We are now days away from the opening weekend of the 2016 TCR International Series which takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit.
So, with the season almost underway after a very busy winter, heres the latest bunch of news stories…
WestCoast Racing confirms drivers for 2016 TCR title bid
WestCoast Racing will return to the TCR International Series with a trio of ‘Step 2’ Honda Civic TCRs and a bolstered driver line-up made up of former Formula 1 ace Gianni Morbidelli, Finnish front-wheel-drive specialist Aku Pellinen and rapid American Kevin Gleason.
The Swedish team will roll out its trio of drivers, upgraded Honda Civics and abrighter livery in front of fully stocked grandstands during the TCR International Series’ curtain-raiser at the Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix (1-3 April).
There will be increased competition from SEAT, Volkswagen, Alfa Romeo, Opel and Subaru, and this will be met by an uprated ‘Step 2’ Honda Civic TCR, which was raced to pole position and victory in the concluding part of 2015 in Macau.
Morbidelli and Gleason remain under the WestCoast Racing umbrella for a second shot at the TCR International title and the teammates will no doubt be among the favourites for the 2016 crown, having both raced to several race wins, podium finishes and pole positions last season.
They will be joined by former Abarth 500 AC Euro Champion, Pellinen of Uusikaupunki, Finland, who is keen to play to his strengths in front-wheel-drive with sponsorship from Niinivirta after spending 2015 competing in Porsche Carrera Cup machinery.
“It’s a great pleasure to be back in the WestCoast Racing team for a second year – I feel like I am at home here,” said Morbidelli. “Firstly, I want to thank Team Principal Greger Petersson and all the team for placing their trust in me again. WestCoast Racing and I have one goal and that is to win. We now have a more complete package with the addition of Aku (Pellinen) and I have no doubt that he, Kevin and me will all be giving the maximum to be on top in what I’m sure will be another enjoyable year for us all.”
Pellinen said: “This is quite a big step in my career and my first experience of racing outside of Europe, but it’s a good opportunity in a series that is growing at a surprisingly fast rate. It’s a real opportunity to spread my wings and, while I’ve only completed a handful of laps in the Honda Civic TCR, I’m confident it will suit me well. I’ve driven a lot of front-wheel-drive cars in my career and I know where my strengths lie and where I need to improve.
“I think I can take a lot from my teammates, but particularly Gianni (Morbidelli), as he has been racing for more years than I’ve lived. WestCoast Racing also has a lot of experience with touring cars, so I’m expecting to learn quite a few new tricks. Of course, many of the circuits will be new to me, but I have spent a lot of time in the simulator so I won’t be starting from zero. I will try to finish the first races to get as much mileage as possible and I’ll be happy if I can finish somewhere close to my teammates who have far more experience with the car than I do. It will be good to compare myself to both Gianni and Kevin (Gleason).”
Gleason added: “I’m thrilled to be back with WestCoast Racing for a second season, as this is the first time in my career that I’ve remained with one team for more than one year. We grew really close while travelling the world in 2015 so the team is like my motorsport family, and we all get along really well. To stay with them, to know the TCR International Series and many of the circuits on the calendar, I should be in a strong position this year.
“As opposed to last year, the team has quite a few testing miles under its belt and we should be able to hit the ground running when we get to Bahrain. There’s no question I’m coming back to win the championship for myself and the team. I learnt more than ever before in 2015 and I’ve been trying to identify my strong points and deal with my weak areas to be stronger. Of course, WestCoast has three solid drivers in Gianni (Morbidelli), Aku (Pellinen) and me. We’ll all push each other and work to find the best setups to benefit the team as a whole.”
WestCoast Racing Team Manager, James Nixon, said: “It feels great to welcome back both Gianni Morbidelli and Kevin Gleason to WestCoast Racing. The commitment from both drivers is immense, as they work tirelessly on improving and they grew closer as teammates during the 2015 season, working fantastically well to develop the Honda Civic with their engineers. All of that hard work will hopefully show in this year’s results. They, along with the eventual Champion, were the outstanding drivers in the field for me.
“We are also pleased to be starting a new collaboration with young Finnish driver, Aku Pellinen, who I have been watching closely in recent years. I believe he will be a top contender for the title come the end of the season, as there’s no doubting his speed and passion to be at e top. Working with Gianni and Kevin will be a big help on his return to front-wheel-drive and everybody at WestCoast Racing is excited to see how his season unfolds. With this line-up, I feel we are now in a position to take on the fight for the titles.”
Positive test for the Romeo Ferraris Giulietta TCR
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR built by Romeo Ferraris engineering company took part in the Valencia test days with Michela Cerruti at the wheel. The Italian car completed a large number of laps with no reported technical issues.
Team principal Mario Ferraris commented: “We can be satisfied. On both days the car proved to be reliable and we were able to focus on the set up and balance. Our work resulted in very positive response in terms of performance. We still have more work to do, but the potential looks good.”
Michela Cerruti echoed: “This was our first test on a long track and we were pleased to see that everything worked. The Giulietta has a very good base to work from, but clearly there is room for improvement, especially with regard to its behaviour in cornering. We would have liked to have had more time for testing and development, but that is true for everybody! Still, it’s good to see that we did not have any major hiccups and we are confident for the kick-off in Bahrain.”
Homola and Borković happy with Valencia test
The B3 Racing Team Hungary took part in the Valencia test days with its three SEAT León cars driven by Mat’o Homola, Attila Tassi and Dušan Borković.
Homola was happy with the work they did in Spain: “ Compared to 2015 the car is now fitted with a sequential racing gearbox, new aerodynamics kit, cooling system, suspension and brakes. We focused mainly on suspension and vehicle balance setting. The new gearbox is a lot lighter and this changed the vehicle weight distribution, so we need to adjust the setting accordingly. We have tested several brake pad compounds and are still looking for the best solution that can make the car faster and easier to drive.”
Homola’s race engineer Manuel Huguet added. “We have gathered a lot of data, were able to test several suspension settings and practised starts. Mat’o is a passionate driver and did a great job. We are still facing some small teething issues, but nothing serious.”
Borković was also satisfied with the test: “I expected the SEAT to be upgraded and I was not disappointed. I have made an instant connection with my new race engineer, we worked on quite a lot of things until the rain fell on Monday afternoon. The championship will be extremely competitive and I am looking forward to this great challenge.”
LEOPARD RACING CONTINUED TESTING IN FRANCE
After a first test at Valencia, Leopard Racing continued developing and setting up its two Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR cars at Magny-Cours.
In good weather conditions, but with cold temperatures, the Stefano Comini and Jean-Karl Vernay could not push the tyres to the limit, although they were able to complete several laps using two different configurations.
Comini said: “We worked a lot throughout the day. There were some teething problems, but we were still able to learn more about the car. Everything we tried went in the right direction and we hope that this information will be useful for the first event.”
Vernay added: “Weather conditions were not ideal and we struggled to heat the tyres up. In any case it was a good test that allowed us to continue improving our knowledge of the car. We gathered data that will be important for the upcoming races.”
NOT LONG NOW TO THE NIGHT RACE AT THE BAHRAIN F1 GP
The TCR International Series will kick off for its second season at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, within the frame of the Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.
It will be a spectacular start, with the first race taking place on Saturday evening at 19.30, immediately after the end of the Formula One Qualifying session. It will be the first of two night races during the season, together with Singapore Race 1 on September 17.
The second race in Bahrain will be held on Sunday in the early afternoon, as an appetizer to the F1 GP.
To celebrate its second season, the TCR International Series launches a revamped version of its official website. Besides a more dynamic and friendly layout, the site offers new and improved features, such as a ‘Latest results’ box with dates and times, a larger video window for live streaming, direct links to the new ‘TCR Marketplace’, the TCR You Tube page and the TCR regional and national series, plus the past season’s archive that includes full results, releases and standings.
The list of the teams that entered for the full season, with the drivers’ names, will be unveiled in the next days.
LUIGI FERRARA AT BAHRAIN IN THE TOP RUN SUBARU
It will be Luigi Ferrara to drive the Top Run-built Subaru STi TCR in the International Series season opener at Bahrain.
A former champion in the Italian F3 (2005) and Porsche Cup (2008), Ferrari proved his Touring Car skills at the wheel of a Mercedes AMG (also built by Top Run), winning several Superstars races and finishing twice runner up in the International Series (2011 and 2012).
“I’m so excited to race in the TCR International Series that is a top-level championship. I’m also pleased to get back to sprint races, that is where I claimed by best results. It is true that I don’t have experience with front-wheel drive cars, but I’m used to adapt myself quickly to any new cars. And I’m not like a fish out of water, because I know the team and I know the track, where I claimed a fourth place in the 2009 Porsche Supercup. My only regret is not to have time to test the Subaru before, but I am optimist and my goal is to finish in the points,” said Ferrara.
Team manager Renato Russo added: “Bahrain will be another important test on the way to develop the Subaru TCR, and in this respect we are happy that Ferrara agreed to drive, because we have worked very well with him in the past.”
TCR WELCOMES BEN CONSTANDUROS AS TV COMMENTATOR
The TCR family welcomes Ben Constanduros as TV commentator for the International Series.
The son of F1 commentator and journalist Bob Constanduros, Ben has established himself as one of the most respected voices in motorsport. His past experiences as a presenter, commentator and producer have included F1, the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Race of Champions and the WTCC.
“I have closely followed TCR in its first year and truly believe it is the future of real, competitive and entertaining Touring Car racing that I can really get excited about. Getting into the commentary box will be a return to where my career began and I also look forward to having a technical look at the cars in closer detail for ‘Bens Blog’. I look forward to working with the experienced and passionate team,” said Ben who will work together with pit reporter Mark James. “Mark is a broadcaster I know well from his rallying days, so to have him digging for information in the pits will only enhance the coverage of the series and enrich my commentary. He did a great job in 2015 and so I know I have big shoes to fill.”
TCR promoter Marcello Lotti commented: “The addition of Ben to our top-level staff of enthusiastic motorsport experts enriches further the reputation of the TCR International Series and the TV coverage we offer to our fans worldwide.”
TCR BENELUX: FIRST TEST FOR THE RACB SEAT
Sam Dejonghe and Denis Dupont, who will contest the TCR Benelux at the wheel of the RACB National Team-livered SEAT León TCR after winning the special competition aimed at promoting young talents, have accomplished their first day of real testing with the car at Spa-Francorchamps.
It was an intense working day for the two young guns and Team WRT, which has been entrusted the preparation and running of the SEAT León TCR.
“This is the first time we could familiarize ourselves with the car in race conditions and it has been a fruitful day,” commented Dupont, while Dejonghe echoed: “It was a very useful session, especially for me who has never raced before with a front wheel drive car.”
The two RACB drivers will continue their preparation with another testing session on 13 April.
TWENTY-TWO FULL SEASON ENTRIES WITH SEVEN DIFFERENT MODELS
The full season entry list of the 2016 TCR International Series consists of nine teams, with twenty-two cars of seven different brands.
The SEAT León TCR remains the most popular choice, with six cars equally split between Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL and the newcomer B3 Racing Team Hungary. Leopard Racing and Liqui Moly Team Engstler have entered two Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR cars apiece, while WestCoast Racing will again run three Honda Civic TCR cars.
Three Opel Astra TCR cars will be fielded by Target Competition, although only two of them will take part in the Bahrain opening event. Top Run Motorsport and Mulsanne Racing have entered two Subaru STi TCR cars and two Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR cars respectively.
The FRD Motorsports has also entered two Ford Focus TCR cars, but aims to join the championship by the fourth or fifth event.
TCR promoter Marcello Lotti commented: “We are satisfied, as we mustn’t forget that we are only entering in the second year; the start-up phase is not over yet and some cars are still under development. However, it is clear that the championship will deliver a variety of different cars and that the level of teams and drivers is growing. We are pleased to see most of last year’s faces returning and to welcome the newcomers; among them I’d like to point out the participation of Michela Cerruti, the first lady to commit for the full season. And there is more to come. I am not allowed to name them, but we expect three more brands to join the championship during the season.”
TWO BAHRAINI DRIVERS JOIN TCR FOR THEIR LOCAL EVENT
The entry list of the 2016 TCR International Series opening event in Bahrain has been unveiled.
Nine teams have lodged twenty-two entries with cars of six different brands: Alfa Romeo, Honda, Opel, SEAT, Subaru and Volkswagen.
The latest additions were two SEAT León cars in 2015 specs run by the Netherlands-based Bas Koeten Motorsport for local drivers Salman Al Khalifa and Hussain Karimi who are currently ranking first and third respectively in the 2015/2016 Bahrain International Circuit 2000cc Challenge.
Al Khalifa, a former champion in the Batelco 2000cc Challenge (2008), has claimed seven victories out of the twelve races held so far, at the wheel of his Honda Civic; Karimi was twice vice-champion in the series (2014 and 2015), having scored several wins in a Honda CRX.
TCR promoter Marcello Lotti said: “We give a very warm welcome to Salman Al Khalifa and Hussain Karimi, the first Middle East drivers to join TCR. The concept we have launched last year is spreading quickly and we are now looking at the Middle East for further expansion.”
TCR FANS TO VOTE ON SPECIAL AWARD IN 2016
Fans of the TCR International Series will, via social media, play a vital part in awarding a special prize after each pair of TCR races.
Following each TCR race weekend, a panel comprising of the International Series’ Promoter and the promotional and media team will decide a shortlist of two candidates (not necessarily drivers) they feel are deserving of the award. The names will then be posted on the TCR International Series Facebook page and fans will have 24 hours in which to ‘like’ either candidate. The ‘TCR Fans’ Award’ will then be given to the candidate with the most likes.
TCR promoter Marcello Lotti explained: “The number of fans who follow TCR competitions worldwide is growing fast, and so is their social media activity. For this reason we have decided to involve them in awarding this prize at each event.”
A NEW TV WEBSITE FOR THE TCR COMMUNITY WORLDWIDE
The TCR promoter, WSC Ltd., has launched today a brand new website that is dedicated to showcasing videos from the different TCR championships and series worldwide.
The new free-on-air portal – www.tcr-series.tv – is divided into three main sections: one for the TCR International Series, one for the TCR Regional championships and one for the National championships in which TCR cars are eligible to race.
Each series has been given an account to upload their own videos and a dedicated page that gathers together all videos and news from that series: full races, highlights and spectacular clips.
The home page features the latest and most-liked videos, plus windows for live timing and live streaming, a summary table of the upcoming TCR events worldwide and a ‘news brief’ section.
HONDA, SEAT AND VW RECEIVE ADDITIONAL WEIGHT
The TCR International Series technical department has issued its first bulletin regarding the Balance of Performance for 2016.
The Honda Civic TCR and SEAT León TCR cars have been given 40 extra kilos that bring their running weight from 1285 to 1325 kilos, including the driver; the Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR cars will carry 30 kilos of ballast, so will run at 1315 kilos.
The Opel Astra TCR cars and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR have been left at the minimum weight fixed by the TCR Technical Regulations: 1285 kilos, driver included, while the Subaru STi TCR has been given a 20-kg weight break and so will run at 1265 kilos. The two SEAT León Cup Racer cars entered by Bas Koeten Racing will be the lightest cars in the field at 1250 kg, the minimum weight fixed by the Sporting Regulations for the cars fitted with a DSG gearbox instead of a racing unit.
The control of the engine performance level by monitored electronic components – another parameter that may be adjusted to balance the performance – has not been changed for the time being, therefore all cars will be able to use full power.
The technical department has the power to further adjust the Balance of Performance during the first race weekend of the season.
Please take into account that this was written in the buildup to this weekends racing. I am aware that Race One has already taken place, however I will not publish any results here, however there will a post that will follow with all of the weekends racing.
Until then, all the best!!