposition

Lap 5: Gleason leads from Comini, Nash, Morbidelli, Homola, Vernay; Oriola overtakes Grachev for 7th and Vernay for 6th

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Lap 6: Grachev and Colciago make contact while fighting for 8th; Colciago goes off onto the gravel trap and Grachev spins having lost one rear tyre

Lap 7: The safety car is deployed

Lap 8: The race resumes, Vernay outbrakes himself at Turn 1 and goes wide, dropping from 7th to 10th; Comini is given a drive-through for the incident with Sritrai; Vernay overtakes Hezemans for 9th

Lap 9: Homola, Oriola and Borkovic are in a tough fight over 6th 

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Lap 10: Gleason wins ahead of Comini (who did not observe the penalty), Nash and Morbidelli; the fight for 5th heats up between Homola, Oriola, Vernay, Borkovic, Hezemans and Afanasyev; there are contacts and eventually Borkovic finishes 5thahead of Vernay, Hezemans and Homola, while Oriola drops to 14th

Quotes from the podium finishers in the second race

Kevin Gleason (winner): “It feels amazing to be back and to get a win. It was really frustrating not to do the whole season and so I’m grateful I could come back with WestCoast to race at Singapore and here in Sepang. With every race I missed, I dreamed about coming back with the team, so I’m really grateful I could reward them with a win like this. I had to work for the victory and that made it all the more satisfying. Soon after I took the lead, I saw some action going on behind me, but I could concentrate on staying out of trouble and hold on to win.”

James Nash (second): “Always being in the thick of the action is really hard and picking my moment to push or to attack is complicated, but it worked really well today. The point gap isn’t enough for me to be able to relax, but it’s nice to go to the last round in the lead. I think Comini was too aggressive and made the wrong move, but that’s how it is. He saw me coming up behind him going into Turn 10 and closed the door, which caused me an anxious moment, but once I knew about his drive-though I could relax for the rest of the race.”

Gianni Morbidelli (third): “I have been struggling with the power steering since the beginning of the year, but I have to say that it is not the fault of the WestCoast team. I feel really sorry for them and I’m really frustrated. I’m just happy we are nearly at the end of the season, to be honest. When you have to think about the steering instead of driving, this does not help your performance at all.”

Andy Yan (9th and winner of TCR Asia): “I’m very happy and I need to thank my team for doing a fantastic job, especially yesterday because my car had a problem in Race 1 and so they worked all night to prepare a good car for me for Race 2. Today was a good performance to achieve our target and finish first. I really love the TCR Asia series because we have good drivers and all the cars are very balanced. I think Tin Sritrai has been very unlucky this year because he has had so many problems but hopefully we can have another good fight again next year.”

Homola receives ten-second penalty after Race 2

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

Following today’s second race, the Stewards discussed a number of incidents that had been reported to them, but concluded that only one was serious enough to warrant a penalty.

Mat’o Homola was judged to have caused collisions with Pepe Oriola during the race and so ten seconds were added to his time, dropping him from seventh position to sixteenth.

Sergey Afanasyev, Andy Yan, Attila Tassi and Davit Kajaia all therefore moved up a place and gain points in the revised results.

Both TCR International and TCR Asia will end the season in Macau on November 20.

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!!!

2016 TCR International Series: Singapore

TCR International Series re-joins Formula 1 in Singapore

Three weeks after racing in Thailand, at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit, the TCR International Series will resume this weekend in Singapore as part of the Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.

This is the second of three occasions in which the TCR International Series supports F1, after the season opener at Bahrain and before the next round in Sepang, Malaysia.

Last year, on their first appearance at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, competitors in the TCR International Series delivered two thrilling races: on Saturday night, Kevin Gleason and his WestCoast Racing Honda Civic overtook Stefano Comini’s SEAT León on the last-but-one lap and claimed a brilliant victory, while Gleason’s teammate Gianni Morbidelli beat Pepe Oriola in the fight for third position.

Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Jordi Gené dominated Sunday’s race, leading a SEAT 1-2-3 ahead of Comini and Oriola.

As always, when it joins Formula One, the TCR International Series has to adapt its format to the Grand Prix timetable. As a consequence, the usual two 30-minute Free Practices will be replaced by a single 40-minute session on Friday afternoon.

A 25-minute Qualifying session, split into Q1 (15 minutes) and Q2 (10 minutes, for the twelve fastest in Q1) will take place early on Saturday afternoon and will be followed by the spectacular night race, one of the highlights of the TCR calendar and a juicy prelude to the F1 Qualifying.

Success Ballast for the top three title contenders

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

The allocation of Success Ballast for the Singapore event will follow precisely the current positions in the Drivers’ Championship standings.

James Nash of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil emerged as the best points scorer in the previous event in Thailand; with a second place and a victory he bagged 43 points that propelled him to the top of the classification table. This will also result in 30 kilos of Success Ballast on board his SEAT León.

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

Nash’s teammate Pepe Oriola and Leopard Racing’s Stefano Comini were the second and third best scorers in Buriram (with 30 and 26 points respectively) and are currently lying second and third in the standings. Their cars will be laden with 20 (Oriola’s) and 10 (Comini’s) extra kilos.

With this success ballast added to the BoP, the running weights of the three cars will be 1345 kg for Nash’s SEAT, 1335 kg for Oriola’s SEAT and 1295 kg for Comini’s Volkswagen Golf. 

Kissling Motorsport to run an Opel Astra for Jordi Oriola

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

After a brief maiden appearance in the season’s opening event at Bahrain, the Opel Astra TCR will race in the TCR International Series at Singapore.

In the last few months, Opel Motorsport has focused on the car’s technical development and the Astra TCR has made good progress as was shown by its participation in the TCR Benelux, TCR Germany and TCR Portugal series where it was competitive and celebrated its first victories at Zolder and again last week in Jerez de la Frontera.

Following those encouraging results, Opel Motorsport has announced it feels ready for the next challenging appearance in the TCR International Series. It will be another important moment to see where the Astra TCR stands in the final stages of its development.

In light of its recent results, the Astra TCR was allocated a Balance of Performance of 20 kg in addition to the minimum weight of 1285 kg.

The car will be entered and run by Kissling Motorsport and driven by Jordi Oriola.

FRD-built Ford Focus is ready to make its debut at Singapore

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

The Ford Focus TCR built and developed by Hong Kong-based FRD Motorsport is ready to make its maiden appearance in the TCR International Series at Singapore, where it will be driven by Martin Cao Hongwei.

The 23-year old Chinese driver, who won the British Formula 3 International Series title in 2014, raced for FRD at the beginning of his career in the Asian Formula Renault series. He returned to the team this year to drive a Ford Focus in the 2.0T Class of the China Touring Car Championship, in which he is currently second behind his teammate Rainey He, having claimed his maiden victory at Shanghai.

“We are very excited, but at the same time cautiously optimistic about our debut performance. We felt that the demanding nature of the Singapore street circuit would offer us the best chance to gauge our new car against the competition. At the very least, we hope to come out of the event with more knowledge on how we can refine the car before delivering the first cars to our customers over the winter. Our staff have worked tirelessly on this project in the past seven months and I would like to see their hard work rewarded with a respectable result,” said Kenneth Ma, President of FRD Motorsports.

When asked to give details of the new car, Brian Ma, FRD motorsports Vice president of Technical Operations commented: “We started with the 2015 car. The original intention was to do an update and improve a few things that prevented it from being competitive. However, as we delved into the development process further, we realized we could provide a better car to our future customers by starting anew in many areas. I would say the 2016/17 Focus is more a redevelopment than an evolution of the 2015 car. Under the skin, thanks to the support from our technical partners, the car features a new 2.0L engine package, a new Xtrac six-speed paddle shift transmission, all new electronics and damper and brake system, just to name a few. On the outside, the aero package we developed for this car has already proven successful on FRD’s flagship Touring Car programme in the CTCC.”

Famous comebacks: Gleason, Hezemans and Target

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

The TCR International Series welcomes back some familiar faces in Singapore, beginning with Kevin Gleason the winner of last year’s night race at Marina Bay. The American driver, who finished an excellent fifth in the 2015 Driver’s championship, returns at the wheel of a WestCoast Racing Honda Civic. Gleason was forced to suspend his TCR programme after the first three events of the current season due to sponsorship issues.

Italy-based Target Competition, the reigning champion team, also re-joins for the three final events of the year with two cars, one Honda Civic for Rafaël Galiana and one SEAT León for Loris Hezemans.

Galiana appeared in the Thai races at the wheel of a Civic run by WestCoast Racing, while Hezemans returns to the International Series after taking part in the first three events of the season. The young Dutchman then raced in the TCR Benelux series, in which he claimed one race victory and a second place at Zandvoort, his home racetrack. Hezemans made his maiden appearance in the TCR International Series at Singapore last year and collected his best result – second – one month later at Buriram.

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

Another returnee is Filipe de Souza, who will be driving a Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf. As a competitor in the TCR Asia Series, the Macanese driver took part in last year’s International Series events at Singapore and Buriram. In the current season, de Souza is competing in TCR Asia for the Liqui Moly Team Engstler and lies fifth in the points table with his best result a third place at Shanghai.

Two Asian teams join for the event in Singapore

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

Two Asian teams that are regular competitors in the TCR Asia Series – Viper Niza Racing and Son Veng Racing Team – will join the TCR International Series field in Singapore. 

Malaysia-based Viper Niza Racing will run a SEAT León for Douglas Khoo; both the team and driver took part last year in the TCR International Series / TCR Asia joint race meetings at Singapore, Buriram and Macau.

Khoo and the team will also compete in the two final events of the season at Sepang, Malaysia and Macau.

Son Veng Racing Team from Macau will make its first appearance in the International Series entering a Volkswagen Golf driven by Neric Wei Chao Yin; the Chinese driver recently joined the TCR Asia series by claiming an encouraging fourth place in the second race at Shanghai.

Morbidelli gets a brand new Honda Civic for Singapore

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

The WestCoast Racing team has worked around the clock to build a brand new Honda Civic car for Gianni Morbidelli, in time for this week’s event at Singapore.

Morbidelli’s car was destroyed in a massive shunt during the second race at Buriram. As soon as the wreck of the Civic was trucked back to the pits, it took only a single glance for race engineer Paul Ridgeway to realise that it was damaged beyond repair. Team manager James Nixon then launched the emergency plan to build a new car for Singapore.

A new chassis was ordered from JAS Motorsport in Italy, which was delivered to JAS’ Asian Workshop at Sepang, Saturday, September 9th. The chassis arrived at Singapore by truck on the following day and at the same time as the team received the containers with the parts and equipment arriving from Thailand.

Working in a warehouse by the Singapore docks, chief mechanic Marc Butler, Gavin Ovenden and Ronny Hyrskylahti stripped the wreck of the Civic and built a new one, replacing chassis, engine and a lot of other parts.

 “These three guys have done a two-week work in two-and-a-half days!” commented team manager James Nixon.

The car was finished on Sunday afternoon and on Monday morning it was painted in a Singapore bodywork before being loaded on a truck and delivered to the Marina Bay Circuit paddock.

“We need to thank JAS Motorsport for supplying the chassis and parts in time despite the short notice and SEL that took care of the logistics and transportation. Without them we wouldn’t be able to attempt this,” Nixon said.

The TCR International Series will visit Georgia in 2017

rustavi-international-motopark_map

Georgia will host an event of the 2017 TCR International Series at Rustavi International Motorpark. A Memorandum of Understanding for a three-year agreement has been signed today in Tbilisi by Georgia’s Minister of the Internal Affairs Giorgi Mgebrishvili, Shota Abkhazava, President of the Georgian Automobile Sport Federation and owner of the Rustavi International Motopark, and TCR promoter Marcello Lotti.

“Hosting such a top level event in Georgia will put our Country on the map of International Sports. Georgia will also receive an additional flow of tourists and will present itself as an interesting location for sport and tourism. Another message that will be associated to the TCR International Series event in Georgia will be the importance of the Road Safety Campaign we support,” Minister Mgebrishvili declared.

The Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs, Tariel Khechikashvili and Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s TCR driver Davit Kajaia also attended the signing ceremony along with other invited guests.

“It has been a great privilege to be received by Georgia’s Minister of the Internal Affairs and it is a great pride for us to see that the whole Country is so keen on organising a TCR International Series round from next year. Georgia is a beautiful place and we believe that our event next year will attract a lot of motorsport fans,” Lotti said.

David  Nikoleishvili, Head of Legal Entity of Public Law – Service Agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, commented: “Today is a special day for Georgia’s sports. The document signed by our Government and Mr Lotti marks a very important step towards the promotion of motorsports in our Country. And we are confident that this will help Georgia to establish itself among the nations capable of organising motorsport events at a top level.”

Abkhazava added : “It’s an historical moment for us, as next year’s TCR International Series event will open a new page for motorsports in Georgia. It is very important not only for those who work in the automotive industry, but for the whole Country. We are obviously very proud that our circuit will host the first ever motorsport international event in Georgia.”

Penalties shake up qualifying results behind the pole

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

Jean-Karl Vernay confirmed his form as the fastest TCR driver on Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit by claiming his first pole position of the season with an impressive lap of 2:24.511 that improved last year’s TCR record time by nearly two seconds.

In the provisional results, Gianni Morbidelli (2:25.016), Mat’o Homola (2:25.019), Stefano Comini (2:25.115), Pepe Oriola (2:25.436), Dušan Borković (2:25.629) andJames Nash (2:25.899) filled the positions from fourth to seventh .

However, Qualifying results were later shaken up by a rain of penalties imposed by the Stewards following a number of track-limit infringement reports.

No fewer than twelve drivers saw their fastest laps disallowed: Mikhail Grachev, Davit Kajaia, Petr Fulín, Gianni Morbidelli, Martin Cao, Kevin Gleason, Jordi Oriola, Dušan Borković, Douglas Khoo, Pepe Oriola, Rafaël Galiana and Neric Wei.

On top of this, those who repeated the infringement were also given grid penalties ahead of Race 1: 15 positions to Grachev, 6 to Kajaia Fulín, Morbidelli and Cao and 3 to Gleason and Jordi Oriola. 

Eventually the first three rows of the starting grid for Race 1 were filled by Vernay, Homola, Comini, P. Oriola, Nash and Tassi, while Morbidelli was demoted to 9thposition.

Jean-Karl Vernay converts pole position into Race 1 victory as Stefano Comini retakes the points lead

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

Jean-Karl Vernay remained undefeated after two days of track activities at Singapore’s Marina Bay Circuit. After posting the fastest laps in yesterday’s Practice and this afternoon’s Qualifying, the young Frenchman converted his pole position into a brilliant victory in the night race.

Stefano Comini crossed the line second, completing an excellent 1-2 finish for Leopard Racing, while Pepe Oriola successfully defended a crucial third position despite strong pressure from Mat’o Homola.

James Nash – who was leading the standings before the race – was classified fifth ahead of Sergey Afanasyev.

The victory enabled Vernay to significantly cut his gap in the Drivers’ Championship standings; he still lies fourth, but is now only 22 points behind his teammate Comini.

In fact, the Swiss driver has taken the lead of the series back and is now ahead of Nash and Pepe Oriola by one and two points respectively.

Petr Fulín lost a possible points result by pitting, as he was worried by an alarm from the oil temperature sensor. Both the Liqui Moly Team Engstler cars of Davit Kajaia and Filipe de Souza retired with brake issues. Jordi Oriola’s Opel Astra and Martin Cao’s Ford Focus managed to finish the race in 12th and 13th position respectively.

RACE ONE KEY FACTS:

Start: Vernay makes a good start and leads from Comini, P. Oriola and Nash

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

Lap 1: Morbidelli spins at Turn 1 and re-joins; Homola overtakes Nash for 4th

Lap 3: Fulín pits and retires from 9th; Afanasyev defends 6th place from Borković

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

Lap 4: Vernay pulls away; Comini is chased by P. Oriola and Homola

Lap 5: De Souza stops on the track

Lap 6: Gleason, Tassi and Morbidelli are in a close battle for 8th

Lap 7: Khoo hits the tyre-wall head-on, but re-joins

Lap 8: Kajaia pits and retires; Grachev defends 11th place from Hezemans

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

Lap 9: Khoo stops on the track; Hezemans hits the tyre-wall head-on and retires

Lap 10: Vernay wins from Comini, P. Oriola, Homola and Nash

Quotes from the podium finishers in Race 1 

Jean-Karl Vernay (winner): “I am very happy, it was very nice to win here and in this fantastic atmosphere. I knew that the start was going to be crucial and luckily, everything went well. I pulled away nicely in the first laps, trying to stay calm, avoid any mistakes and preserving the tyres. Everything went as planned, and it was great. I was also able to reduce the gap in the championship, I still would prefer to be much closer, but it was a good result anyway.”

Stefano Comini (second): “Second behind my teammate was a very good result, especially for the team. I took again the leadership in the standings, and although this means little, because the gaps are very close, it was good news. As for the race, I wanted to create some chaos and I almost managed to do so, because I saw in my mirrors that Oriola and Homola were going everywhere… It would not have been clever to try to reach Jean-Karl, so I settled for a quiet race and saved new tyres for tomorrow.”

Pepe Oriola (third): “There was nothing I could try against Vernay and Comini, their cars were so much faster, especially on the straights. I could only hope in some mistakes from them, which did not come. The situation in the standings is even closer now, and I am happy with this. We know that everything will be decided in Macau…”

Title battle heats up on the streets of Singapore

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

For the second time this year, the TCR International Series was part of a Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend. Basking in the glamorous setting of Singapore’s Marina Bay Circuit, Jean-Karl Vernay and Mikhail Grachev shared victories in the two races that were characterized by the extremely warm weather.

What the two rounds in the streets of the city state did not clarify was the battle for the title, which has intensified still further ahead of the last four races in Malaysia and Macau.

After Race 1, Stefano Comini, James Nash and Pepe Oriola were lying within three points of each other. By the end of the weekend, James Nash had retaken the leadership lead he held after Thailand, although by only 2 points over Stefano Comini and 16 to Pepe Oriola, with Jean-Karl Vernay also still in contention 28 points aback.

The Frenchman, in his Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf, put forward a stunning performance in his first visit to Singapore, confirming his predilection for street circuits (he still holds the F3 lap time record at Macau). Vernay set the pole position and took an authoritative win in Race 1 on Saturday evening, ahead of his teammate Comini and Pepe Oriola in the Craft-Bamboo Lukoil SEAT.

It was a light-to flag win in Race 2 too, with Grachev impressive in his WestCoast Racing Honda Civic. It was the fourth success this season for the Russian, who in this case benefitted from having inherited the pole for Race 2 following a number of penalties for track limits infringements during Qualifying, as well as the two safety-car periods that occurred. Dušan Borković took second for the fourth time this season with James Nash crossing the finish line in third place.

The TCR Asian tour – and the partnership with Formula One – continue with the next stop in two weeks time at Sepang in Maleysia.

Mikhail Grachev wins a shortened second race

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

Mikhail Grachev claimed a lights-to-flag victory – the fourth for him in the season so far – in a race that was shortened and finished under the safety-car.

The WestCoast Racing driver took the lead at the start and was able to create a small cushion between himself and Dušan Borković who eventually finished second but was denied the chance to try an overtaking manoeuvre by the safety-car interventions.

The battle behind the pair was white-hot, with a bunch of drivers fighting for the positions. The incidents that resulted from this battle eliminated or demoted some key players such as Pepe Oriola (who was given a drive-through penalty and dropped out of the points), Attila Tassi, Kevin Gleason and Gianni Morbidelli.

James Nash, Stefano Comini and Jean-Karl Vernay were able to avoid the carnage and achieved some valuable placings as far as the title fight is concerned.

Nash has re-taken the series lead, two points ahead of Comini; P. Oriola now has to fill a gap of 16 points, while Vernay is 28 points behind the leader.

Petr Fulín managed to finish in the points as he crossed the line ninth in his Alfa Romeo.

RACE TWO KEY FACTS:

Start: Grachev makes good use of the pole and takes the lead from Borković, Afanasyev, Tassi, Nash, Morbidelli and P. Oriola

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

Lap 1: Comini puts pressure on P. Oriola; Homola punts Gleason into a spin

Lap 2: Hezemans stops and retires with electronics issues; Fulín overtakes Cao for 12th

Lap 3: the fight for positions heats up; there is contact between Afanasyev and Tassi and the former spins and crashes into the wall; Comini tries to overtake P. Oriola who hits Morbidelli; Comini takes advantage and moves up to fourth; the safety car is deployed

Lap 6: the race resumes; Grachev leads from Borković, Nash, Comini, Homola and Vernay; Tassi drops down from 7th, returns to the pits and retires with steering problem

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

Lap 7: P. Oriola is given a drive-through for the contact with Morbidelli; Galiana and Wei make contact while fighting for 14th position; the safety-car is deployed for the second time

Lap 9: as the 30 minutes expire, the race finishes behind the safety car one lap before the scheduled distance; Grachev wins from Borković, Nash, Comini, Homola and Vernay.

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

Quotes from the podium finishers in Race 2

 Mikhail Grachev (winner): “It’s an amazing feeling to win here at Singapore, I am very happy, also because I did not expect to be in a position to win, a track which does not really suit the Honda. We had a lot of understeer in all the 90-degree corners. Today, the car felt better than yesterday but, clearly, the good thing was to start from the front row. I knew that if could take a good start and stay at the front, I had a chance and that’s what happened. The two safety-car periods eventually also helped. It’s my fourth win of the season, so it’s not such a bad year for me. People ask me what could have happened if I had switched to WestCoast Racing and Honda earlier, but it is useless to speculate on that. I just took the decision that I thought was the right one at that moment, and it turned out to be a good choice.”

Dušan Borković (second): “Second is a nice result although I would have preferred to take this first win I am running after… But here, at Singapore, I knew that I had little chance against the Honda at the start, and the start is really crucial: staying in front is a great advantage on a street circuit, and even more when it is so hot and on a track where only one line is relatively clean. I tried to fight a bit in the initial laps, also because I was seeing my intrinsic pace was at least as fast as Grachev’s, but there was nothing to do and preferred to secure second and avoid trouble, especially after rubbing against the wall at the restart after the first safety-car.”

James Nash (third): “I just focused on doing the best I could and avoid mistakes. I had quite a consistent race and I was helped by the two safety-car periods as it helped breaking the fast pace of the race, which I could hardly stand because of the extra weight I was carrying. It’s, of course, a good result towards the standings, although everything keeps changing all the time. We know in any case that it is going to be a 4-way battle straight until the very end. Everything will be decided in Macau…”

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

The next event of the TCR International Series will take place at the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix on 28/30th September.

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!!!

 

2016 TCR International Series: Thailand

TCR’s Asian leg begins in Thailand…

The TCR International Series resumed at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit, following an eight-week summer break after the meeting in Sochi. The Thai event also marked the beginning of the Asian leg that will later call at Singapore, Sepang and Macau, where the season will come to an end on November 20.

The series raced at Buriram last year, when all the drivers and teams members were amazed to discover the state-of-the-art Chang International Circuit designed by Hermann Tilke that had been inaugurated in 2014.

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

In last year’s event Pepe Oriola and Stefano Comini took a win apiece, in a weekend that saw the SEAT cars dominate their rivals. The Craft-Bamboo Lukoil 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. It was a weekend to forget for the Honda and Volkswagen cars, all victims of technical issues or race incidents; notably Gianni Morbidelli who saw his hopes to stay in contention for the title washed away by a drive-through for jump-start in Race 1 and an engine failure in Race 2.

Maximum success ballast for Comini in Thailand

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

It will be the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf Gti driven by Stefano Comini that will carry the 30 kilos of maximum success ballast in the next race meeting of the TCR International Series that will take place in Thailand, at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit.

The reigning champion emerged as the best scorer in the latest event at Sochi, Russia; the Swiss collected 40 points (pole position, victory in Race 1 and fifth place in Race 2) that propelled him on top of the standings once again.

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

WestCoast Racing’s Mikhail Grachev – the winner of the second race in his home country’s event – scored 37 points, meaning that his Honda Civic will be laden by 20 kilos of success ballast, while Comini’s teammate Jean-Karl Vernay (31 points for him in Russia) will carry 10 extra kilos.

With these success ballasts added to the BoP, the running weights of the three cars will be: 1315 kg for Comini’s Golf, 1335 kg for Grachev’s Civic and 1295 kg for Vernay’s Golf.

The SEAT cars of the other title contenders – Pepe Oriola, James Nash and Mat’o Homola – will run on 1315 kilos.

Six drivers will be engaged in a close fight for the title

TCR series Sochi, Russia 02 - 03 July 2016

Over a third of the season still lies ahead before the 2016 TCR International Series will crown its second champion ever. And the title fight is red-hot, with six drivers covered by 37 points when a possible 220 are still at stake.

Stefano Comini and Pepe Oriola, the 2015 champion and runner-up respectively, are on top of the standings once again; the Swiss and his Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf have regained the leadership after Sochi, but Oriola lies only one point behind in the Craft-Bamboo Lukoil SEAT Le ó n.

A further six points adrift is Oriola’s teammate Janes Nash, while Comini’s Leopard Racing colleague Jean-Karl Vernay is currently fourth with a gap of 22 points. Only one further point behind him is another SEAT driver, B3 Racing Team’s Mat’o Homola.

And although Gianni Morbidelli (WestCoast Racing Honda Civic) has declared himself out of contention after a string of disappointing results, he can’t be ruled out as a change of luck might put the former F1 racer in the position to significantly cut his 37-point gap.

The rest of the field has only theoretical chances, beginning with Sergey Afanasyev (Craft-Bamboo Lukoil) who is seventh, 51 points behind the leader .

Top Run Motorsport re-joins from Buriram with new Subaru

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

Top Run Motorsport will re-join the TCR International Series for the Asian rounds, starting with the next event in Thailand. The Italian engineering company took part in the first two race meetings of the season, in Bahrain and Portugal, before electing to temporarily suspend racing to focus on the technical development of the Subaru WRX TCR car.

Team manager Renato Russo explained: “Following the meeting we had in Tokyo with Subaru STi, we have built a brand new car that features a number of technical improvements and some new parts that are better suited to the TCR regulations. The new car successfully went through an intensive testing programme and was later shipped to Thailand where our technical staff will be assisted by David Rowe of MoTec for the engine management and Hiroshi Nakagawa of TEIN for the dampers.”

All the testing was conducted by the official tester Luca Rangoni, who was also joined by Luigi Ferrara; the latter drove the Subaru in Barhain and will be at the wheel again in Buriram.

“We have also upgraded our first car to the same specifications – the one that was raced in the last events of 2015 and in the first two of the current season – and that has been shipped to Singapore. We will run both cars there, in Malaysia and at Macau,” Russo added.

A strong Thai contingent enhances the field to 26 cars

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

The TCR International Series field will reach a season high of 26 cars in Buriram, thanks to the addition of a strong Thai contingent.

Thailand was one of the first countries to embrace the TCR concept and launch its own racing series. Promoted by Racing Spirit within the frame of the popular Thailand Super Series, TCR Thailand has already completed two race meetings (both at Buriram), featuring about ten cars. Some of its competitors will take part in the TCR International Series event at Buriram, eager to show off themselves against the international stars.

Vattana Motorsport will field a couple of young drivers who are among the fastest in the national series: Narasak Ittiritpong (Honda Civic) and Jack Lemvard (SEAT León). Three other SEAT cars will be run by the Kratingdaeng Racing Team for Grant Supaphongs, Alexander Mies (a 24-year old German with a solid Touring Car experience) and Taipei’s Chen Jian Hong.

Nattachak Hanjitkasen and Kanthadee Kusiri will be at the wheel of Honda Civic cars for the TBN MK Ihere Racing Team and the Eakie BBR Kaiten respectively, while Paritat Bulbon (Sloth Racing) and Rattanin Leenutaphong (Yontrakit Racing Team) will race SEAT cars. Leenutaphong will be the fourth lady driver to join the series in the current season after the Italian trio of Michela Cerruti, Alessandra Neri and Carlotta Fedeli.

Munkong Sathienthirakul will provide the icing on the cake, driving a Volkswagen Golf for the Liqui Moly Team Engstler. He had already made a one-off appearance last year at Buriram, winning the TCR Asia class in a SEAT run by the Craft-Bamboo Racing.

Rafaël Galiana’s return with WestCoast Racing

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

 Rafaël Galiana has a soft spot for Asia. After taking part in last year’s events at Singapore, Buriram and Macau, the French driver returns to the TCR International Series and will drive a WestCoast Racing Honda Civic in Thailand.

An amateur racing driver, Galiana is also known as ‘Mr Tecpro’; in fact after several years of research and development, in 2000 he launched a safety barrier that proved much more effective than the tyre walls that were previously used in most of the circuits. Today Tecpro collaborates with FIA, FIM, and a number of National Sporting Authorities and works together with renowned racetrack designers and architects.

Qualifying – Pepe Oriola beats Gianni Morbidelli by 1/1000

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

 In the closest Qualifying from the beginning of the season Pepe Oriola claimed his first pole position of the year beating Gianni Morbidelli by only one thousandth of a second.

It was also a very rewarding recognition for the Craft-Bamboo Lukoil team that had worked very hard since yesterday to rebuild James Nash’s car after the shunt in testing and to solve a technical issue on Sergey Afanasyev’s. On top of this, the five points awarded for the pole position enabled Oriola to re-take the championship lead by two points ahead of Stefano Comini.

The Qualifying results proved that competition is very close on the track – with the six fastest drivers in Q2 covered by three tenths. Meaning that two exciting races should be expected for tomorrow.

There will be an all-Russian front row on the reverse grid for Race 2, with Mikhail Grachev on pole and Afanasyev alongside him.

Q1: Morbidelli and Comini are very close

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

Gianni Morbidelli set the pace from the beginning with a provisional fastest time of 1:44.281 that he improved on the following lap to 1:44.109; a mark that was not to be beaten. Stefano Comini posted the second fastest lap of 1:44.180 in the final moments, demoting James Nash (1:44.340) and Pepe Oriola (1:44.393) to third and fourth.

It was an extremely close Q1, with the first 13 drivers covered only by six tenths of a second. Kantadhee Kusiri was the only Thai driver to advance to Q2 (8th fastest – 1:44.488), while Petr Fulín provided the final thrill by posting the 10th fastest lap (1:44.532) and kicking Davit Kajaia (whose car suffered from a broken drive-shaft) off the top-twelve in the process. Kajaia’s teammate Munkong Sathienthirakul missed the whole session due to a gearbox failure.

The following drivers made the cut for Q2: Morbidelli , Comini, Nash, Oriola, Borković,Vernay, Homola, Kusiri, Grachev, Fulín, Tassi and Afanasyev .

Q2: Oriola on pole for the first time

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

Pepe Oriola won his first pole of the season with a perfect lap of 1:43.634 that was only one thousandths of a second faster than Gianni Morbidelli’s 1:43.635.

The first spell at the pole was from Stefano Comini (1:43.865), but the reigning champion was immediately demoted by Morbidelli (1:43.834) and the later was then beaten by Jean-Karl Vernay (1:43.767).

On his second attempt, Morbidelli jumped on top again with a lap of 1:44.733, but Oriola managed to go faster (1:44.634) and Morbidelli’s last lap (1:44.635) was only 0.001 seconds slower. Kantadhee Kusiri continued in his impressive effort and qualified in eighth, while Petr Fulín could not post any lap time due to an electrical issue.

Quotes after Qualifying at Chang International Circuit

Pepe Oriola (pole position): “I am really happy with this pole that I didn’t expect at all. After free practice and Q1, I could never expect to beat Gianni, but I did, despite having to abort my first attempt because of traffic. Then, I found myself alone and I really enjoyed that clear lap. I know that it’s when you enjoy driving that you are faster, but still, I didn’t expect that to be the pole, the first this season. The points attached to it allowed me to retake the lead in the standings, but that doesn’t mean anything, we still have eight races to go, and I won’t think about that until Macau.”

Gianni Morbidelli (second fastest): “I did my best and it was a great effort by the entire team to work on the set-up of the car during these two days. It worked well. I missed the pole by one thousandth of a second, which is nothing, some millimetres, but the most important is that the car goes well. When I did my fastest time, I had already three laps in my tyres, which showed that the balance was good. Tomorrow, the biggest problem will be managing the effects of extreme heat…”

Jean-Karl Vernay (third fastest): “We are all very close, which proved how competitive and balanced the level of the series is. I was not very confident about the set-up after free practices, but then, analysing the data, we discovered that the problem was probably… me. I tried to calm down and have a cooler approach, and it worked. It’s my first time on this track and I really like it a lot.”

Kanthadee Kusiri (eighth fastest): “It was an excellent result for me and I thank the team that gave me a perfect car and helped a lot in working on the set-up. It’s my first race with a TCR car and it is very different from F.3, there are a lot of things to learn in a very short time. Tomorrow it won’t be easy but I’ll go for it and push as hard as I can.”

TCR Thailand joins the International Series for a family photo

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

The tradition of taking TCR family pictures was carried on today at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit, where cars and drivers of the TCR International Series and TCR Thailand were lined up all together on the track for the photo call.

TCR promoter Marcello Lotti also joined the picture, together with the circuit’s managing director Tanaisiri Chanvitayarom and Paritat Bulbon, the promoter (but also a competitor) of TCR Thailand.

Buriram United young stars beat TCR drivers after penalties

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

Motorsports and football are closely linked at Buriram, as the Chang International Circuit is next door to the I-Mobile Stadium, the home of Buriram United, one of the top teams in Thailand’s Premier League. Friday evening, an unusual match took place between TCR drivers and the Buriram United Academy, the junior team of local heroes.

The two sides played an intense match of two 15-minute half-times, which started with some difficulty for the TCR drivers, down by 3-0 after only six minutes… Progressively, though, the car aces reduced the gap, as they became more involved into the action and improved team effort. While Mikhail Grachev and Davit Kajaia, among others, showed excellent game vision, Jean-Karl Vernay and Du šan Borkovi ćimpressed with technical skills.

The TCR squad reduced the disadvantage to 4-3, with goals of Borkovi ć and Marc Masip (Pepe Oriola’s personal trainer who scored twice), before Vernay tied the score in the dying seconds of the match.

The draw led to a penalty shoot-out that Buriram United young guns won 8-6. A truly honourable defeat for the four-wheel guys, which was followed with enthusiasm by the TCR and Buriram United communities, led by TCR promoter Marcello Lotti and Buriram United President Newin Chidchob . One of the top stars of Buriram United first team, Andrés Túñez, a former player of Venezuela national team, also attended and lent his savoir-faire to TCR drivers for a few minutes. 

The Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil boys star in Thailand

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

James Nash, Pepe Oriola and the Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil were the clear winners at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit today. In the heat of the Thai summer, the Brit and the Spaniard out-paced the competition, despite a difficult start of the weekend. Oriola arrived in Thailand with an injured foot and did not take part in Friday’s testing. Nash set the fastest lap but was victim of a severe crash in the closing minutes. Hopefully, his car could be somehow brought back to racing conditions. The success of the red-and-white SEAT León cars proved once again the competitiveness of the team on this racetrack, where it had posted a memorable 1-2-3 last year.

This time, after taking the pole beating Gianni Morbidelli by only one thousandth of a second, Oriola took a clear lights-to-flag win in Race 1 ahead of Nash and Morbidelli. Race 2 saw a dominant victory of Nash, who beat Mihail Grachev (West Coast Honda Civic) and Dušan Borković (B3 Racing SEAT León).

The Serbian driver emerged as the winner of a terrific battle, arguably one of the most exciting shows in the history of TCR International Series, which also involved Stefano Comini, Davit Kajaia, Attila Tassi, Sergey Afanasyev, Jean-Karl Vernay and Kanthadee Kusiri. For several laps, these seven drivers fought intensely, though mostly with fair play, delivering countless overtaking manoeuvres and several contacts. The show was a great feast for local fans, as the unexpected guest at that level of competition was young local gun Kusiri, who made his Touring Car debut with the Honda Civic of Team Eakie BBR Kaiten and is currently racing F3 cars in the Euroformula Open.

The Thai races also yield a narrowing situation in the standings of the series: James Nash has now retaken the lead, only 7 points ahead of team mate Pepe Oriola, with the Leopard Racing duo of Comini and Vernay lying in third and fourth, 10 and 41 points behind respectively. With 165 points still at stake, nothing is decided, although the scenario for the last three events of the season is now getting clearer.

Race 1 – Oriola-Nash finish 1-2 for Craft-Bamboo Lukoil

Pepe Oriola claimed a dominant lights-to-flag victory in the first race at the Chang International Circuit, while his teammate James Nash secured a triumphant 1-2 finish for the Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil. Gianni Morbidelli finished third after he was forced to hand the second position to Nash halfway through the race.

The Leopard Racing duo of Stefano Comini and Jean-Karl Vernay finished in fourth and fifth after a close fight. Kantadhee Kusiri was classified a brilliant sixth and won the TCR Thailand race; Narasak Ittiritpong (11th overall) and Alexander Mies (13th) filled the other podium positions.

The victory enabled Oriola to stretch his point lead to 15 points ahead of Comini, while Nash was only three points behind the reigning champion.

RACE ONE KEY FACTS:

Start: Oriola sprints from the pole and leads from Morbidelli and Nash who takes a good start from the third row

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

Lap 1: Comini overtakes Vernay for fourth; Lemvard pits for repairs after a contact

Lap 2: Ittiritpong, Tassi, Afanasyev and Kajaia are in a close fight for 10th place

Lap 4: Fulín is chasing Homola who is eighth; the latter slows down and comes back to the pits with a drive shaft problem

Lap 6: Comini and Vernay have a fight for fourth place

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

Lap 7: Nash overtakes Morbidelli for second; Afanasyev overtakes Kajaia for tenth

Lap 8: Galiana, Bulbon and Supaphongs make contact while fighting for 17thposition

Lap 9: Grachev pits for repairs after a contact

Lap 10: Ferrara stops on the track with suspected engine problems

Lap 11: after starting from the back of the grid, Sathienthirakul is chasing Ittiritpong for 11th position

Lap 12: Grachev re-joins

Lap 13: Fulín misses the braking point at T3 and crashes while he was eighth

Lap 14: Oriola wins from Nash, Morbidelli, Comini, Vernay and Kusiri

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

Race 2 – James Nash wins and takes the point lead

The second race at the Chang International Circuit was plenty of drama, starting with the crash that eliminated Gianni Morbidelli and going on with a contact that forced Pepe Oriola to pit for repairs and multi-car tough battles for the positions.

James Nash was able to steer away off all the troubles and claimed his second victory of the season that might prove a crucial one in the title fight, as enabled the Craft-Bamboo Lukoil driver to take the leadership of the standings, seven points clear of Oriola and ten of Stefano Comini.

Mikhail Grachev and Dušan Borković completed the podium. The Russian was aiming for another victory after taking the lead from the pole, but eventually he could not resist to Nash’s attacks, as his car was not well balanced after a collision in the first race. As to Borković he survived an extremely physical fight that involved no less than eight drivers and was plenty of contacts that kept the Stewards busy with some investigations.

Key facts

Grid: Ferrara’s Subaru and Fulín’s Alfa Romeo have been withdrawn following an engine failure and the Race 1 crash respectively

Start: Grachev makes good use of the pole to take the lead ahead of Kusiri and Nash

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

Lap 1: Morbidelli moves up to fourth overtaking Afanasyev and Borković; soon afterwards Morbidelli loses his car at T8 and crashes hard into the barrier

Lap 2: the safety car is deployed while the wreck of Morbidelli’s car is recovered

Lap 3: Oriola pits for repairs after a contact with another car and re-joins

Lap 4: the race resumes: Grachev leads from Kusiri, Nash, Borković, Comini, Afanasyev and Vernay

Lap 5: Nash overtakes Kusiri for second; Sathienthirakul moves up to 12th ahead of Hanjitkasen and Lemvard

Lap 6: Comini overtakes Borković for fourth

Lap 7: Grachev defends the lead from Nash; Afanasyev runs wide at T12 and drops from sixth to tenth

Lap 8: Nash overtakes Grachev at T1 and takes the lead; Galiana pits after a spin

Lap 9: Grachev is closely chased by Kusiri, Comini and Vernay

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

Lap 10: Afanasyev overtakes Ittiritpong for ninth

Lap 11: Vernay and Comini overtake Kusiri for third; Borković joins the fight and in one moves climbs up to third after clashing with both Kusiri and Comini

Lap 12: the fight for third place heats up with Borković, Comini and Kusiri swapping positions several times

Lap 13: Borković and Comini are third and fourth; Kusiri drops to seventh behind Tassi and Vernay

Lap 14: Kajaia moves up to fifth overtaking Kusiri, Vernay and Tassi in the same manoeuvre; Sathienthirakul and Ittiritpong crash while fighting for tenth

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

Lap 16: Nash wins ahead of Grachev, Borković and Comini; Kajaia beats Tassi, Afanasyev, Vernay and Kusiri in the sprint for the fifth place ; Mies and Lemvard complete the TCR Thailand podium.

Quotes from the podium finishers in the two races

James Nash (winner R2 and 2nd in R1: “A very good weekend for me, especially after the big accident on Thursday. In Race 1, not much happened. I had a good start, passing both Comini and Vernay, and when Morbidelli went a little bit wide, I could take second. This is a circuit where you really have to avoid going wide, as there is much dirt out of the track. It’s a track that suits me very well, and Race 2 went very smoothly. I could pass Grachev, take the lead and keep it. I think we were clever throughout the weekend and keep raising our game. I am now leading the championship, but I don’t want to think about that until Macau.”

Pepe Oriola (winner Race 1): “It was a great weekend for the Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil and for our title bids, so I am very happy. In Race 1, I took the best start of the season and could stay in front of Gianni then it was a matter of managing the situation and the rise of temperatures. In Race 2, I had a normal start in the middle of the pack and a contact with Tassi at first corner. Then, Gianni had his accident and I had to go wide into the dirt to avoid him. Something must have punctured my front left tyre because at the following braking, the tyre blew together with body parts. Luckily, the safety-car was out and I did not lose much time, but finished 11th and took no points. Still, leaving Thailand with 30 points is very good for me.”

Mikhail Grachev (2nd in Race 2): “Nothing went as planned, as I was hit from the back during the first lap in Race 1 and got the car damaged. I had to pit for repairs and the guys worked well. The car was fit enough for Race 2 but I had not enough pace to keep the advantage of pole position. It was useless to try keeping James at bay and preferred to take no risk. Under the circumstances, finishing second is almost like a win.”

Gianni Morbidelli (3rd in Race 1): “Race 1 went well, but there was no way to keep the pace of the Bamboo cars. I lost second to Nash because a little mistake, I hit a kerb and went wide. My biggest concern was the water temperature and I was trying to get fresh air with different lines, but the temperature kept going higher and that was making me nervous. Things went worse in Race 2, as I lost completely the car in turn 8 during the first lap. I have no idea of what happened, maybe something got bent in a small earlier contact, the car just went into the barriers without any notice or anything I could do. I am sorry for the mechanics, as they will have some work to do…”

Dušan Borković (3rd in Race 2): “This is the first event of the year where we definitely did not have the pace of the front-runners, and still, we got a podium finish… In Race 1, my tyres were immediately killed after a couple of contacts in lap 1. Race 2 was clearly livelier, with a great fight with quite a few other guys. I enjoyed it very much and I think it was a great show for anyone watching…”

The next event of the TCR International Series will take place at the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix on 16/18 September.

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

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!!!

2016 TCR International Series: Russia

TCR returns to the Olympic Park’s F1 racetrack

The TCR International Series returned to the Sochi Autodrom that hosted the series last year in its maiden season.

This state-of-the-art racetrack, designed by Hermann Tilke, is sandwiched in amongst the stunning Olympic Park facilities; it was inaugurated in 2014 and has hosted the Formula One Russian Grand Prix each year since then.

Last year’s TCR event saw Jordi Gené and Pepe Oriola finish 1-2 for Craft-Bamboo Lukoil in Race 1, while Stefano Comini won the second race from Oriola and local heroes Mikhail Grachev and Sergey Afanasyev. 

The weekend will be packed with action, as the SMP Russian Circuit Racing Series shares the bill with the TCR International Series. The local races will include Touring (TCR Russia)/Super Production, Touring Light, National and CN Sport Prototype.

B3 Racing Team cars to be laden by Success Ballast

2016-2016 Sochi Saturday---62 Dusan Borkovic_47

B3 Racing Team’s Dušan Borković and Mat’o Homola will have the dubious honour of carrying the heaviest amounts of success ballast for the forthcoming event of the TCR International Series at the Sochi Autodrom.

The pole position and two second places in the races at Oschersleben last week granted Borković a score of 41 points and therefore his SEAT León car will be laden by the 30 extra kilos of the maximum success ballast.

Borković’s harvest only exceeded by two points that of h is teammate Homola’s, who won Race 1 in Germany to claim his maiden TCR victory. The young Slovak will have 20 kilos of success ballast imposed in Sochi.

James Nash of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil scored 33 points at Oschersleben, thanks to being third in qualifying and both races. He will carry 10 kilos of ballast, ten less than he had in Germany. The Briton is currently second in the Drivers’ Championship, on equal points with the leader, his teammate Pepe Oriola.

With these success ballast figures added to the BoP, the running weights of the three SEAT cars will be: 1345 kg for Borković ’s, 1335 kg for Homola’s and 1325 kg for Nash’s.

Craft-Bamboo Lukoil teammates to fight for the lead

2016-2016 Bahrain Race 2---74 Pepe Oriola_239

 Lukoil, Craft-Bamboo’s Russian sponsor couldn’t hope for a better situation on the eve of the TCR race meeting in its own country, as two of its drivers – Pepe Oriola and James Nash – are joint on equal points on top of the Drivers’ Championship.

While the Spaniard and the Briton will fight in Sochi to take a clear lead, five other drivers are eager to defend their chances of staying in the title fight and possibly to reduce their gaps from the leading duo.

B3 Racing Team’s Mat’o Homola is currently third, only four points behind Oriola and Nash; the 2015 champion Stefano Comini (Leopard Racing) lies fourth a further 13 points adrift, while the positions between fifth and seventh are filled by Jean-Karl Vernay (Leopard Racing), Gianni Morbidelli (WestCoast Racing) and Sergey Afanasyev (Craft-Bamboo Lukoil) with gaps of 30, 31 and 34 points respectively .

Russian drivers searching for glory in their home event

Sergey Afanasyev and Mikhail Grachev, the two Russian representatives in the TCR International Series, are very much looking forward to their home country event at Sochi, as they both have great expectations and serious chances to be successful.

2016-2016 Sochi Saturday---77 Sergey Afanasyev_76

Afanasyev (Craft-Bamboo Lukoil SEAT León) is still well-placed in the Drivers’ Championship: seventh, 34 points behind the leading duo of his own teammates Oriola and Nash. Since last year the 28-year old Muscovite has emerged as one of the series’ fastest drivers, with a few visits to the TCR podium – the latest being a second place at the Salzburgring – and pole position in the season opener at Bahrain. Now he’s chasing his first victory.

“Sochi is a place for having fantastic vacations, but is also a good place for racing. Sochi Autodrom is a great racetrack, perfect for Touring Car competitions, with a lot of places for overtaking. We are all ready for this weekend that is a great opportunity for us, with plenty of goals to aim for: podiums and good points. I have never scored one TCR win and this is the right time to go for it!” Afanasyev declared.

2016-2016 Sochi Saturday---08 Mikhail Grachev_64

As for Grachev (also 28 years old, but from the Siberian city of Omsk), he has already won two races (at Imola and Salzburgring) since he switched to the WestCoast Racing Honda Civic. And he has good memories of Sochi, where he won the very first race that inaugurated the track in 2014, held shortly before the F1 Grand Prix, and claimed his first TCR podium in 2015 (third in Race 2).

“My target for Sochi is definitely to continue being competitive and fighting for the top positions. I wish to grab as much points as possible, for myself but also for WestCoast Racing, because after the weekend in Oschersleben we have lost ground in both the Drivers’ and Team’s championships. And of course, I would be very happy to step onto the podium again,” said Grachev.

 TCR Russia shares the bill with the International Series

Two weeks after sharing the bill with the ADAC TCR Germany at Motorsport Arena Oschersleben, the TCR International Series is alongside another sister series at Sochi, where the race weekend also features TCR Russia, the Touring class of the SMP Russian Circuit Racing Series.

In 2015 – the zero year for TCR – SMP bravely made TCR cars eligible for the Touring class and LUKOIL Racing took up the challenge, running three SEAT cars that dominated the championship. The bet has paid off and in the current season the number of TCR cars has already tripled, although the field is still formed by SEAT León cars only and the grid is completed by a bunch of Super Production machines.

After the first three events that took place at Smolensk, Nizhniy Novgorod and Grozny, TAIF Motorsport’s Dmitry Bragin and Lukoil Racing’s reigning champion Aleksey Dudukalo are joint with 584 points on top of the standings, though Bragin has already claimed four race victories against Dudukalo’s two.

Lev Tolkachev (Innocenti-AMG Motorsport) lies third with 512 points, while Dudaklo’s teammate Roman Golikov is fourth with 510. 

Qualifying – First pole for Comini and Volkswagen

2016-2016 Sochi Saturday---01 Stefano Comini_83

 In a torrid afternoon on the shores of the Black Sea, reigning TCR champion Stefano Comini took his first pole of the season, which was also the first one for a Volkswagen Golf car and for Leopard Racing. The Luxemburger team placed his other car in third with Jean-Karl Vernay. Sandwiched in-between the two turquois Golf cars was Pepe Oriola, with the Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil SEAT, only 141 thousandths behind the poleman and a bit frustrated after having dominated the two free practice sessions and Qualifying 1. The Spaniard saw his best time in Q2 disallowed, for exceeding track limits, although this did not affect the final ranking.

It was a very close fight, with the first eight cars within a second, despite the length of the Sochi Autodrom. Gianni Morbidelli was fourth at the wheel of the WestCoast Honda Civic, ahead of the Mulsanne Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta of Petr Fulín. The Czech rounded in Q2 a day that saw him always in the top positions and confirmed the progress made by the Italian car.

On their home track, Russian drivers lived a somehow difficult day, with Mikhail Grachev qualifying seventh and Sergey Afanasiev 11th. The two other locals present in the Russian event, Ildar Rakhmatullin (WestCoast Honda Civic) and Vladimir Sheshenin (Liqui Moly Volkswagen Golf) did not pass the Q1 cut, together with Michela Cerruti who complained about severe understeer.

The first row on the reverse grid for Race 2 will be filled by B3 Racing Team Hungary’s Attila Tassi (on pole) and Mat’o Homola.

Q1: Oriola fastest as Fulín impresses

2016-2016 Sochi Saturday---22 Petr Fulin_57

Pepe Oriola continued in topping the sessions as he was the fastest in Q1 with a lap of 2:21.734. Just like in the second Practice, Stefano Comini was his closest competitor, only one tenth behind (2:21.876), while Jean-Karl Vernay ranked in third (2:22.206).

Petr Fulín provided the biggest surprise, posting the fourth fastest lap in the dying moments (2:22.282), the best results so far for the Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

The two Honda Civic cars of Gianni Morbidelli and Mikhail Grachev qualified in seventh and eighth, behind Dušan Borković and James Nash.

The following drivers made the cut for Q2: Oriola, Comini, Vernay, Fulín, Borković, Nash, Morbidelli , Grachev, Afanasyev, Homola, Tassi and Kajaia .

Q2: Comini claims first pole for Volkswagen

2016-2016 Sochi Saturday---01 Stefano Comini_37

Stefano Comini claimed pole position with the time of 2:21.130 on his first lap out of the pits. Nobody was able to improve and only Pepe Oriola got close to it; the Spaniard’s best lap (2:21.160) was disallowed by the Stewards because he trespassed the track limits, but his second best (2:21.271) gave him a front row position on the grid for Race 1.

Jean-Karl Vernay (2:21.434) and Gianni Morbidelli (2:21.699) qualified in third and fourth respectively, followed by an even more impressive Petr Fulín (2:21.954) who placed his Giulietta in fifth.

Drivers’ quotes after the Qualifying session

 Stefano Comini (pole position): “It is very nice to take the first pole of the year for both Volkswagen and Leopard Racing. This is probably the first time this year that I am really happy with our qualifying performance and that I can say that we could bring the car to its limit. For once, we did not struggle with oversteer and I could give everything and have three flat out laps in Q2. I could benefit a little from some slipstreaming by Gianni [Morbidelli] and that was helpful as our cars are not as fast as the others on the straight. It will be more difficult to keep the advantage tomorrow, especially at the start, and we can predict some action at first corner…”

Pepe Oriola (second fastest): “I don’t feel particularly upset to have not taken the pole after being the fastest in free practices and Q1. It just happened that in Q2, my first fast lap was disallowed because I ran too wide, although that lap would not mean the pole. Then, I was a little bit wide in my second attempt as well, and by then my tyres lost performance. Still, the first row is a good position to start from and we’ll see what happens. It’s going to be a long and tough race and I’ll approach it thinking about the championship and trying to avoid doing any crazy things.”

 Jean-Karl Vernay (third fastest): “It was an excellent result for the team and a good start of the weekend for me, while discovering the track. I must say I really like it. It’s a technical and interesting track that requires a good flowing and a good rhythm to be competitive. My only concern is about the start and the first corner. I think that with a lot of faster cars around Stefano and myself, it is going to be a crowded place…”

Gianni Morbidelli (fourth fastest): “I cannot be entirely satisfied today, I really believe we simply limited the damage… The truth is that we are less competitive than expected here and that we have probably reached the ceiling of our potential on this racetrack…”

 Petr Fulín (fifth fastest): “I feel as happy as if I would have done the pole… It’s really a good result for us and for the entire team, which has worked very well, especially today when they could solve the turbo problem occurred in free practice 1 and give me a car capable of taking P5 in Q2. Considering that there was no time to work on evolving the car between Oschersleben and here, it means that we are becoming more and more competitive. This afternoon, the car was much better than this morning and I could perform three laps at the same pace. I used a bit Morbidelli’s slipstream and that probably represented a gain of around 4 tenths.”

Two local drivers joined the International Series’ field

The TCR International Series has welcomed two Russian newcomers in this weekend’s event at Sochi Autodrom.

The last minute addition of Ildar Rakhmatullin and Vladimir Sheshenin to regulars Sergey Afanasyev and Mikhail Grachev increased the number of local drivers to four.

2016-2016 Sochi Saturday---18 Ildar Rakhmatullin_47

Rakhmatullin is at the wheel of a WestCoast Racing Honda Civic, just like he did last year here in Sochi. The 30-year old from Kazan, is a race winner in the Russian Touring Light category in which he finished as a runner up in 2015.

2016-2016 Sochi Saturday---19 Vladimir Sheshenin_22

Sheshenin, 27-year old from Ekaterinburg, is the current leader of the Russian National class in a LADA Kalina; he had won the National title in 2014 and finished second last year. Sheshenin is driving a Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf Gti.

They are both committed to race in their respective national championships as well during the weekend.

Another family photo with TCR’s Russian relatives

2016-2016 Sochi Friday---TCR International and Russia_2

Following the taking of the TCR family picture at Oschersleben, that gathered together all the competitors of the International and German series, another photo call was organised at Sochi with the TCR Russia drivers joining their International Series fellows.

Twenty-three cars from both championships were lined up on the Sochi Autodrom starting grid for another impressive shot. 

The cars and drivers were then joined by TCR promoter Marcello Lotti and Oleg Petrikov, promoter of the SMP Russian Circuit Racing Series.

TCR Russia: Dmitry Bragin keeps on winning

Dmitry Bragin’s winning streak continued, as the TAIF Motorsport driver scored an new victory in today’s Race 1 at Sochi, his fifth out of the seven rounds of the SMP Russian Circuit Racing Series held so far.

After setting pole position in this morning’s qualifying, Bragin resisted an early assault from Roman Golikov after the start and went to claim another lights-to-flag win.

Behind him, Golikov and his Lukoil Racing teammates Nikolay Karamyshev and Aleksey Dudukalo were involved ion a close, but short fight for the other podium position. In a few laps Karamyshev emerged as the fastest of the trio and proceeded to close the gap fropm Bragin.

Towards the end of the 9-lap race, Bragin’s margin had faded to only two tenths, however he was able to increase the pace and to cross the line half-a-second ahead of Karamyshev. Dudukalo took third position, with Golikov in fourth.

These results enabled Bragin to take a solo lead in the Drivers’ Championship, ten points ahead of Dudukalo. 

Comini retakes the championship lead by one point

TCR series Sochi, Russia 02 - 03 July 2016

It is full summer in Sochi, with glorious and warm weather and thousands of holiday-makers flocking to the Black Sea beaches. The Russian event also marked the start of the summer break for the TCR International Series, but most importantly, it made the title fight even hotter ahead of the final four race meetings in the Far East.

The action on the track and the penalties issued to Dušan Borković, James Nash and Mat’o Homola and Davit Kajaia reshuffled the point standings that now see Stefano Comini as the new leader, although he has only a one point advantage on Pepe Oriola and seven on Nash; Jean-Karl Vernay and Homola are fourth and fifth, with gaps of 22 and 23 points respectively, while Gianni Morbidelli is still at striking distance (37 points from the leader) despite a broken suspension forced him out of today’s second race.

In Sochi, the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf cars expressed their full potential. This allowed Comini to take pole position and an authoritative win in Race 1, while Vernay brought home another podium finish in Race 2. Oriola and Morbidelli completed the podium of the first race, but they neither of them could finish the second race.

Local hero Mikhail Grachev took a superb win in Race 2; the third of the season for him since he joined WestCoast Racing Honda Civic.

Eventually the podiums of both races were filled by three different car brands: Honda (first and third), Volkswagen (first and second) and SEAT (second and third).

The weekend provided more exciting news, with 17-year-old Hungarian Attila Tassi taking his first podium (3rd) in Race 2; the B3 Racing’s teenager mastered some well-seasoned rivals to sign a great performance. And it was also a great weekend for the Alfa Romeo Giulietta of Mulsanne Racing that Petr Fulín put in P5 on the grid before finishing both races in the points (6th and 9th), the best result so far for the Italian car.

Race 1 – An uncatchable Comini claims victory

2016-2016 Sochi Race 1---01 Stefano Comini_133

Stefano Comini took his second win of the season at Sochi Autodrom. Starting from the pole, the Swiss was able to build a good advantage in the early laps, keeping the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf Gti well ahead all rivals up to the chequered flag. Race 1 on the Russian track was characterized by extremely warm weather.

Pepe Oriola finished second after a short duel with Gianni Morbidelli, who had taken an excellent start. The SEAT of the Spaniard and the Honda of the Italian completed a podium where three different manufacturers were represented.

James Nash crossed the line fourth, ahead of Dušan Borković , Mikhail Grachev, Jean-Karl Vernay, Petr Fulín and Davit Kajaia, who animated the race with some close battles. Mat’o Homola took the last point in a race that saw few incidents.

After the race both Nash and Borković received time penalties of 10 and 30 seconds respectively; Nash was demoted from fourth to eight as he was deemed responsible for a collision with Vernay, while Borković was punished for repeatedly trespassing the track limits and dropped from fifth to 14th.

Race One Key Facts

Start: Poleman Comini takes a good start from Morbidelli, Oriola and Vernay; Afanasyev stalls the engine and starts from the back 

TCR series Sochi, Russia 02 - 03 July 2016

Lap 1: The four leading cars are followed by Nash, Grachev, Borković and Fulín  

Lap 2: Comini builds a gap, at the pace of one second per; Oriola passes Morbidelli for second

TCR series Sochi, Russia 02 - 03 July 2016

Lap 3: Fulín and Kajaia are in a close battle for 7th and swap positions twice;Borković and Grachev are in a similar fight , with the Serbian taking 5th

Lap 4: Vernay makes contact with Nash and drops to 10th; Sheshenin pits with damage on the front right wheel and body after hitting a pile of tyres

Lap 6: Comini leads by 4 seconds on Oriola, then Morbidelli, Nash and Borković ; Vernay passes Homola for 9th

TCR series Sochi, Russia 02 - 03 July 2016

Lap 7: Fulín attacks Grachev for 6th, with Kajaia chasing them closely; Afanasyev is given a drive-through for trespassing the track limits

Lap 8: Vernay passes Kajaia for 8th

Lap 9: Vernay takes 7th from Fulín

Lap 11: Comini takes a comfortable win ahead of Oriola, Morbidelli, Nash and Borković

Race 2 – Grachev shines at home with superb win

2016-2016 Sochi Race 2---08 Mikhail Grachev_119

Mikhail Grachev played to perfection his role of local hero and delighted Russian fans with a clear win, his third this season. The driver of the WestCoast Racing Honda Civic took a perfect start from row 2 and kept the leadership until the end on the very track where he conquered, last year, his first TCR podium finish.

Jean-Karl Vernay, in the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf, put in a strong performance to take second, right ahead of Attila Tassi. The young Hungarian driver resisted well to the attacks of some much more experienced touring car stars to visit for the first time the TCR podium, to the delight of the B3 Racing Team squad, becoming the youngest ever podium finishers in the International Series.

James Nash was again fourth, ahead of Stefano Comini, but the Brit rounded his weekend by taking the lead in the overall standings, although by only one point on Comini and two on Pepe Oriola, which leaves the fight for the title more open than ever ahead of the final four events in Asia. Other top title contenders had a difficult Race 2, losing heavy points: Oriola retired with a steering issue and Gianni Morbidelli was stopped by a broken suspension on the penultimate lap while he was chasing Tassi.

After the race, Mat’o Homola was given a 5-second time penalty for being in a wrong position on the starting grid; this demoted him from ninth to tenth. Another penalty of 30-seconds was imposed for Davit Kajaia for track limits that dropped him from seventh to 11th.

Race Two Key Facts

Start: Grachev takes the best start and is first ahead of Tassi, Nash and Homola; Fulín and Rakhmatullin start from the pit lane

TCR series Sochi, Russia 02 - 03 July 2016

Lap 1: Grachev leads from Tassi, Nash, Homola, Vernay and Morbidelli

Lap 2: Nash puts the pressure on Tassi, while Vernay is attacking Homola

Lap 3: Homola drops to 8th behind Vernay, Comini, Morbidelli, Oriola and Borković

Lap 5: Vernay overtakes Nash for 3rd.

TCR series Sochi, Russia 02 - 03 July 2016

Lap 6: Tassi and Vernay are in a close fight; Morbidelli takes 4th from Nash

TCR series Sochi, Russia 02 - 03 July 2016

Lap 7: Vernay passes Tassi for second

Lap 8: Oriola slows down and retires; Tassi is hit by Morbidelli who is chased by Nash

Lap 9: Tassi resists in third position

TCR series Sochi, Russia 02 - 03 July 2016

Lap 10: Morbidelli hits a wall after a suspension failure

Lap 11: Grachev takes home win from Vernay, Tassi, Nash, Comini and Borković

Quotes from the podium finishers in the two races

Stefano Comini (winner Race 1): “I had an excellent weekend and I certainly did not expect to go away from Russia with such a close situation in the standings. I must say the car here was working perfectly. It is the first time I have the feeling that we are exploiting to the fullest the potential of the car. For sure, lowering the height of the car by 10mm helped, but the team also did a fantastic job. Following yesterday’s pole, I really put all my chances on Race 1, so we had four new tyres, and everything went well. I took a good start and focused during the first laps in building a sufficient gap. That’s what happened.”

Pepe Oriola (second in Race 1: “It was a weekend with two completely different races. P2 in the first one was an excellent result. I took it after a short fight with Gianni (Morbidelli), but there was nothing I could do against Stefano (Comini). Not only is he a very good driver, but this time his car showed great pace. In Race 2, I was aiming at some good points, but had a problem with the steering since the beginning, I couldn’t keep the car straight and turning became more and more difficult, so I preferred to stop. Now the championship is again very open and I think we’ll have a lot of fun in Asia for the final part of the season.”

Gianni Morbidelli (third in Race 1: “A frustrating weekend and I think we have lost all chances for the championship, despite what the figures say, because the car is just not fast enough. As it happened last year, we had a good start and then we started struggling. Today, third in Race 1 was the maximum we could aim at and in Race 2, when I was fighting for some heavy points, something broke in a suspension…”

Mikhail Grachev (winner of Race 2): “I am really happy of this win, the third of the season and at home! I really want to thank WestCoast Racing because they did a fantastic job. I had a problem with my front tyres in Race 1, their temperature was too high and there was no grip. In-between the two races, the guys worked to find a solution, despite the very short turn-around time, and they managed to solve the problem. The car was perfect. I could take a very good start, build some gap and stay in front. It wasn’t easy, there was a lot of fighting behind me and when I saw Vernay emerging, I knew I was going to have some pressure on me, but eventually it worked. I think starting well in both races was key today, I am really happy about my starts since I drive the Civic, now I really want to improve my qualifying, so that I can be in a better position on the grids.”

Jean-Karl Vernay (second in Race 2): “It has been a tough weekend for me: a new track, so much heat and a flu, really not easy. But I am happy I could do well and I liked the Sochi Autodrom a lot. Unfortunately, my Race 1 was spoiled when Nash hit me and I dropped from 4th to 10th, climbing back a few positions afterwards. Race 2 was much better. I won a couple of duels and finished second. By then, my tyres were not in a good situation and I was really sick, so I just tried to stay where I was.”

 Attila Tassi (third in Race 2): “It is very nice to be on the podium for the first time, but I really want to go for more results like this and to be on a higher spot soon. I think I made a good start in Race 2 and that I did a nice race having to defend myself from the attacks of much more experienced drivers. I did a little mistake at some point and Vernay passed me, but I managed to keep Morbidelli at bay until he had a problem. In the last lap, I just tried to stay focused and get on the podium. I really want to thank the B3 Racing Team for all their support, after a difficult start of the season, and my parents for allowing me to do what I like.”

The TCR International Series will resume on August 27 and 28 at Buriram, Thailand, for rounds 15 and 16.

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!!!

2016 TCR International Series: Germany

The Motorsport Arena hosts an event full of emotions

The TCR International Series will pay its first visit to Germany, as the sixth event of the season takes place at the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben.

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. This is also the reason why German fans always flock to the Motorsport Arena to enjoy the door-to-door battles between saloon cars.

This event promises to deliver a range of emotions, as the ADAC TCR Germany and the ADAC Formula 4 will share the bill with the TCR International Series, while the Deutscher Tourenwagen Cup (DTC) and the Haigo Historic Cup complete the programme.

The maximum ballast shifts from Comini to Vernay

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016 

For the second consecutive event one of the Leopard Racing drivers will carry 30 extra kilos as a consequence of the maximum success ballast.

After Stefano Comini at the Salzburgring ten days ago, it will be Jean-Karl Vernay who will carry the heaviest handicap on board his Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR at Oschersleben. This is the consequence of the fact the young Frenchman was the best scorer in Austria with a haul of 39 points, that included 25 for his victory in the second race.

James Nash of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil, who is currently third in the championship standings, five points ahead of Vernay, will carry 20 kilos of ballast as the second best scorer in the Austrian event, while WestCoast Racing’s Mikhail Grachev – the winner of the first race at the Salzburgring – will retain the 10 kilos for the third best scorer for the second consecutive time. 

With the Success Ballast figures added to the BoP, the running weights of the three cars will be: 1315 kg for Vernay’s Volkswagen Golf, 1335 kg for Nash’s SEAT León and 1325 kg for Grachev’s Honda Civic.

The current championship leader Comini, his closest competitor Pepe Oriola and Gianni Morbidelli who is fifth in the classification on equal points with Vernay, will have the opportunity to take advantage in driving ballast-free cars.

Antti Buri redoubles his efforts over the German weekend

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016 

Finnish driver Antti Buri will be facing a hard working weekend at Oschersleben, where he will race in both the TCR International and TCR German series.

In his maiden TCR season, the 28-year old from Masku has already made an impact on both series. A regular competitor in TCR Germany with an LMS Racing SEAT León Cup Racer, Buri is currently sixth in the Drivers’ classification having claimed one victory in the second race at the Sachsenring. He could, however, have been placed higher, had his first victory in Race 2 at Oschersleben not been disallowed by a penalty for a jump-start.

Buri also found the time to make a first appearance in the TCR International Series at Spa-Francorchamps, driving a Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI. The debut resulted in brilliant results too, as he finished third in the second race, behind his temporary teammates Jean-Karl Vernay and Stefano Comini.

Buri will take part in both the ADAC TCR Gemany and the TCR International Series with the LMS SEAT car.

Liqui Moly Team Engstler signs Mackshin for home event

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016 

Niklas Mackshin, 21-year old from the Hanover region, was the latest addition to the TCR International Series field for the Oschersleben event.

The young German will drive a Volkswagen Golf Gti for the Liqui Moly Team Engstler alongside the team’s regular Davit Kajaia.

Despite his young age, Mackshin has already proved a very competitive driver in Touring Car competition. After winning two German titles in the 2013 ADAC Chevrolet Cruze Cup and the 2014 DMV BMW Challenge, Mackshin switched to international racing and dominated the Super 1600 class in the 2015 FIA European Touring Car Cup.

At the wheel of a Ford Fiesta he won 10 out of the series’ 12 races and clinched the continental crown.

In the current season he is successfully defending his title; with four victories out of six races Mackshin is leading the standings with a wide margin.

TCR Germany shares the bill with the International Series

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The ADAC TCR Germany shares the bill with the TCR International Series in the race weekend at Motorsport Arena Oschersleben.

In its maiden season, the German series has already established itself as one of the most competitive among the national championships that have adopted the TCR concept.

The first two race meetings of the season were held at Oschersleben and Sachsenring and after this second visit to Oschersleben the series will race at Red Bull Ring (Austria), Nürburgring, Zandvoort (Netherlands) and Hockenheim.

After the first two events, Austrian driver Harald Proczyk (HP Racing SEAT León) – the winner of the first race at the Sachsenring – is leading the standings with 70 points, seven ahead of Britain’s Josh Files (Target Competition SEAT León) who won both races in the Oschersleben opener. Benjamin Leuchter (Racing One Volkswagen Golf GTI) is the first German driver in the classification and lies third, 12 points behind the leader.

TCR names Motorsport.com as ‘Official Media Partner’

WSC Ltd, owner of the TCR brand and promoter of the TCR International Series announced today that has named Motorsport.com as its ‘Official Media Partner’.

Formed in 1994, Motorsport.com is a technologically advanced international digital media group specializing in motor racing contents offering 21 editions in 14 languages, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is part of the Motorsport Network.

As part of the agreement, Motorsport.com will provide full coverage on all its 21 editions and 14 native languages, as well as sister brands Motorsport.tv andMotor1.com. Live streaming of races will also be provided on the network and coverage will be granted to the TCR International, Regional and National series.

“TCR was born with the aim to become a global concept for Touring Car racing. In less than two years expectations have been largely exceeded, as the TCR cars have been made eligible (or they will be in the near future) by no less than fourteen international, regional and national series worldwide.” said TCR promoter Marcello Lotti.

“The media partnership with Motorsport.com fits perfectly in the strategy of consolidating and promoting the image of TCR on a truly global level. In fact, there is no other motorsports digital media company in the world that has this comprehensive coverage of racing, including its automotive enthusiasts brand Motor1.com. It is a platform that may be profitably exploited by promoters, manufacturers, suppliers and partners alike.”

“We are privileged that the TCR has chosen Motorsport.com as its ‘Official Media Partner’,” said Filippo Salza, president, Motorsport.com – Europe. “As the most-viewed motorsport digital media company in the world, adding first-class content like the TCR continues grow our brand and global audience. We firmly believe in the direction that Marcello Lotti is taking the category and look forward in providing world-class content to our readership.”

Qualifying – Borković and Homola make 1-2 for B3

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

B3 Racing Team claimed a great result in Qualifying at Oschersleben, placing two of their SEAT cars on the front row of the grid for tomorrow’s Race 1.

With a somehow unexpected performance that even surprised himself, Dušan Borković won his second pole position of the season and beat his teammate Mat’o Homola by a bit more than two tenths.

James Nash of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil qualified in third position, benefiting from the penalty imposed to Jean-Karl Vernay who had his fastest time disallowed for a track-limit infringement. Similar penalties also affected the results of Gianni Morbidelli, Sergey Afanasyev and Petr Fulín. This promoted Antti Buri to a brilliant fourth position ahead of Afanasyev.

It was a triumphant result for the SEAT cars that filled the first five places, with Morbidelli’s Honda and Vernay’s Volkswagen in sixth and seventh.

David Kajaia and Stefano Comini qualified in tenth and ninth respectively and will be on the front row of the top-ten reversed grid for Race 2.

The first race will start this tomorrow at 12:35 local time, over a distance of 15 laps.

Q1: Oriola is the fastest by far

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Pepe Oriola was the only driver so far to break the 1:35 wall, as he posted a fastest lap of 1:34.779 that no one else was able to match.

The drivers were cautious in the early stages, as the track was still drying after a drizzle that had disturbed the TCR Germany first race.

When lap times began to drop, Jean-Karl Vernay set the mark at 1:35.748, but this was soon bettered by Mat’o Homola who jumped on top with a lap of 1:35.294.

Oriola was able to go even faster and demoted Homola to second.

Petr Fulín provided the last thrill by moving up from 13th to ninth on his last lap, kicking Mikhail Grachev out of the top-twelve in the process.

The following drivers made the cut for Q2: Oriola, Homola, Comini, Afanasyev, Vernay, Borković, Nash, Morbidelli , Fulín, Kajaia, Tassi and Buri .

Q2: Borković creates a surprise

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Dušan Borković set pole position in Q2, nearly matching the Oriola’s record lap from Q1. After being the fastest by far in the first part of the Qualifying, the Spaniard was not able to repeat the performance and finished a disappointing eight.

Homola qualified second (1:35.131), two tenths behind his teammate and beat Vernay’s 1:35.138 by only seven thousandths of a second. However, the Frenchman had his fastest lap disallowed for trespassing the track limits, which helped James Nash (1:35.177) to inherit the third position.

Drivers’ quotes after the Qualifying session

Dušan Borković (pole position): “I am very happy of this second pole of the season, especially because I was not expecting it. I tend not to like slow tracks and slow corners, so I was not thinking to be on pole here. I didn’t push very hard and maybe that was the key. Of course, to have two of our cars on the front row is a great reward for the entire team, who has had a lot of work so far this season. Tomorrow, the first laps will be difficult, because it’s hard to warm up the tyres on this track, but I really hope I’ll be able to correct my reputation of ‘qualifying master but race disaster’!”

Mat’o Homola (second): “For sure, it’s an excellent result for the entire team, and we see that we become better and better at every outing. I’m not very fond either of slow corners, but I tend to do well on this kind of tracks, so it would be nice if tomorrow Dušan and I can win both races. After a collection of finishes between second and fifth, I’d really like to clinch a race win.”

James Nash (third): “I have good memories of Oschersleben, where I got some good results in the past and my first podium in Europe. It is a very special track and I think it is important not to over-drive, because you get severely penalized. That’s what I tried to do and it paid off, although the gap with the pole, three tenths, seems relatively huge. Half of it, though, I think it is because of the 20 kg success ballast, which on a slow track always plays a greater effect.”

Pepe Oriola (eighth): “In Q2 I couldn’t be as competitive as in Q1, and there was no special reason for that. I think I simply pushed too hard and overdrove a bit, and this does not pay off on this track. By breaking later in the slower corners, you end up losing time…”

Cerruti deprived of Alfa’s progress by a pedal issue

 TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta was one of the stars of free practice and qualifying sessions at Oschersleben. The car of Petr Fulin was fourth fastest in free practice 1 and then made it easily to Q2, proving the significant progress made both in terms of performance and reliability by the car developed by Romeo Ferraris.

“It is nice and rewarding to see that all our work is paying off,” commented Michela Cerruti, the driver that has been developing the car since the start of the project, “We are now much closer to the front-runners in terms of performance and have improved much in reliability. We still have a number of things to improve, in electronics for instance, but we are definitely on the right course.”

Unfortunately, the Italian driver could not exploit to the fullest the potential of her car.“An issue with the pedals has arisen in Michela’s car,” explained Mulsanne Racing team principal Claudio Bortoletto. “It is a mechanical problem that was hindering her driving, but unfortunately it is a relatively complex repair that we cannot perform out of the factory.”

TCR Germany: Fugel wins Race 1 after penalties

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Dominik Fugel inherited his maiden victory in the TCR Germany after a 30-second time penalty was imposed to Josh Files who had crossed the line first with a big gap.

Files was penalised for a starting grid infringement, just like his Target Competition teammate Jürgen Schmarl, Antti Buri and Mike Beckhusen (who had finished 3rd, 9thand 13th respectively).

Fugel’s victory was also the first one for the Honda Team ADAC; Mike Halder’s SEAT (Liqui Moly Team Engstler) and Steve Kirsch (Fugel’s teammate) completed the podium.

The race was eventful, with an incident at Turn 1 after the start that involved Kirsch, Tim Zimmermann, Kai Jordan and Beckhusen. Files took the lead from Mario Dablander, while Fugel, Harald Proczyk, Schmarl and Ronny Jost were fighting for third.

On lap 7 Dablander had to pay a drive through because his car was not in the correct position on the starting grid. The Swiss dropped from second to 18th and decided to retire.

A shower disturbed the second part of the race, but this did not slowed down Files and Fugel who finished first and second, with Schmarl in third place.

However, shortly after the end of the race the Stewards issued the penalties for Files and Schmarl, which promoted Fugel, Halder and Kirsch to the top three positions.

Oriola and Nash lead the championship on equal points

 TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

The half-season mark was rounded at Oschersleben, where the TCR International Series offered two action-packed races, that the changing weather conditions were made even livelier. The main take-away of the weekend is that, after three winless events, the SEAT León cars took a double victory and monopolized the podium positions.

It was an emotional Race 1 for Mat’o Homola, as the young Slovak took his maiden win in the series, while Race 2 allowed Pepe Oriola to go back to the highest spot of the podium that he hadn’t visited since the season-opener in Bahrain. Both Dušan Borković and James Nash collected a double podium finish, which in the case of the Serbian means breaking a string of frustrating results. His and Homola’s harvest of heavy points also meant that B3 Racing Hungary is now a brilliant second in the Teams’ standings behind Craft-Bamboo Lukoil. 

Oriola has also regained the lead in the Drivers’ Championship, although being on equal points with his teammate Nash, who proved again his consistency by taking two third places.

Homola is now only four points behind the duo, while Stefano Comini, Gianni Morbidelli and Jean-Karl Vernay have had a more difficult weekend as they were involved in different race incidents. They all struggled to salvage a few points, and it is now clear that every single point will have its weight at the end of the season in such a close fight for the title. 

The German rounds yielded more interesting news, as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta cars showed great progress in performance, way beyond Michela Cerruti’s P9 in Race 2, while some of the youngest guns of the series, like Attila Tassi (7th in Race 2) and Niklas Mackschin (who finished 9th and a 8th) put some strong showings in the close fights that delighted the fans. 

Race 1 – Mat’o Homola claims his maiden win

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

After dominating Qualifying, B3 Racing Team’s Dušan Borković and Mat’o Homola swapped positions in the first race and gave B3 Racing Team its first victory in the TCR International Series.

Although he was able to exploit his pole position, Borković made a couple of mistake that dropped him behind his teammate. Homola had a spotless race and managed to keep his competitors at bay, with James Nash, Sergey Afanasyev and Antti Buri crossing the line behind the B3 Racing duo.

In a race that was plenty of incidents and safety car interventions, Gianni Morbidelli and Pepe Oriola managed to survive, salvaging a seventh and tenth positions that might prove crucial in the title fight, while Stefano Comini was forced to retire.

The two Mulsanne Racing’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta cars were brilliantly running in seventh (Michela Cerruti) and eighth (Petr Fulín) when they were both stopped by mechanical failures in the final laps.

With these results, Homola is the new championship leader, Nash is second, one point behind; Oriola and Comini are on equal points, with a gap of 11 from the leader.

Race One Key Facts

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Start: Borković takes the lead from Nash and Homola

Lap 1: A collision at T1 involves Grachev, Kajaia, Oriola, Comini and Afanasyev

Lap 2: Homola and Buri overtake Nash who drops to fourth; Morbidelli goes wide and drops at the back

Lap 3: Tassi spins off at Turn 2 while trying to overtake Comini; Borković makes a mistake and drops to third

Lap 4: The safety car is deployed to recover Tassi’s car

Lap 6: The race resumes, Homola leads from Buri, Borković, Nash, Vernay and Comini

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 7: Comini passes Vernay for fifth; Oriola overtakes Afanasyev for seventh

Lap 8: Morbidelli and Sheehan make contact, the American spins; Borković and Nash pass Buri who drops from second to fourth; the rain comes

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 9: Borković makes a mistake and drops behind Nash and Buri

Lap 10: Borković retakes third from Buri who is fighting with Comini

Lap 11: Comini missed the braking point at T1 and drops to sixth behind Oriola; Oriola and Buri make contact, the former crashes into the tyre wall

Lap 12: Comini stops in the run-off area at T1; Grachev spins and hits Comini car; the safety car is deployed again

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 15: The race resumes once again; Morbidelli moves up to seventh overtaking Fulín and Cerruti; Fulín pits and retires

Lap 16: Buri overtakes Vernay for fifth.

Lap 17: Cerruti stops on the track losing the eighth position

Lap 18: Sheehan makes a mistake and gets stranded onto the grave trap

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 19: Borković overtakes Nash for second; Homola wins from Borković, Nash, Afanasyev, Buri and Vernay.

Race 2 – Pepe Oriola returns to victory

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Pepe Oriola ended a three-month drought and returned to victory with a convincing performance that helped him to regain the championship lead, though on equal points with his teammate James Nash.

Dušan Borković and Nash encored their results from the first race and finished second and third once again.

Stefano Comini completed a brilliant recovery to sixth after an incident at the start and a tough but fair fight with the up-and-coming youngsters Attila Tassi and Niklas Mackschin.

Michela Cerruti was finally able to capitalize on the technical improvement made by the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and finished in a well-deserved ninth position .

Race Two Key Facts

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Start: Kajaia makes good use of his pole and leads the field ahead of Oriola and Vernay

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 1: Once again there is a pile up at T1; Comini and Morbidelli clash and rejoin at the back; Fulín is also involved, then pits and retires. Borković and Vernay make contact, the Serbian loses control and hits Homola but they manage to stay on the track; Vernay retires

Lap 2: Oriola takes the lead from Kajaia; Homola misses the braking point at T1 and drops to sixth; Grachev and Buri make contact, the latter retires

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 3: Oriola pulls away; Nash, Afanasyev and Homola have a tough fight over fourth position

Lap 5: Tassi and Mackschin fight for seventh

Lap 7: Borković and Nash are closing in on Kajaia

Lap 8: Comini passes Cerruti for ninth

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 9: Kajaia makes a mistake at T1 and loses second place to Borković

Lap 11: Kajaia repeats the mistake at T1 and drops at the back

Lap 12: Oriola controls Borković’s attempt to close the gap; Nash is third, chased by Afanasyev, Homola

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 14: Tassi, Comini and Mackschin are in a close battle for sixth

Lap 15: Comini steals sixth from Tassi with a clashing overtaking manoeuvre

Lap 17: Oriola wins from Borković, Nash, Afanasyev and Homola; Cerruti claims ninth

Quotes from the podium finishers

Mat’o Homola (winner Race 1): “I got this first win I was looking for so hard, and I feel very happy about it. It’s a dream come true after seven years in touring car racing. I chose to do the TCR because it is an international series, and I think it was the right choice. The race was quite tough, as it was very wet in some portions of the track and conditions kept changing. On top, there were two safety car periods, which is always stressful, but I managed to control everything. Now I am also well positioned in the championship but things are too tight to make any prediction, I’ll take them step by step.”

Pepe Oriola (winner Race 2): “After a very bad weekend at Salzburgring because of technical problems, it is nice to be spared by bad luck. Still, Race 1 was quite eventful, as I was involved in two race incidents and even touched the barriers. Luckily, I could finish the race and damage was only cosmetic. In Race 2, I could avoid trouble at the start and passed Kajaia after a few laps. Then everything went fine and I focused mostly on saving my tyres in the closing laps. It’s nice to be back in the lead of the standings, although the title race is still very long. I’m on equal points with James, he is very consistent and being both in the same team, we share all the data, so it’s going to be a close fight, and I am sure that Morbidelli and Comini will also be part of it.”

Dušan Borković (second in both races): “Two seconds is a very good result, and most of all, it means I am again able to finish races! I really thought I could win Race 1. I took the lead and was trying to build a gap, but unfortunately I did a mistake in the rain, going wide and losing positions. I was able to charge back, although there was some more sliding, and Race 2 had a relatively similar scenario. I’m still wondering how I survived all that, but the good news is that we are back on the podium and that this time there isn’t additional work for the mechanics.”

James Nash (third in both races): “It was a positive weekend, with two good races, and it’s nice to be on equal points in the standings with Pepe, although he has more wins than I do. That’s what I need to do, try to win more often, but today, given the conditions, I really went for the points, trying to avoid overdoing and doing mistakes.”

TCR Germany: Files pips Zimmerman on last lap

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Josh Files claimed his third victory of the season, the first after Target Competition switched from SEAT to Honda cars. The Briton emerged as the winner at the end of a thrilling race that ended with a six-car fight for the lead.

Everything was decided in the last lap, when Files and Bas Schouten pipped Tim Zimmermann who had led for most of the race after Antti Buri has been slowed down by electronics issues. With these results, Files regained the championship lead, five points ahead of Harald Proczyk.

The first lap was full of action, also because it began to rain while the drivers were on slicks; Buri took the lead from Zimmermann, Proczyk, Lautehschlager and Dablander. A mid-field incident involved Schamrl, Leuchter and Eberle; the latter’s car stopped in the middle of the track and forced the race director to deploy the safety car.

Soon after the race resumed, the leader Buri slowed down for a while and rejoined in 11th position. Zimmermann inherited the first place ahead of Files, Kirsch, Proczyk, Halder and Schouten.

The safety car was prompted again on lap 9 after Jordan’s car got stranded onto the gravel trap. When the race resumed Files and Kirsch made contact while fighting for second; Kirsch got the worst of it and retired.

Zimmermann was defending the lead from Files, Proczyk, Schouten, Buri and Halder; the six cars were covered by less than two seconds. On the last lap Files and Schouten managed to overtake Zimmermann and crossed the line in first and second, with Halder and Proczyk following in fourth and fifth.

The TCR International Series will resume on July 2 and 3 at Sochi, Russia, for rounds 13 and 14.

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!!!

2016 TCR International Series: Austria…

TCR drivers return to superfast track on the Austrian Alps

The fifth event of the TCR International Series took place at the Salzburgring, the high-speed track that lies in the superb setting of the Austrian Alps.

This is one the most demanding circuit for Touring Car drivers, because its combination of long straights with fast corners and a tricky chicane always results in the fastest average speed of the season and significant wear of the front left tyres.

The circuit was built in 1968 inside a narrow valley and its layout underwent very few changes since, although the pit building and paddock were rebuilt a few years ago. For many years (1971/1994) it was home of the Motorcycling Austrian GP and hosts the TCR International Series for the second time.

Actually this is the first time so far in the current season that TCR drivers return on a track they visited last year.

Stefano Comini to carry the maximum ballast

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

 For the first time so far this season, 2015 TCR champion Stefano Comini will have to carry the maximum Success Ballast on board his Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf Gti.

The Swiss was the best scorer in Imola, with a victory and a third place that, added to fourth in qualifying, brougth him 42 points that will result in 30 extra kilos for the Austrian event at the Salzburgring.

The current championship leader Pepe Oriola of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil, will keep on with the same 20-kilo ballast he had carried at Imola, while the 10 kilos for the third best scorer in Italy will be laden on Mikhail Grachev’s WestCoast Racing Honda Civic.

With these Success Ballasts added to the BoP, the running weights of the three cars will be: 1315 kg for Comini’s Volkswagen Golf, 1345 kg for Oriola’s SEAT León and 1335 kg for Grachev’s Honda Civic.

Cerruti and Fulín will drive two Alfa Romeo cars

2016-2016 Salzburgring Friday---Mulsanne Racing

After skipping the two previous events in Spa and Imola, Mulsanne Racing rejoin the TCR International Series in Austria. At the Salzburgring, the Italian team doubles its commitment and fields two Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR cars, with Petr Fulín joining the team’s regular driver Michela Cerruti.

During the previous month the Romeo Ferraris engineering company has worked flat out to both develop the Giulietta TCR and build a second car. This phase was completed by a successful test at Cervesina’s Tazio Nuvolari circuit, where Cerruti and Fulín took the wheel of the two cars that have been significantly upgraded since their last appearance at Estoril and painted in a bright red.

 Said Cerruti: “The team has worked a lot to improve performance, aerodynamics and handling. The most important changes are about the front suspension and the front part of the bodywork, with a new splitter and larger cooling intakes. During yesterday’s test the car proved to be faster and reliable. We will see how much we have improved only when we face the competitors on the track, but I am moderately optimist.”

Twice winner of the FIA European Touring Car Cup (2013 and 2014), Fulín drove the Alfa for the first time. The Czech driver has built himself a solid reputation in Touring Car competitions, and over the last two seasons has switched to front-wheel drive, racing a SEAT León TCR in the ETCC; he was runner up last year and is currently leading the standings.

“Running a second car was one of our goals, and I believe that having an experienced driver like Petr will help the team to make a further step ahead,” Cerruti added.

WestCoast Racing signs Harald Proczyk for his home race

2016-2016 Salzburgring Saturday---43 Harald Proczyk_6

After running its third Honda Civic car for Alain Menu at Imola, WestCoast Racing has signed another experienced driver, the Austrian Harald Proczyk, for this weekend’s race meeting at the Salzburgring.

Proczyk, who was born 41 years ago in Knittelfeld, nearby the Red Bull Ring, has established himself as one of the most experienced and successful Austrian drivers in recent years. His career has spanned from the early years in one-make trophies to the latest seasons in GT racing.

The Austrian has claimed a great deal of race victories and has fought several times for the titles in the German Ford Fiesta Cup, MINI Challenge and GT Masters, but also in the FIA European GT3 Championship and the Blancpain Endurance Series.

During the current season, Proczyk is racing in the new ADAC TCR Germany at the wheel of a SEAT León and, during the series latest event at the Sachsenring, he was victorious in the first race and jumped on top of the Drivers’ Championship standings.

Team manager James Rogers commented: “We are very pleased to offer Harald Proczyk the opportunity to take part in his home event at the wheel of a competitive car. We are very much looking forward to working with him, as we know he’s a fast driver. He may be a rookie in the International Series, but has already proved to be a winner in TCR Germany. It is also an opportunity for our team to showcase the performance of the Honda Civic TCR.”

And Proczyk added: “I’m very excited to discover the TCR International Series that is a step upward compared to the national series. I know that the team is very professional and I am curious to find out the potential of the Honda Civic. I need to focus on driving a front-wheel driven car at the limit again, because I have just raced the Nürburgring 24 Hours in a Porsche. And on top of this I need to get used to the Michelin tyres and get my bearings on the track again, as I haven’t raced at the Salzburgring since six or seven years. But I am relaxed and I want to enjoy this experience.”

 Florian Janits joins Liqui Moly Team Engstler

2016-2016 Salzburgring Saturday---45 Florian Janits_1

 Young Austrian racer Florian Janits will join the Liqui Moly Team Engstler for his home event of the TCR International Series, at the Salzburgring.

The 18-year old driver is facing his first experience in a front-wheel driven touring car, as he has only raced in karting and single seaters (Formula Renault and Formula 4) so far.

“I’m very much looking forward to this opportunity!” he said. “I have only raced formula cars in previous years, where I learned a lot. So being back on the track in the TCR International Series makes me very excited. I have never raced a front-wheel driven touring car before, but this does not worry me at all! And the good news is that I know the track well, having raced with the Lechner Racing School in 2014 and 2015. My expectations are getting used to the car as fast as possible, becoming familiar with the team and making the best out of my possibilities!”

Janits will team with Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s regular Davit Kajaia who has just claimed his first podium result in the series by finishing third in Imola’s Race 1.

Proczyk is fastest, but Vernay inherits pole position

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Austrian racer Harald Proczyk achieved an outstanding – and unexpected – result by emerging as the fastest driver in Qualifying at the wheel of his WestCoast Racing Honda Civic car in his maiden appearance in the TCR International Series.

Proczyk, who had already won a TCR race in the German series with his SEAT, benefited from the changing conditions at the Salzburgring that grew worse during the session as the rain intensified. He was the first to admit that this result was due more to that fact than to his control of the car.

However, Proczyk lost his right to start from pole position, just as Gianni Morbidelli lost his fourth place on the grid for tomorrow’s Race 1. Both drivers were given a penalty of two positions on the grid because their cars were standing in the fast lane during the session. As a result, Jean-Karl Vernay inherited the pole position and Pepe Oriola will start from the second spot. Proczyk will start third, with Morbidelli sixth behind Jordi Oriola and Dušan Borković.

These grid penalties did not change the Qualifying results; Proczyk retains the pole position as far as points scoring and statistics are concerned.  

Some of the championship’s main contenders struggled with different issues: Stefano Comini and James Nash were hampered by technical problems, while Mat’o Homola paid for a mistake in the early part of the session.

On his first outing for Mulsanne Racing, Petr Fulín placed his Alfa Romeo Giulietta in eighth, the best result so far for the Italian car. His teammate Michela Cerruti did not take part in the session, as her Giulietta was sidelined by engine problems that were the consequence of her trip into the gravel trap during this morning’s first Practice.

Attila Tassi and Mikhail Grachev qualified in tenth and ninth respectively and will be on the front row of the top-ten reversed grid for Race 2.

Q1: 1-2 for WestCoast Racing

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

First a red flag and then the rain spoiled this part of the session and eventually the chances of Stefano Comini and James Nash to make the cut for Q2.

The red flag was waved in the early stages, after a double incident at Turn 1 that saw Davit Kajaia’s Volkswagen stranded in the gravel trap and Mat’o Homola’s SEAT hitting the barriers.

When the session resumed, the crew of the B3 Racing Team managed to replace the front splitter on Homola’s car. In the meantime, the Slovak’s teammate Attila Tassi had posted a fastest lap of 1:26.682 that was not to be beaten, as rain poured down with nine minutes left.

Comini was one of the few to make a qualifying attempt after he had missed the dry part of the session while his team was working to replace the gearbox. However, on the wet track the Swiss could not clock a good enough time to advance to Q2.

Davit Kajaia, who had rejoined and set the 12th fastest lap, was later excluded for having received external aid after his incident at Turn 1, and this handed his teammate Florian Janits the last spot for Q2. As for Nash, his car suffered from transmission problems, which sidelined him for almost the entire session.

The following drivers made the cut: Tassi, P. Oriola, Morbidelli, Afanasyev, Borković, J. Oriola, Grachev, Vernay, Fulín, Proczyk, Homola and Janits .

Q2: Proczyk claims surprise result

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Newcomer Harald Proczyk surprisingly emerged as the fastest driver in a Q2 that was flooded by pouring rain. The Austrian was the first driver to hit the track and set a time of 1:38.923 that he managed to improve on the following lap to 1:38.767. Soon afterwards the rain intensified, making it impossible for the other drivers to go faster than that.

Jean-Karl Vernay (1:39.079) and Pepe Oriola (1:39.359) secured the second and third places on the grid, while a last gasp improvement from Sergey Afanasyev granted him the seventh place and demoted Mat’o Homola from 10th to 11th, stripping him of the pole position on the reverse grid for Race 2.

Quotes from the fastest qualifiers

Harald Proczyk (fastest): “I think we were very lucky today; we were out at exactly the right moment and the conditions changed immediately afterwards. I tried to go faster later on, but it was not possible. The car is working well and we did a good job in both Practice sessions. The Honda is a strong car, particularly here, but it takes a few sessions before you can get the best out of any car. I hope tomorrow it will be dry because I was sideways about five times. When it rains, it’s dangerous at the Salzburgring and so I hope it’s dry for us to have two good races.”

Jean-Karl Vernay (second): “We thought we would be fighting for P10 and so our aim was just to go through to Q2. We were lucky in that we did a good lap time in Q1 before the rain came and in Q2 we did the same. I was close behind Proczyk and then Pepe and that’s when I did my best lap. After that, the weather got worse and worse with every lap. I hope that it rains tomorrow or that we have a wet track because otherwise it will be very tough for us. The problem for us is not from the BoP, but the SEAT and the Honda have had a lot of work and our car is still new. We have to improve the aero package to be able to fight with the other guys.”

Pepe Oriola (third): “I’m really happy – Gianni is behind me and Stefano didn’t make it into Q2, so for the Championship it’s really good. Without the mistake on my first lap, I think I could have been on pole position. I said to myself that I was going to wait to brake for the first corner, but I braked too late. After that, every lap was worse and worse. Towards the end of the session, I was aquaplaning; it will be very difficult if it’s like that for the races. I don’t mind if it rains tomorrow, but I hope it’s not as much rain as today.”

Results of Austrian races rock the championship

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Describing the TCR International Series race meeting at the Salzburgring as ‘eventful’ would be an understatement. The changing weather conditions and the unique challenges of the circuit contributed to an outcome that has significantly altered the situation in the championship fight. With ten out of twenty-two races now in the archives, the top six drivers are separated by just 18 points – the equivalent of a second position.

Stefano Comini has regained the lead by one point ahead of Pepe Oriola who was stopped by a technical issue while on his way to winning the first race. After starting from the rear of the grid after missing Qualifying, also because of a technical problem, James Nash has climbed up to third, eight points adrift of the leader. Jean-Karl Vernay claimed a brilliant victory on the flooded track in the second race and is now lying fourth with a gap of 13 points, exactly the same as Gianni Morbidelli. Mat’o Homola completes the sextet a further five points adrift, the only driver of those top six who still has to win a race.

Although this classification gives quite an accurate picture of how the forces performed on the track so far this season, today’s results were, in some way, misleading. The SEAT cars, that appeared to be the most at ease at the Salzburgring, were defeated more by a chain of adverse circumstances than by the competition. And the Volkswagen cars, that struggled to stay on the pace in the dry, were definitely helped by the rain in the second race.

But all this is now history. The simple truth is that six drivers at the wheel of cars built by three different manufacturers are closely grouped for what promises to be an exciting second part of the season.

A few words need to be spent on Mikhail Grachev and the Mulsanne Racing team. After waiting one-and-half seasons to claim his first victory, Grachev scored his second in the very next race; he was also helped by Lady Luck and inherited the lead in Race 1 after Pepe Oriola withdrew, but he was able to retain it despite strong pressure from Nash and Homola.

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

As for Mulsanne Racing, they have worked hard, together with the Romeo Ferraris engineering company, to both further develop the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and run a second car. The promising lap times clocked by Petr Fulín in Practice and Qualifying made the team dream of some brilliant results, but the incident in which the Czech driver was involved at the start of Race 1 swept away all their hopes. The first point scored by Michela Cerruti was not an adequate reward for their efforts.

Race 1 – Second victory in a row for Mikhail Grachev

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Two weeks after breaking his duck at Imola, where he claimed a maiden victory in the TCR International Series, Mikhail Grachev scored a second one in a row at the end of another race plenty of drama. The WestCoast Racing driver managed to survive a series of incidents and technical failures that eliminated some of the main players such as the Oriola brothers, Dušan Borković and Harald Proczyk.

It was a sweet and sour race for Mulsanne Racing; Petr Fulín’s Giulietta was eliminated in the incident at the start, while Michela Cerruti scored her first championship point.

In terms of the championship fight, the result played in favour James Nash who finished second and Gianni Morbidelli, who was able to recover to fourth position after being involved in the incident with Jordi Oriola at the start. With Pepe Oriola out of the points and Stefano Comini classified eighth Nash moved up to third, with a gap of 19 points, while Morbidelli lies only one further point adrift.

Race One Key Facts:

Start: Vernay sprints, from Pepe Oriola; behind them there is contact between Jordi Oriola and Morbidelli; Proczyk spins in avoidance and is hit by Fulín

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Lap 1: Pepe Oriola passes Vernay and takes the lead; Proczyk and Fulín pit for repairs

Lap 2: Jordi Oriola passes Vernay for second

Lap 3: Afanasiev goes off onto the gravel trap at Turn 7

Lap 4: Jordi Oriola is chasing his brother Pepe; Borkovi ć, Grachev, Vernay and Nash fight for third

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Lap 5: Jordi Oriola slows down and pit with a sensor problem; the safety car is prompted to recover Afanasyev’s car

Lap 7: The race resumes; Pepe Oriola leads from Grachev, Borkovi ć, Nash, Vernay, Homola and Morbidelli

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Lap 8: Homola and Morbidelli overtake Vernay and move up to fifth and sixth

Lap 11: Pepe Oriola is chased by Grachev

Lap 13: Pepe Oriola slows down and retires with a suspected westgate failure; Grachev inherits the lead with Borkovi ć on his tail

Lap 16: Grachev defends the lead from Borkovi ć who is under pressure from Nash

Lap 17: Borkovic and Nash make contact while fighting for second; the Serbian driver goes off onto the gravel at Turn 11; Grachev wins from Nash, Homola and Morbidelli.

Race 2 – Jean-Karl Vernay surfaces as the winner in the flood

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Weather conditions affected the results of the second race. Eventually was Jean-Karl Vernay who managed to make fewer mistakes than the other competitors and claimed his second victory of the season.

Sergey Afanasyev was classified second and reached his first podium of the season so far, while Stefano Comini scored a third place that propelled him back on top of the Drivers’ Championship standings.

With Pepe Oriola sidelined by the technical failure that had stopped him in Race 1, four other top contenders – Gianni Morbidelli, Jordi Oriola and Mikhail Grachev – had their chances spoiled by a wrong tyre choice that forced them to pit for a change at the end of the formation lap. Eventually Morbidelli managed to recover until a sixth position that might prove crucial for his ambitions in the championship.

Race Two Key Facts:

Grid: Fulín, Pepe Oriola and Borković’s do not appear; it starts pouring rain

Warm up lap: Cerruti’s car stalls on the grid and is pushed back to the pits; at the end of the lap four cars pit for changing tyres: Morbidelli, Grachev, Tassi and Jordi Oriola

Start: Vernay takes the lead from Kajaia, Janits and Comini

Lap 1: Janits is given a drive through penalty for changing tyres on the grid after the 5-minute board

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Lap 2: Vernay leads from Kajaia, Comini and Proczyk

Lap 3: Afanasyev overtakes Nash for fourth

Lap 4: Comini and Kajaia have a close fight for second place

Lap 7: Proczyk makes contact with Jordi Oriola and stops, losing fourth position

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Lap 8: Kajaia’s car aquaplanes at the braking and hits the tyre-pack at Turn 1

Lap 9: The safety car is deployed while Kajaia’s car is recovered

Lap 12: The race resumes; Comini misses the braking point at Turn 1 and takes the escape road, dropping from second to third

Lap 13: Morbidelli and Jordi Oriola overtake Tassi and move up to sixth and seventh

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Lap 14: Janits goes wide at Turn 11 while trying to overtake Tassi

Lap 15: Vernay imitates Comini at Turn 1 and loses the lead to Afanasyev; but the French retakes the position at Turn 11

Lap 17: Vernay wins from Afanasyev, Comini and Nash.

Quotes from the podium finishers at Salzburgring

Mikhail Grachev (winner Race 1): “It was really unexpected for me to win in Imola, but here it was even more unexpected because I was P9 at the start. My role was to save the car and just to finish so I could start Race 2 from the front row. I made a good start and I was lucky to avoid the incident with the other cars flying around me. Without Pepe Oriola’s technical problems it would have been impossible for me to win because he was in front and I had no real opportunity to overtake. We had a compromise set-up in case of a wet race and it was a little bit softer than it needed to be, but it meant I had a better exit from some of the corners, which meant I could be fast on the straights.”

Jean-Karl Vernay (winner Race 2): “We woke up this morning and Stefano (Comini) said it was going to rain! Race 2 was crazy but I made a good start and I was able to get a good gap. After the safety car, I was able to make a good gap again. I then made a little mistake and Sergei (Afanasyev) was able to pass me, but I re-passed him on the back straight. I think it was a perfect result for the points; we weren’t thinking about that when we arrived because it was dry. Thanks to the team for their hard work this weekend – I just hope I don’t have too much weight next time.”

James Nash (2nd in Race 1): “Qualifying was not how we wanted to start the weekend, but championships come from your bad weekends. We managed to push our way through the accident at the first corner, which meant we were in the hunt. The incident with Borkovi ć was marginal as I couldn’t see him alongside me and I was committed. We had the smallest of touches, which sent him off.”

Sergey Afanasyev (2nd in Race 2): “Most of this race was done in the pits so my thanks to the guys who were working on my car. There was no other solution except to end parc fermé and to start from the back of the grid. In the first race, I planned to keep four wheels on the track, but only managed to do it with three! In the second race, my aim was to score points after the technical issues in Imola. The team did all the hard work – all I did was keep four wheels on the track.”

Mat’o Homola (3rd in Race 1): “Qualifying was really bad because I had a crash when I was in P1 – thanks to the team because they repaired my car really fast. The start of Race 1 was disappointing because of the Turn 1 accident, but I had a really good race pace and I was able to recover and fight for the podium positions. It was really nice for me”

Stefano Comini (3rd in Race 2): “Before the weekend, I sent Pepe Oriola an SMS and said I was looking forward to passing him in the Championship! I am really disappointed with the Golf because if you look at the first race we had no chance to battle on the dry track. I was the first one to put on wet tyres on the grid for Race 2 and it was the right choice – thanks to Leopard Racing, as this result put me back on top of the classification.”

The TCR International Series will resume on June 18 and 19 at Oschersleben, Germany, for rounds 11 and 12.

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!!!