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2017 TCR International Series: Monza

TCR returns to Italy’s ‘Temple of Speed’

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

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

2017-2017 Monza Friday---10 Gianni Morbidelli_55

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

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

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

Will Monza produce a seventh different race winner?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colciago, Morbidelli and Alfa Romeo: the Italian Factor

2017-2017 Monza Qualifying---16 Davit Kajaia_108

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

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

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

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

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

Success Ballast for Comini and Vernay

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

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

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

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

Jaap van Lagen replaces Rob Huff at Monza

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

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

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

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

Cappellari joins the TCR International Series in Monza

2017-2017 Monza Qualifying---76 Daniele Cappellari_1

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

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

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

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

Gabriele Tarquini, a spectator with an interest…

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Qualifying – Frédéric Vervisch took his maiden pole

2017-2017 Monza Friday---06 Frederic Vervisch_48

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

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

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

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

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

Qualifying 1: Colciago was fastest at home

2017-2017 Monza Friday---05 Roberto Colciago_63

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

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

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

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

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

Qualifying 2: Vervisch beat the Honda boys

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

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

What the fastest drivers said after Qualifying

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

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

2017-2017 Monza Race 1---Podium Race1_4

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

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

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

RACE ONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

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

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

Fizca drops to tenth after penalty

2017-2017 Monza Qualifying---55 Ferenc Ficza_78

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

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

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

Quotes from the Race 1 podium finishers

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

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

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

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

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

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

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

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

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

RACE TWO

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

2017-2017 Monza Race 2---Start Race2_12

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

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

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

Lap 2: Homola and Oriola fight for fourth

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

Lap 4: Colciago passes Oriola for fourth

Lap 5: Vervisch passes Oriola for fifth

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

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

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

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

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

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

Colciago gets grid penalty for the next race

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

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

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

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

Quotes from Race 2 podium finishers

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

2017-2017 Monza Race 2---05 Roberto Colciago_244

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

2017-2017 Monza Race 2---06 Frederic Vervisch_185

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

The series will resume in Austria, at the Salzburgring, on June 10 / 11 for rounds 9 and 10.

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

After watching the fun and frolics from Monza, the main subject that was the talk of the event was driving standards during the weekend.

There were two important points on this subject.

Many fans were upset over the contact that saw Mato Homola lose several places as others cut the first chicane and that he did not gain those places back. A protest was lodged by both Homola and DG Sport Competition after the second race.

2017-2017 Monza Race 2---21 Giacomo Altoe_113.jpg

The other talking point related to the poor driving standards was the release sent out by WestCoat Racing, whose drivers Gianni Morbidelli and Giacomo Altoe both saw their races ruined by contact.

Team Manager James Nixon was quite clear on his thoughts from the weekend’s activities…

“It appears the International series has some of the worst driving standards currently in any series I watch.”

“Sadly, most of these incidents seem to go un-noticed by the people that count! We were passed yet again more times off the track than on, but no positions given back. Maybe it’s better to have no rules but it’s not the kind of motorsport we want for the team. As a team we need to look at our options and decide if we continue to support this philosophy of racing.”

Whilst WestCoast Racing have had a difficult year so far as they adapt to the VW Golf TCR, it fair to say that the loss of this team from The TCR International Series would be a big blow. I expect that there will be some stern words said at the Salzburgring next month about driving standards…

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

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

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2017 TCR International Series: Spa-Francochamps

Legendary Belgian track welcomes back the TCR drivers

The third race meeting of the 2017 TCR International Series takes place on the demanding racetrack of Spa-Francorchamps in the Belgian region of the Ardennes: A legendary circuit in motorsport history. 

For the second consecutive year the series runs at Spa as a support event to the 6 Hours race, the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

In 2016 Honda and Volkswagen shared the honours, with Aku Pellinen and Jean-Karl Vernay claiming one victory apiece. 

On Saturday afternoon in the first race, Pellinen led from lights to flag in a WestCoast Racing Honda Civic and led home the SEAT León cars of Pepe Oriola and pole-sitter Dušan Borković .

On the Sunday morning, the second race was dominated by the trio of Leopard Racing WRT Volkswagen Golf GTi cars, with Vernay winning ahead of Stefano Comini and Antti Buri.

The event also marked the debut in TCR of two 1.6-litre Peugeot 308 Racing Cup cars run by the Sébastien Loeb Racing and driven by Jimmy Clairet and Grégory Guilvert. 

A twenty-four-car field and six brands represented

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

The TCR International Series has already raced twice in the current season, at Rustavi International Motorpark – the first international race meeting ever hosted by Georgia – and at the Bahrain International Circuit, one of two appearances with Formula One.

For its first European event, the series presents itself in top form, with a strong field of 24 cars – including Touring Car superstars Rob Huff and Tom Coronel.

Jean Karl-Vernay of Leopard Racing arrives at Spa as the points leader with a tally of 52, but the Frenchman is shadowed by GE-Force’s Dušan Borković and M1RA’s Roberto Colciago who are lying only one and two points adrift respectively.

Just a handful of points behind are Pepe Oriola of Lukoil Craft-Bamboo (45),Borković’s teammate Davit Kajaia (39), Oriola’s teammates Hugo Valente (38) and James Nash (34) and Colciago’s teammate Attila Tassi (36).

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

There are four different car models in the top eight positions: Volkswagen Golf, Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Honda Civic and SEAT León.

However, in Spa it will be wise to keep an eye on the Audi SR3 LMS and the Opel Astra. The performance of both cars is definitely improving, as it was recently proved by Stefano Comini and Mat’o Homola. The Swiss and his Comtoyou Racing Audi won two TCR Benelux sprint races at Spa ten days ago and on the same weekend Homola drove the DG Sport Compétition Astra to set pole position and win another sprint race. The young Slovak had already claimed an impressive pole in Bahrain.

The same Success Ballast for Borković and Colciago

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---05 Roberto Colciago_69

Dušan Borković and Roberto Colciago, the race winners of the previous event in Bahrain, will both carry 30 kilos of Success Ballast at Spa.

The Serbian drove his Alfa Romeo Giulietta to victory in Race 2 after finishing fourth in Race 1, which gave him 37 points, while the Italian and his Honda Civic Type-R scored the very same amount of points by Qualifying fifth, winning Race 1 and finishing fifth in Race 2.

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

The running weights of their cars will be 1345 kilograms for Colciago’s Honda (1285kg minimum weight, plus 30kg of Success Ballast and 30kg of Balance of Performance adjustment) and 1315 kg for Borković’s Alfa Romeo (1285kg + 30kg SB).

Hugo Valente, who Qualified fourth in Bahrain and then was classified second and third in the races with his SEAT León, scored 36 points, only one short of his rivals. And that point is worth 20 kilos, as the Frenchman will carry the 10 kilos of ballast imposed to the third best scorer, for a running weight of 1325kg (1285 + 10 SB + 30 BoP).

Rob Huff joins Jean-Karl Vernay at Leopard Racing

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

In Spa the spotlight was on Rob Huff, who joins championship-winning squad Leopard Racing Team WRT for the remainder of the TCR International Series.

The 2012 FIA World Touring Car champion has already had his first experience with the team, sharing a Volkswagen Golf GTi with his new teammate Jean-Karl Vernay at the opening round of the TCR Benelux series ten days ago, also in Spa. There, Huff and Vernay took four podium finishes from four sprint races on Sunday.

Huff will compete in seven of the eight remaining events alongside current championship leader Vernay, with the task of supporting the Frenchman’s title bid.

Huff said: “It’s fantastic to join Leopard Racing Team WRT in this year’s TCR International Series. The deal came after the Benelux race event, which was a success despite having to learn a new team, a new car and category. I had a great time getting to know the team at Spa, and I think we’re going to have a great rest of the season together. TCR is also a brilliant championship to be involved in. There’s a lot of future Touring Car talent rising up through there, and also great door-to-door racing. As the levels of the cars are balanced, it’s a lot less about the car but the driver. For someone who started racing in mono-brand trophies, like me, it’s extremely appealing. It’s also very nice to again be in a series launched and run by Marcello Lotti and his team, who know the business inside-out and are like a family.”

Tom Coronel makes a one-off appearance at Spa

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---64 Tom Coronel_1

Touring car specialist Tom Coronel will make his first appearance in the TCR International Series this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps. 

The Dutch driver will be at the wheel of a second Honda Civic Type-R car run by the Boutsen Ginion Racing team, alongside that of his 17-year old teammate Benjamin Lessennes. One of Coronel’s commitments during the current season is taking part in the TCR Benelux in which he shares a Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda with the series’ reigning champion Stéphane Lémeret.

At Spa his car will be officially backed by Honda Benelux, who are determined to make Tom Coronel one of their top ambassadors, as confirmed by Paul Tomanek, the President of Honda Benelux: “The Dutch market is an extremely important market for Honda; we are thrilled to be able to count on his popularity and his talent behind the wheel to boost the dynamism of the brand in the Netherlands.”  

The Dutchman does not hide his ambitions: “TCR is a fairly new category but one that all drivers closely follow. After a race in the Benelux championship, taking part in an event of the TCR International Series is naturally very exciting, especially since Spa isn’t too far away for my fans and the level looks particularly high so the races should be extremely thrilling.”

Paulsen and Møller begin their European campaign

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---11 Jens Reno Moller_33

The third race meeting in Spa will represent the beginning of the European campaign for Stian Paulsen and Jens Reno Møller; they both will take part in the International Series European events with the aim of competing in the TCR European Trophy final at the Adria International Raceway in October.

Paulsen, 29 years old from Norway and 2012 winner of a FIA European Touring Car Cup, will be driving a SEAT León TCR run by his own team.

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

“I am very excited by this programme. Looking further ahead I will be working to add a couple of overseas events in 2018 and eventually taking part in the full International Season in 2019,” he said.

A regular participant in both the Danish and the Scandinavian Touring Car championships and winner of the 2009 DTC Independent title, Møller will be at the wheel of a Honda Civic Type-R for Reno Racing.

 “I am excited for coming back to racing after a five-year break and can’t wait to work with JAS Motorsport again, as they have built a very competitive car. The new TCR category is really attractive for privateers and provides top class racing, with a lot of very quick drivers. I expect to struggle in the first part of the season, but I will work hard to be in the right part of the field during the season.” said Møller.

Six local drivers for the joy of Belgian fans

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---63 Benjamin Lessennes_43

Belgian fans will have reasons to rejoice, as six of their favourite drivers will be racing in Spa. Besides Pierre-Yves Corthals who drives the DG Sport Compétition Opel Astra, five of the TCR Benelux competitors will be making their first appearance in the TCR International Series for their home race meeting: Benjamin Lessennes, Frédéric Vervisch, Maxime Potty and the brothers Edouard and Guillaume Mondron.

Benjamin Lessennes teams up with Coronel 

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---63 Benjamin Lessennes_1

17-year old Benjamin Lessennes will drive the very same Honda Civic Type-R car run by Boutsen Ginion Racing he regularly uses in the Benelux championship.

After finishing eighth in the 2016 championship and claiming his first victory in the season’s finale at Mettet, Lessennes has just begun the new season with a couple of podiums last weekend at Spa: second in Race 1 and third in Race 2.

And it was perhaps an omen that in both the sprint races he was joined on the podium by Stefano Comini and Jean-Karl Vernay, guest stars of the TCR Benelux event.

“This is a real opportunity to see where I am facing the elite of the TCR International Series. The challenge is great, but I hope that I will be at their level and achieve a good result during this prestigious race meeting!” said Lessennes.

Comtoyou Racing add a second car for Vervisch

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---06 Frédéric Vervisch _24

After running a solitary Audi RS3 LMS for Stefano Comini in Rustavi and Bahrain, Comtoyou Racing will add a second car from the next weekend in Spa.

The team, that enjoyed success in the first event of the TCR Benelux scoring three victories out of the four sprint races (two with Comini and one with Sheldon van der Linde) has signed Frédéric Vervisch for the rest of the season.

The 30-year old Vervisch faces his first commitment in Touring Cars, after many seasons in single-seaters and GT racing.

The Mondron brothers with Delahaye Racing

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

Guillaume and Edouard Mondron are used to sharing the car in TCR Benelux, which they did last week in Spa where they won the Qualifying Race at the wheel of a SEAT León run by Delahaye Racing.

However, for their first appearance in the International Series, they will spit. Guillaume will keep on driving the SEAT, while Edouard will switch to a Volkswagen Golf GTi.

Edouard’s Golf will sport a special livery dedicated to the 25 Hours VW Fun Cup that will celebrate its twentieth anniversary at Spa on 6 to 9 July.

“This time we won’t share the wheel, but we will face each other on the track,”Edouard commented and Guillaume added: “We won’t make it easy for each other, and may the best driver win!”

Michaël Mazuin Sport fields a Golf for Maxime Potty

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---52 Maxime Potty_30

Michaël Mazuin Sport in collaboration with the Belgian VW Club and with the technical assistance from WRT, will field a Volkswagen Golf GTi car for Maxime Potty at Spa .

The 17-year old Potty is another teenager who drew attention to himself with his performances in the TCR Benelux. After some promising results in karting, Potty debuted in car racing last year with a WRT Golf and finished a respectable tenth in the TCR Benelux, scoring one victory in the Qualifying race at Colmarberg where he shared driving duties with Stefano Comini.

On the occasion of the 2017 TCR Benelux first event at Spa, ten days ago, Potty was able to complete an outstanding recovery in the fourth sprint race, from last on the grid to second under the chequered flag.

Comini and Vervisch made an Audi 1-2 in Qualifying

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---01 Stefano Comini_43

The two Audi RS3 LMS cars of Comtoyou Racing will start Race 1 from the first row, as Stefano Comini and Fred Vervisch were the fastest in an exciting qualifying session and gave the German car its first pole position in the International Series.
The reigning double champion and the debuting local hero emerged as the winners from a close fight with Benjamin Lessennes, a brilliant and close third in the Boutsen Ginion Honda Civic. The Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI cars of Jean-Karl Verney and former World Champion Rob Huff completed the top 5.

The only two incidents in the Qualifying session involved Belgian drivers, with both Guillaume Mondron (Delahaye Racing Team SEAT León) and Maxime Potty (Mazuin Racing VW Golf) hitting the barriers, the first in Q1 and the second in Q2. This did not prevent Potty to take P10, which grants him the theoretical pole for Race 2, if the car is repaired.

Q1: Ferenc Ficza on top of the field

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---55 Ferenc Ficza_22

Ferenc Ficza confirmed his speed qualities by taking fastest time in a hardly-fought Q1 session. The young Hungarian, now at the wheel of a Zengő Motorsport SEAT León, stopped the watches in 2:31.205, beating Comini (2:31.344) by a tenth and a half. Tom Coronel (Boutsen Ginion Honda) took third, despite a scary moment at Les Combes, ahead of Huff, Lessennes and Verney.

Again, the TCR Benelux drivers did well, with only Guillaume Mondron out of the top 12; the young Belgian, who had led the session at the beginning, lost the car in the chicane after Les Combes, crashing into the barrier.

The list of drivers not making it to Q2 included some big names, like Morbidelli, Nash, Colciago, Borkovi ć and Valente.

Even longer was the list of drivers who had at least one lap disallowed for not respecting track limits; Homola, Corthals, Ficza, Kajaia, Morbidelli, Valente, E. Mondron, Paulsen, Ende, Vernay and Oriola.

Q2: Comini nails down the pole position

2017-2017 Spa Qualifying---01 Stefano Comini_90

Comini took the pole in Q2, after a good fight with local heroes Vervisch and Lessennes. The Swiss was able to beat his new teammate by a mere 0.067 seconds, while Lessennes was left a further 0.244 seconds adrift.

Potty had a scary moment as he lost his Golf in the Eau Rouge, hitting the barriers on the right side. Despite that, the young Belgian kept P10 and the pole for Race 2.

Two drivers concluded the session without clocking a valid lap time: Davit Kajaia (GE-Force Alfa Romeo Giulietta) had both his laps disallowed for not respecting the track limits, while Ficza was sidelined by a broken driveshaft.

What the fastest drivers said after Qualifying

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

Stefano Comini (1st): “Comtoyou Racing did an amazing job in such a short time and we worked hard to improve the setup. We knew the Audi RS3 LMS has a huge potential and we showed that potential with this pole position. It’s very emotional to do it in Spa and to do it with two cars on the front row. I’m very happy for Fred Vervisch, for Comtoyou and for Audi. Sorry I didn’t manage to take Eau Rouge flat out as I promised, but it was very slippery and we ran with almost no wing and so it was a very nervous car. I tried, but it was too dangerous.”

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---06 Frederic Vervisch _37

Frederic Vervisch (2nd): “Yesterday, I really didn’t expect we would be P2 in Qualifying. Okay, we were quick, but the new guys have the new tyres and so it’s difficult to see what is really happening. Today, we were in contention to have pole but I had a bit of traffic at the end. I’m very happy for the team as it’s quite rare to have two cars on the front row and we just have to enjoy the moment. I’ve never done a racing start in a front wheel drive car, even though I made a few practice starts yesterday, so that might be my weak point.”

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---63 Benjamin Lessennes_46

Benjamin Lessennes (3rd): “We had a lot of work to do after the TCR Benelux races two weeks ago but the car was really good today. My engineer Kevin Boutsen has found a really good setup and I think we’ve found something good with the car now. It’s a very good setup for every track, I think, so we should also be good in the next races. We may find it a little difficult to warm up the rear tyres at the beginning of the races, so I think the fight will happen towards the end – let’s wait and see.”

Stefano Comini gives maiden win to Audi and Comtoyou  whilst Vernay stretches his leading margin in the standings

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

Reigning champion Stefano Comini claimed his first win of the season this afternoon in Race 1 at Spa, in a newsworthy success as it also meant the maiden win in the TCR International Series for both the Audi RS3 LMS and Belgium’s Comtoyou Racing.

Comini, who started from pole, dominated the race after re-taking the lead in lap 2 from Attila Tassi, who took a stunning start. The young M1RA Honda Civic driver shone again in the final laps, defending from a charging Jean-Karl Vernay (Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf).

The Hungarian was rewarded with the third position on the podium, behind another young gun, Benjamin Lessennes, who finished a brilliant second in the Boutsen Ginion Honda Civic.

2017-2017 Spa Thursday---63 Benjamin Lessennes_1.jpg

The battle for fifth was intense and thrilling as a long queue of cars was trailing the other Comtoyou Audi of Frédéric Vervisch. The Belgian managed to keep everybody at bay, finishing ahead of Rob Huff, Edouard Mondron, Tom Coronel, Pepe Oriola and Pierre-Yves Corthals.

Vernay stretched his leading margin in the points standings to 15, while Comini climbed to second on equal points with Tassi and Dušan Borković.

RACE ONE:

Grid: Kajaia starts from the last position because of an engine change after the Bahrain event as Paulsen starts from the pit lane

Start: Comini is not super-fast and Vernay dives in-between the two Audi cars, but it is Tassi who pips everybody on the outside line and takes the lead. Colciago spins at La Source as behind Tassi, Lessennes is second, followed by Comini, Vervisch, Vernay, Huff and E. Mondron

2017-2017 Spa Race 1---Start Race1_3

Lap 1: Comini passes Lessennes for second at Les Combes. Homola and Potty make contact and the Opel driver pits with a broken wheel whilst Comini attacks Tassi but the young Hungarian resists well.

Lap 2: Coronel passes Oriola for seventh and attacks E. Mondron. Comini manages to take the lead from Tassi at turn 3

Lap 3: Comini pulls away and Lessennes passes Tassi for second as Ficza passes Morbidelli for 11th at the chicane

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

Lap 4: Vervisch (4th) is under very strong pressure from Verney and Huff, which allows E. Mondron and Coronel to join the fight

Lap 5: Vernay passes Vervisch at La Source but the Belgian retakes the position at Eau Rouge; they continue fighting and the Frenchman passes the Belgian again at Blanchimont. E. Mondron hits Coronel, who goes off-track but rejoins whilst Ficza takes 10th from Nash 

Lap 6: In the fight for 5th, Vervisch is chased by a group of ten cars

Lap 7: Vernay is behind Tassi and attacks his third place whilst Vervisch gets a warning for track limits. Ficza drops to 13th after going wide after La Source as Corthals takes 11th from Morbidelli

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

Lap 8: Corthals passes Nash for 10th

Lap 9: Comini wins from Lessennes; Tassi manages to save the third place beating Vernay by three tenths. Vervisch, Huff, E. Mondron, Coronel, Oriola and Corthals fill the other points positions.

Quotes from the Race 1 podium finishers

2017-2017 Spa Race 1---01 Stefano Comini_186.jpg

Stefano Comini (winner): “It’s fantastic to win here and to give the Audi RS3 and Comtoyou their first pole and their first win on such a great track and in the team’s home country. I am really very, very happy. I adore Spa, as everybody knows, and the car today was simply perfect. I really want to thank Jean-Michel Baert, from Comtoyu, he saved my 2017 season, and it’s nice to able to thank him this way, and also my engineer Corrado Àvila, who is doing a fantastic job.”

2017-2017 Spa Race 1---63 Benjamin Lessennes_99

Benjamin Lessennes (second): “It was a great result for me and the Boutsen Ginion Racing team. At the start I was able to dive inside Comini at La Source, but Tassi overtook all of us on the outside. Then I tried to overtake him at Les Combes, but it did not work. After Comini overtook me, I finally managed to pass Tassi, but the Audi was too fast today and I couldn’t catch up. I am confident for tomorrow’s Race 2, because my car is very good in the second part of the race and I think we can aim for a fourth or a third place.”

2017-2017 Spa Race 1---09 Attila Tassi_135.jpg

Attila Tassi (third): “I think I can be happy and proud of my race today. I took a very good start and could lead for one lap and a half, but the Audi had much more top speed and it was impossible to resist to Stefano. Later, I was under pressure from Vernay, but I could resist up to the end. I think it was a nice fight, very clean and I hope everybody enjoyed the show. I worked a lot during the winter, on simulator but also following the “Fit for race” training program put in place by Norbert Michelisz, which was very helpful for improving reactions, stress management, car control and this kind of things. I think it meant a real progress for me…” 

Vernay and Huff make a 1-2 finish for Leopard Racing

2017-2017 Spa Race 2---02 Jean-Karl Vernay_145.jpg

Jean-Karl Vernay confirmed his special relationship with Spa-Francorchamps by taking a superb win in Race 2 on the Belgian track, where last year he had obtained his maiden TCR victory. The Frenchman took the lead with authority in lap 5, passing Edouard Mondron and Rob Huff in one move, and pulled away.

The success allowed him to further reinforce his lead in the championship standings. By finishing second, Rob Huff took a podium finish in his first appearance as a full-time competitor in the series and completed the triumphant day for the Volkswagen Golf cars of Leopard Racing, in what can be deemed as a home win, the team being based in nearby Luxembourg and assisted technically by Belgium’s Team WRT.

One year ago the team’s Golf cars had dominated the second race as well, placing Vernay and Stefano Comini first and second.

This time Comini took a valuable third place in the Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS that – together with yesterday’s victory in Race 1 – promoted him to second in the standings, though 25 points behind his former teammate.

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

Once again the TCR International Series competitors delivered a very lively race, with many exciting battles. A trio of Belgian drivers took the positions from 4th to 6th: Edouard Mondron (Delahaye Racing Volkswagen Golf), Benjamin Lessennes (Boutsen Ginion Honda Civic) and Frédéric Vervisch (Comtoyou Audi RS3 LMS) finished in the order.

Davit Kajaia, with the GE-Force Alfa Romeo Giulietta, took 7th place after an entertaining fight with James Nash (Lukoil Craft Bamboo SEAT León) and Attila Tassi (M1RA Honda Civic).

It was a weekend to forget for the two race winners of the previous weekend in Bahrain. Both, Roberto Colciago (M1RA Honda Civic) and Dušan Boković (GE-Force Alfa Romeo Giulietta) struggled to be on the pace, their cars laden by 30 kilos of success ballast.

Nash was the best of the SEAT drivers in 8th, while his teammate Pepe Oriola saw his hopes swept away in the incident caused by Tom Coronel at the start. As for the two Opel Astra cars of DG Sport Compétition, they were both stopped by a loss of power while Pierre-Yves Corthals and Mat’o Homola were lying 10th and 11th respectively.

RACE TWO:

Start: Potty and E. Mondron start well, but Coronel punts Oriola before La Source, the Spaniard spins and collects the pole sitter Potty whilst at the back of the field Møller pushes Valente into a spin, they are both out of the race and Coronel as well. Oriola’s car is smoking and drops down

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

Lap 1: E. Mondron leas from Huff; Lessennes and Vernay pass Tassi for third and fourth as Paulsen stops along the track

Lap 2: Lessennes passes both E. Mondron and Huff at Les Combes but runs wide at the chicane and drops to third again. Huff takes the lead and Comini overtakes Vervisch for sixth

Lap 3: Lessennes passes E. Mondron for second at the chicane whilst Morbidelli and Colciago make contact

Lap 4: Kajaia passes Vervisch at La Source for 7th as Lessennes attacks Huff on the outside at Les Combes, they clash and the young Belgian is forced out of the track and rejoins in 5th position

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

Lap 5: Vervisch re-passes Kajaia with the latter making contact with Ficza who spins. At Les Combes, Vernay attacks both Mondron and Huff and takes the lead. Corthals, who was 10th, stops in the pits

Lap 6: Homola and Oriola stop in the pits as well as Vernay pulls away and builds a 1-second leading margin on Huff

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

Lap 7: Comini passes E. Mondron for third whilst there is big battle for 7th between Tassi, Kajaia and Nash.

Lap 8: Lessennes puts a lot of pressure on E. Mondron but without success

Lap 9: Vernay wins from Huff and Comini, E. Mondron, Lessennes and Vervish. In the battle for 7th Tassi goes wide at the ‘double gauche’ and drops to 9th behind Kajaia and Nash; Altoè overtakes Borković for 10th at the last turn.

Quotes from the Race 2 podium finishers

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay (winner): “My start wasn’t that great, but the incident at first corner compensated… In the first laps, I had a terrible understeer, I even thought that I had punctured a tyre, but tried to stay calm and things improved progressively. When I attacked Edouard Mondron for 2nd, I certainly did not plan to pass Rob as well, but I took the lead and from then on, everything went smoothly. It’s a very good result for the team, who is doing a perfect job, and for the championship where we lead despite not having the fastest car. It’s my second win at Spa, but contrarily to many drivers, I am not a fan of this track…”

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

Rob Huff (second): “At the start, I realized looking at the mirrors that Coronel was braking too late and I tried to leave room and avoid trouble. I could pass Edouard Mondron to take the lead but then I got under attack from Lessennes. He hit me on a wheel at Les Combes and he went off track, but after that my steering was a little bit bent. When I saw Jean-Karl coming back on Mondron and me, I braked a little bit earlier to let him more room and take the lead, and the rest is history. It’s a very good weekend for the team and I am really happy to be able to contribute its success.”

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

Stefano Comini (third): “A very good weekend for us, maybe even too good! I am saying this because we are going to have some heavy success ballast at Monza, my home race, next weekend. But I am not complaining. Today, I knew I had to push hard in the first laps to get close to the top, but I got stuck behind my teammate who was making his race. I just killed my tires trying to pass him and after that the front guys were too far away. This said, it has been an excellent weekend for the Audi, Comtoyou Racing and myself, so I am very happy.”

The TCR International Series will resume in a few days at Monza for rounds 7 and 8 on May 13 and 14. 

TCR International Series Monza 12 - 14 May 2017

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

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2017 TCR International Series: Bahrain

TCR International Series returns to Bahrain for F1 Grand Prix

The second race meeting of the TCR International Series took place this weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit.

For the second consecutive year the series runs at Sakhir as a support event to the Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.

(Although we know which racing series happened to be more exciting…)

(Hint: It wasn’t F1…)

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

In 2016 the Lukoil Craft-Bamboo team dominated the event, with Sergey Afanasyev claiming pole position and Pepe Oriola scoring a double victory. 

On Saturday night in the first race, Oriola and his SEAT León resisted a superb recovery from Gianni Morbidelli in the WestCoast Racing Honda Civic, while Oriola’s teammates James Nash and Afanasyev finished in third and fourth positions.

2016-2016 Bahrain Race 1---14 Aku Pellinen_85

Morbidelli’s teammates Kevin Gleason and Aku Pellinen led the second race in its early stages, but Oriola and Nash recovered quickly after starting tenth and ninth on the reverse grid. With less than two laps to go, both Oriola and Nash overtook Gleason and gave a 1-2 finish to Lukoil Craft-Bamboo. The fight for third resulted in a collision between WestCoast Racing’s Gleason and Morbidelli, the former stopped, the latter dropped back and their teammate Pellinen inherited the final place on the podium.

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017 

TCR competitors hit the track for the first time on Friday for two twenty-minute Free Practice sessions. On Saturday they took part in a thirty-minute Qualifying session; all drivers will run during Q1 and the fastest twelve will be allowed to participate in Q2.

The first TCR International Series race took place on Saturday afternoon, just before the F1 Qualifying. The second race took place on Sunday in the early afternoon as an appetizer to the F1 GP.

Success ballast for Kajaia, Tassi and Oriola 

The Success Ballast system will be applied for the first time during the current season, on the occasion of the second race meeting at the Bahrain International Circuit.

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

Following the results achieved in the season’s opener at Rustavi International Motorpark in Georgia, GE-Force’s Davit Kajaia, M1RA’s Attila Tassi and Lukoil Craft-Bamboo’s Pepe Oriola will carry ballast on their cars.

Race 1 winner and current points leader Kajaia will be given the maximum 30-kilo ballast; this is the first time the Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR will be laden by extra weight. In fact, the Italian car’s running weight will be 1295 kilograms (1285kg minimum weight, plus 30kg of Success Ballast, minus 20kg of Balance of Performance adjustment).

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

A 20-kilo ballast will be imposed on Tassi’s Honda Civic Type-R TCR, the second-best scoring car in Rustavi; its running weight will be 1335kg (1285 + 20 SB + 30 BoP), while Race 2 winner Oriola’s SEAT León TCR will carry 10 kilos of ballast for a running weight of 1325kg (1285 + 10 + 30).

Michela Cerruti joins GE-Force for the Bahrain event

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

After spending the 2016 season developing the Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR, Michela Cerruti will once again sit in the Italian car for the second event of the 2017 TCR International Series.

At Bahrain International Circuit, in the frame of the Formula One Grand Prix, Cerruti will join Davit Kajaia and Du šan Borković, taking the wheel of GE-Force’s third car that was driven by Shota Abkhazava during the series’ opener in Georgia.

While Kajaia was on his way to claiming the Guilietta TCR’s maiden win in Rustavi’s Race 1, Michela Cerruti was standing on the pit wall, biting her nails.

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

“I felt immense joy, even though I was not driving. It has been very emotional to celebrate a victory in a different role. The Giulietta is my baby; I played a part in its birth and growth, and I drove it when this kind of result was definitely beyond our hopes,” said the Italian lady who was the first driver to reach the podium with the car, finishing second in the TCR Middle East series at Dubai in January; a result that was matched by Kajaia one month later in Abu Dhabi.

“After my podium in Dubai and the outstanding performance of Davit and Du šan in Georgia, I can’t wait to be at the wheel myself once again although, for the time being, we are considering it as a one-off appearance. But I will try and do my best to help the team to score more points in the championship,” Michela concluded.

The forces at play – a round up after the opening event

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

The 2017 TCR International Series successfully got under way at Rustavi International Motorpark in what was the first international motorsport event ever hosted by Georgia.

Local fans responded with enthusiasm, flocking to the track in their thousands and crowding the grandstand to full capacity in spite of pouring rain.
They were rewarded by Davit Kajaia’s triumph in a thrilling first race that offered a five-way fight between the Georgian’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Ferenc Ficza’s SEAT León, Stefano Comini’s Audi RS3 LMS and the Honda Civic Type-R cars of Attila Tassi and Roberto Colciago.

In the second race, Pepe Oriola continued his tradition of winning during the season’s opening event. The Spaniard led home his teammate Hugo Valente who was later demoted for overtaking under yellow flags, which promoted Tassi and Jean-Karl Vernay to second and third respectively.

Thanks to a sixth place in Race 2, Kajaia emerged as the championship leader with a margin of six points ahead of Tassi; Oriola lies third, one further point adrift.

GE-Force: Kajaia wins and Borković scores

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

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. He then was able to control the race from the front, keeping his competitors at bay. 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-gasp effort.

“It was so great to win my first race at home! The race was very tough. My start was good and I could build a gap, but as from lap 6, my front tyres started to suffer and then I had to fight to keep Ficza at bay,” Kajaia said.

His teammate Dušan Borković made up for a disappointing Qualifying performance by pocketing an encouraging fifth place in Race 2 that became fourth after Valente’s penalty.

The Serbian commented: “I was not satisfied with my speed, but I used my skills to recover positions in both races. It was good to score points twice after a disappointing qualifying.”

Lukoil Craft-Bamboo: Oriola does it again!

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

For the third consecutive year Pepe Oriola opened the season with a victory and so established himself as a candidate for the title fight once again. The young Spaniard and his SEAT León dominated the second race in Rustavi after snatching the lead from Giacomo Altoè during the first lap. “It was 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 that was still humid and my wheels were spinning but I could keep Hugo behind, then I pushed hard to try to build an advantage,” Oriola said.

His two teammates were less lucky. Hugo Valente finished the race in second position, but was later demoted to ninth by a 30-second time penalty for overtaking under yellow flags. He argued: “It was a decision that I didn’t fully understand. The two drivers in front overtook each other in the chicane, they had a bad exit and I was able to gain a position. I got a penalty for that. It was a mystery to me.”

Last year’s championship runner-up James Nash struggled to be on the pace. Out of the points in Race 1, he inherited fifth in Race 2 after penalties for Valente and Colciago. He explained: “It was a tough weekend for me. In Race 1 I did what I could starting from 11th. In the second I was able to utilize the car’s performance to a much greater degree and gain some points.”

M1RA: Tassi and Colciago fight for top places

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

The Honda Civic Type-R cars run by M1RA were fighting for the top positions in Georgia.

Despite their performance, Attila Tassi and Roberto Colciago were left with regrets as both had the possibility to achieve better results.

Being part of the leading quintet in Race 1, they missed the podium by inches: Colciago fourth and Tassi fifth. In Race 2 they crossed the line third and sixth respectively, but had different fortunes, as Tassi was promoted to second by Valente’s penalty, while Colciago dropped out of the points as he received a similar penalty himself.

Tassi said: “I was happy with the podium and my performance. I could not hope on such results before the weekend started, considering that I was driving the Honda for the first time.”

Zele Racing: Ficza impresses with his speed

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Thanks to a last-minute deal, Ferenc Ficza was signed by Zele Racing to drive the Austrian team’s SEAT León for the first two race meetings. From Spa onwards Ficza will switch to Zeng ő Motorsport to race one of the two new STARD-built KIA cee’d cars.

In Rustavi the Hungarian youngster did not waste the opportunity to shine and was arguably the most impressive driver over the Georgian weekend, which granted him the first TCR Fan Award of the season.

Throughout the first race he chased Kajaia and finished runner-up to the Georgian by a mere three tenths. He was well on his way to also finish the second race in the points, but he was eliminated after contact with Colciago.

“I was very happy with second in Race 1, it was 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,” he said.

Comtoyou Racing: encouraging results for Comini

2017-2017 Bahrain Thursday---Comtoyou Racing

Comtoyou Racing and Stefano Comini arrived in Rustavi without having completed a single lap in their brand new Audi RS 3 LMS. This resulted in them struggling to find the pace in Practice and Qualifying.

However, when it went down to the races, the double TCR champion proved that whoever wants to be next to sit on the International Series throne cannot count him out.

In Race 1 the Swiss claimed a third position that was totally unexpected after the disappointing pace he had shown earlier. Unfortunately for him, the consequences of contact with Vernay after the end of the first race forced him to retire in the second.

“To finish on the podium in our first race as a team and with the Audi was an excellent result.” Comini declared.

Leopard Racing: Vernay inherits a podium result

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

While Leopard Racing still has to name the second driver who will join the championship from Spa, Jean-Karl Vernay flew the team’s colours in his Volkswagen Golf GTi.

In the first race at Rustavi, the French driver came off the worst following a clash with Comini and found himself heading the group that was chasing the five leaders. Eventually he finished in sixth position. In the second race, he trailed Valente and Tassi, taking the chequered flag in fourth position that became third, courtesy of Valente’s penalty.

He commented: “We scored twenty-five points, that was not bad to begin. Better than last year! It was a great job from the whole team, however I could not chase the Honda, as it has better torque when coming out of the turns.”

WestCoast Racing: points for Morbidelli and Altoè

 

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

WestCoast Racing’s Italian pairing of the experienced Gianni Morbidelli and the 16-year old Giacomo Altoè scored points in both races at the wheel of their Volkswagen Golf GTi cars. It was Morbidelli’s maiden appearance in the Golf, and Altoe’s second following the TCR Middle East finale in Bahrain.

“It was a reasonable result for us as we knew we would be somewhat on the back foot in these early races of the season with the new cars,” said Team Manager James Nixon. “We didn’t have the raw pace in the car in race conditions, that is clear, but Gianni held on for points in both races while Giacomo enjoyed the chance to start from pole position on the reverse grid for Race 2 and led for half-a-lap on his debut, so that’s a huge positive.”

Morbidelli was classified tenth and seventh in the races, while Altoè was eighth and tenth.

DG Sport Compétition: Homola and Corthals are confident

2017-2017 Rustavi Friday---70 Mato Homola_30

In its debut in the TCR International Series, DG Sport Compétition managed to score points in the Teams’ Championship.

After finishing 11th and 12th in Race 1, Mat’o Homola and Pierre-Yves Corthals were aiming for better results in the second race. Homola’s hopes were soon crushed when his Opel Astra was hit by Shota Abkhazava’s Alfa Romeo at Turn 1 and retired; Corthals fought for a points-scoring position and crossed the line tenth before being promoted to eighth after the penalties.

Homola said: “It was my first drive in the Astra and I’m pretty confident about the future, because it has huge potential. I’m also pleased with DG Sport Compétition, as they are professional and motivated. We worked well in the weekend and progressed during each session. Though I feel that for us this BoP is disadvantageous.”

Corthals echoed: “We really worked hard all weekend. I gave my all without ever really having the feeling of being able to battle it out with the others on an equal footing, and that’s rather frustrating.” 

Icarus Motorsports: a difficult debut for Duncan Ende

2017-2017 Rustavi Saturday---18 Duncan Ende_75

Icarus Motorsports – the first American team to join TCR – and its driver Duncan Ende endured a difficult maiden weekend in the TCR International Series.

At the wheel of his SEAT León – the only car in the field still fitted with a DSG gearbox – Ende finished the two races in 14th and 11th positions.

He was not that surprised and said: “ Due to some delays with suppliers, we didn’t have the chance to test before the season. So we took the event in Rustavi as just a learning weekend. I had never even driven a front-wheel drive car before the Friday test…”

Qualifying: Homola was fastest, but Corthals inherited pole

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

The DG Sport Compétition pairing of Mat’o Homola and Pierre-Yves Corthals placed the Opel Astra cars on top of the TCR International Series timesheets for the first time. The Belgian beat his Slovak teammate in Q1, but eventually it was Homola who emerged as the fastest in Q2, beating Corthals by nearly four tenths of a second.

However, Homola could not fully benefit from his exploits as he was demoted to the back of the grid for Race 1 following an engine change that occurred after yesterday’s first Practice.

Corthals therefore inherited pole position with Hugo Valente (Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT León) completing the front row.  

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Roberto Colciago (M1RA Honda Civic Type-R) started from the third spot alongside Davit Kajaia (GE-Force Alfa Romeo Giulietta) who managed to claim fourth position despite the 30-kilo Success Ballast.

Jean-Karl Vernay (Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi) and James Nash (Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT León) filled the third row.

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Ferenc Ficza (Zele Racing SEAT León) qualified in tenth place and so won pole position on the top-ten reverse grid for tomorrow’s Race 2, with Dušan Borković (GE-Force Alfa Romeo Giulietta) at his side.

Following an appeal lodged by WestCoast Racing, the timekeepers amended Giacomo Altoè’s fastest lap in Q1, from 2:15.061 to 2:13:953 a time that would have allowed him to take part in Q2.

Q1: Corthals beat Homola

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

The DG Sport Compétition Opel Astra cars made an impressive 1-2 with Pierre-Yves Corthals setting the fastest lap of 2:11.903 ahead of his teammate Mat’o Homola (2:12.149).

Roberto Colciago was third fastest (2:12.956) in the best of the M1RA Honda Civic Type-R cars, followed by Jean-Karl Vernay (2:13.223), Dušan Borković (2:13.273) and Hugo Valente (2:13.291).

On his last attempt Attila Tassi (2:13.297) moved up to seventh, demoting by one position Ferenc Ficza, James Nash and Gianni Morbidelli. Pepe Oriola and Davit Kajaia rounded off the top-twelve for Q2. It was a close call for the Georgian driver who had had his fastest lap disallowed for trespassing the track limits.

Surprisingly, Stefano Comini – the fastest in yesterday’s Free Practice 2 – was again struggling with the balance of his Audi and could not make the cut, together with Michela Cerruti, Giacomo Altoè and Duncan Ende.

Q2: Homola and Corthals encored

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Homola set the first pole position in TCR for Opel, posting a fastest lap of 2:12.073 that was nearly four tenths ahead of the rest of the field. Corthals placed the second Astra in second position (2:12.451) with Valente (2:12.656) third, Colciago (2:12.672) fourth, Kajaia (2:12.877) fifth and Vernay (2:12.896) sixth.

What the fastest drivers said after Qualifying

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Mat’o Homola (1st): “We had a problem with the engine in Free Practice because of the heat and the guys worked all night to change it. I only did two laps yesterday and so Qualifying was a big mystery for me, but I knew how the track behaves and how I should behave from last year. Congratulations to DG Sport and to Opel on their first pole position. Okay, I lost pole because of the penalty, but I wanted to see what the car could do. I made one mistake on my quickest lap, so I think I could have been ever faster.”

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Pierre-Yves Corthals (2nd): “I really didn’t expect to be as fast as that. Everyone had problems with the air temperature, but maybe the others suffered more than us. I made two big mistakes during my fastest lap in Q2 so I lost a lot of time. I was really happy for the team and for Opel because it was good to have the pole position in Bahrain when we are with Formula One.”

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Hugo Valente (3rd): “I don’t really know what to think of the penalty for Mat’o – I would have preferred to have been on the cleaner line. Yesterday was quite difficult but I’ve been working with my engineer on the set up and today I was able to pull out a few things.”

First BoP adjustment of the season applied in Bahrain

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Following the Qualifying session in Bahrain, and taking into account the results of the first race meeting of the season in Georgia, the TCR Technical Department has decided to make the first Balance of Performance adjustments of the year ahead of today’s Race 1 in Bahrain.

It was decided to reduce the engine power of the Opel Astra TCR cars to 95%, while a ride height break of 10mm has been granted to the Audi RS3 LMS and the SEAT León TCR cars that use a DSG gearbox (in Bahrain, this only applies to the Icarus Motorsports SEAT of Duncan Ende).

All car weights remain unchanged.

Roberto Colciago wins from Valente and Vernay whilst Five different car brands fill the top five places

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Roberto Colciago claimed his second TCR International Series victory after last year’s win at Sepang, which also occurred during a Formula One event.

The M1RA driver and his Honda Civic Type-R made a perfect start and overhauled both the pole-sitter Pierre-Yves Corthals and Hugo Valente to lead the field going into Turn 1. That turned out to be the critical move as far as Colciago was concerned and the Italian driver led for the remainder of the nine-lap race. Valente drove a sensible race to finish second, the SEAT León never really threatening Colciago, while Jean-Karl Vernay finished third after a thrilling series of battles with Corthals, James Nash and Dušan Boković ended with Boković making contact with Corthals, which allowed Vernay’s Volkswagen to dive past the pair into a podium place.

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

In all, five different car brands filled the first five places with Boković’s Alfa Romeo and the Opel Astra of Corthals joining the Honda, SEAT and Volkswagen of the podium finishers. Stefano Comini’s Audi finished eighth making six brands in the top-eight.

Corthals suffered from power-sapping high engine temperatures in the race’s last few laps while it was a brake problem that caused Borković to run into Corthals and so ultimately deny the Opel a top-three finish.

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

In the Drivers’ championship, the result means four drivers are within a point of each other; Colciago and Vernay both have 40 points while the two race winners in Georgia Pepe Oriola (who finished sixth) and Davit Kajaia (who retired with a broken driveshaft) each have 39.

Race 2 took place on Sunday, with Ferenc Ficza (Zele Racing SEAT León) and Dušan Boković (GE-Force Alfa Romeo Giulietta) sharing the front row on the top-ten reverse grid.

RACE ONE KEY FACTS

Start: Colciago makes the best start and leads from Valente and Corthals into Turn 1

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Lap 1: There’s a close fight between Kajaia, Nash and Vernay for 4th; Kajaia and Vernay make contact; Borković passes Vernay, but Vernay then passes Borković again and keeps fifth place; Nash also passes Borković for 6th

Lap 2: Borković passes Nash and Vernay for 5th place

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Lap 3: There is contact between Homola and Morbidelli at Turn 1; Kajaia stops on the track with a broken driveshaft

Lap 4: Vernay passes Nash for 5th 

Lap 5: Comini passes Ficza for 8th

Lap 6: Morbidelli passes Ficza for 9th

Lap 7: Vernay and Borković fight for 4th; Ende pits with brake problems

2017-2017 Bahrain Race 1---62 Dusan Borkovic_148.jpg

Lap 8: Borković attacks Corthals for 3rd; Vernay passes Borković for 4th, but Borković re-takes the position; Borković and Corthals make contact and Vernay passes them both to take 3rd place

Lap 9: Oriola passed Nash for 6th; Colciago wins from Valente and Vernay

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Quotes from the Race 1 podium finishers

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Roberto Colciago (1st): “It might have looked easy, but it wasn’t! The start was really good and after four or five laps, there was a good gap behind me. I didn’t push so hard at the beginning of the race so my tyres were still good for the second part. It’s really important not to make any mistakes at this circuit – I made one small mistake when I braked at the end of the straight, but afterwards I made no more. In the championship, there are many, many good drivers and we are always within two or three tenths, so it is much too early to be thinking about that.”

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Hugo Valente (2nd): “I was quite happy with my start but I know the Honda is always very strong off the line; I don’t have a lot of experience yet with this car and we couldn’t practice starts yesterday. Roberto managed his tyres well at the beginning of the race, he made a mistake but I made a few too. I maybe could have overtaken him, but it was too risky and I need to score points for the championship, so I cooled down a bit and he was just too fast. After that, I was looking in my mirrors and also enjoying watching the big TV on the straight! I think tomorrow will definitely be more exciting and I’ll be looking for another good result for the team again.”

2017-2017 Bahrain Race 1---02 Jean-Karl Vernay_99 (2)

Jean-Karl Vernay (3rd): “My start was just terrible, so I need to work on my coordination because I’ve been struggling with that for a few months now. I was lucky not to spin on the first lap, but after that I tried to be a little bit calm. We had a small engine problem, as sometimes there was no power when I was back on the throttle. I lost a lot of time behind Borković because he did a good race and was quite fast on the straights so the only way to overtake him was to wait for a mistake and in the end it happened. I think we deserved the result – my team did a great job and the car was really, really quick so let’s see how we do tomorrow.”

Borković takes his first International Series victory as Two points cover the top three in the Drivers’ standings

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Dusan Borković, driving a GE-Force Alfa Romeo Giulietta, took his first victory in the TCR International Series after a commanding performance in the stifling heat of a Bahrain Easter Sunday afternoon.

This was also the second victory for the Romeo Ferraris-built Italian car after Davit Kajaia’s in the season opener at Rustavi, Georgia.

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Starting from the second row of the grid, Attila Tassi made the best start and passed both Borković and pole-sitter Ferenc Ficza going into Turn 1. Borković and Ficza quickly struck back and overhauled the M1RA Racing Honda Civic, with Borković leading from Ficza’s Zele Racing SEAT León.

The Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT of James Nash and Jean-Karl Vernay in the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi then passed Tassi, with Nash quickly snatching second place from Ficza. When Ficza then ran wide on lap 2, Vernay was one of four drivers to take advantage. Nash’s teammate Hugo Valente took third place from Vernay on lap 3 and that was how the race ended; Borković finishing ahead of Nash and Valente.

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Behind the battle for the podium places, there were several thrilling fights within the top ten. Vernay held onto fourth place despite a determined challenge from the Honda of Roberto Colciago, while Pepe Oriola finished seventh, behind Ficza.

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Reigning TCR champion Stefano Comini and Gianni Morbidelli made contact on a number of occasions, with the Swiss driver’s Comtoyou Racing Audi RS 3 LMS eventually finishing in ninth place, ahead of the Italian in a WestCoast Racing VW.

Davit Kajaia lost a valuable sixth place on the last lap as he coasted to a halt with a stream of oil trailing from the underside of the Alfa Romeo; the oil sump was cracked after he had jumped over a kerb.

Two points now cover the top three in the Drivers’ series; Vernay has 52 points with Borković on 51 and Colciago a further point adrift. Oriola and Kajaia – the two winners on the opening weekend in Georgia – are in fourth and fifth places with 45 and 39 points respectively.

RACE TWO KEY FACTS

Grid: Sunny and hot, but windy; all 16 cars take place, including Corthals’ Opel, after the DG Sport Compétition crew managed to replace the clutch in the ninety minutes before the start of the race

Start: Tassi makes the best start and leads from Borković going into Turn 1; Borković and Ficza then both pass Tassi

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Lap 1: Nash and Vernay pass Tassi for 3rd and 4th places; Nash passes Ficza for 2nd 

Lap 2: Ficza runs wide and allows Vernay, Valente, Tassi and Colciago to pass; Colciago passes Tassi for 5th place; Comini is fighting with Ficza for 8th place; Altoè stops on track with both front tyres punctured

Lap 3: Valente passes Vernay for 3rd place; there are contacts between Tassi and Vernay and between Nash and Tassi

Lap 4: Kajaia locks up under braking and makes contact with Tassi; Ficza passes Tassi for 6th place

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Lap 5: Comini passes Kajaia for 8th, but Oriola then passes Comini and Kajaia re-takes 8th

Lap 6: Morbidelli and Comini make contact and Morbidelli passes Comini for 10thplace

Lap 7: There is contact between Oriola and Kajaia; Colciago is attacking Vernay for 4th

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Lap 8: Tassi runs wide and Kajaia passes for 7th place; Oriola then passes Tassi for 8th; Comini passes Morbidelli for 10th.

Lap 9: Kajaia stops on track with oil trailing from the car; Borković takes the win from Nash and Valente.

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Quotes from the Race 2 podium finishers

2017-2017 Bahrain Race 2---62 Dusan Borkovic_186.jpg

Dušan Borković (1st): “I am really, really, really happy with the performance; I must thank the engineers and mechanics at Romeo Ferraris and GE-Force for giving me such a good car. I had a lot of chances to win last year but made some stupid mistakes, particularly in the first races when I was usually in the top five. Today I took advantage of being on the front row and when I saw all the fights going on after the first few corners I knew I just had to control the race. The Honda cars always make a good start but I knew I had to be in front to avoid running in the slipstream of another car and so keeping the air temperature down – luckily I know how to attack! The Alfa is much harder on the tyres than the SEAT I drove last year because of the higher torque so there are some good points for us and some not so good. I’m just delighted to win in a beautiful place like Bahrain at a Formula One event.”

2017-2017 Bahrain Race 2---54 James Nash_186.JPG

James Nash (2nd): “The start is always the most important part so I was quite aggressive right at the beginning and found myself in second with a whole queue behind me. I could see Hugo was behind Vernay and I’d much rather fight with Hugo than Jean-Karl! I couldn’t catch Dušan so it was all about making sure that my second place was secure. We were all making mistakes and it was all about who made the fewest. The temperatures were really high and the tyres were struggling; it was really easy to snatch a wheel and miss an apex. I started to make mistakes over the last few laps and Hugo was catching me, but thankfully he also made some errors and created a gap for me.”

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Hugo Valente (3rd): “I’m very happy. The biggest part of the job was today because starting from P8 was always going to be more difficult than yesterday. This is my third podium finish in a row and I’ve only finished three races so I’m really happy with a double podium from this weekend for sure. I said it was really important to score a lot of points this weekend and so I’m over the moon with the performance. I thought I was going to catch James at the end but I had a lot of tyre degradation as well. I’m really happy for him as he had a really difficult weekend in Georgia so it’s good to share a first podium with him; I hope there will be a lot of others this season. It was a fun race with lots of overtaking and defending and Vernay was like my bodyguard – pushing everyone off in front and then keeping Colciago behind. I’m looking forward to Spa now, I know the track and it will be interesting to see how the car behaves there.”

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

The TCR International Series will resume for rounds 5 and 6 at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, on May 4 to 5, in the frame of the 6 Hours of Spa, second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

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

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

 

2017 BTCC: Brands Hatch Indy…

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Whats this you see? a BTCC Blog post from Tintop Guru who normally only covers TCR???

That’s right folks, this is a BTCC blogpost! There will be a few more during the year as well!

I’ve been in love with the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship since 1988 and I love watching my home Tintop series with a lot of passion and excitement. So for 2017 I’m going to cover my home series as well.

I do need to point out that all images used in this post were provided by the lovely people at www.btcc.net. I take no credit for any of these images used.

Here is the first post covering all of the action that took place at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit in Kent, starting with a very surprising result in Qualifying…

Jeff Smith secures maiden pole position as the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship gets underway

SmithJ-05

Eurotech Racing’s Jeff Smith has scored a sensational maiden Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship pole position, as the experienced driver mastered tricky, damp conditions at Brands Hatch.

A disjointed opening qualifying session of the 2017 BTCC season was interrupted by incidents and inclement weather, as drivers and teams strived to be on track at the perfect time.

It was Smith and Eurotech that played the right hand as the Honda Civic Type R crossed the line shortly before a deluge of rain fell at the Kent venue. This had followed two earlier stoppages for separate incidents at Paddock Hill Bend, which saw the Chevrolet of Dave Newsham and Subaru of Ashley Sutton beached in the gravel.

Rain came and went throughout much of the running, but it was the shower following Smith’s lap that would scupper any chance of further improvement. The Midlander’s performance should not be underestimated, however, as his 48.367s lap time was just two tenths shy of Tom Ingram’s practice benchmark, despite the afternoon’s less-than-ideal conditions.

Ingram2-1

Speedworks Motorsport’s Ingram backed up his own pace-setting performance in practice by taking an impressive second in qualifying, whilst the Halfords Yuasa Racing duo of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal will line up on the second row for tomorrow’s season-opener.

Reigning champion Shedden and team-mate Neal both had to recover from wild rides across the grass on the exit of Surtees, as did the likes of Rob Collard and Ollie Jackson, with the entire 32-car field trying to manage the ever-changing atmospherics.

Turkington5

BMW returnee Colin Turkington claimed fifth ahead of Adam Morgan’s Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes, whilst Jack Goff cemented Eurotech’s joy with seventh. Rob Austin (Handy Motorsport), Jake Hill (TAG Racing) and Matt Simpson (Simpson Racing) completed the exciting top ten order, which meant all five Hondas in the field took prime positions.

Former champions Andrew Jordan and Jason Plato had to settle for 11th and 18th respectively for BMW Pirtek Racing and Adrian Flux Subaru Racing, whilst Vauxhall’s BTCC race return will commence from 12th and 16th on the grid with Tom Chilton and Senna Proctor.

Proctor_05

Jeff Smith said: “Matt Neal was in front of me and I just managed to tuck in behind him for a couple of laps. One of them was quick enough for pole as it turned out. I’ve been on pole before from a reverse grid but I head into every qualifying session believing we can do it, it’s just about executing it. FP1 was a bit of a disaster for us but since then, the car came into its own and it’s been stunning this afternoon. I must admit, I’ve left it to the guys over the winter to sort things out behind the scenes and they have just done a fantastic job. A lot of work has gone in and on my side, I’ve been focussing out on track and getting the laps in over the winter.”

Tom Ingram said: “We were more than happy with that in those conditions, it can go one of two ways. I’d have loved pole but I’m more than happy with second. We can do something from here. Gordon (Shedden) is third, Jeff (Smith) will be pushing for the win so we’ll have to try and get him off the line and try and get clear but we’ll see. I’ve had a cold this week, so I’m not feeling 100 per cent, but I’ll be fine for the morning!”

Gordon Shedden said: “That was a bit of a random one! It was never totally dry. I think a few tried to get on it a little too quickly for the tyre. I had a little moment, well a huge moment, but I don’t think I was the only one! I’ll put that down to an experience and get on with it. It’s the same for everybody but it’s a shame with these conditions. That said, you want to be somewhere rather than nowhere so it’s OK, I’m happy.”

Matt Neal said: “The car’s perfect but the the track was changing corner-by-corner, lap-by-lap. With all three of our cars in the top ten, we’re really chuffed and with Jeff (Smith) on pole it’s three Hondas in the top four – pretty special.”

Colin Turkington said: “We were just hampered by the weather at the start of the session when it was spotting with rain, but then it cleared and we got a go at it. Really quickly the weather turned on us after that. I think everybody feels frustrated at not being able to get a clear run and see what the cars are capable of, but the end result is good for me. I’ve been running in and around there all day so it’s probably representative. We’ve been nudging the car in the right direction. In FP1 we had a bit of a balance issue but we’re improving it.”

Neal-3

2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Qualifying – Brands Hatch (Indy):

1 Jeff SMITH (GBR) Eurotech Racing 48.367s (89.90mph)
2 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +0.062s
3 Gordon SHEDDEN (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.160s
4 Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +0.176s
5 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Team BMW +0.185s
6 Adam MORGAN (GBR) Ciceley Motorsport +0.229s
Jack GOFF (GBR) Eurotech Racing +0.299s
8 Rob AUSTIN (GBR) Handy Motorsport +0.452s
9 Jake HILL (GBR) TAG Racing +0.494s
10 Matt SIMPSON (GBR) Simpson Racing +0.532s
11 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) BMW Pirtek Racing +0.552s
12 Tom CHILTON (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +0.570s
13 Michael EPPS (GBR) Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing +0.575s
14 Mat JACKSON (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat with Duo +0.581s
15 Rob COLLARD (GBR) Team BMW +0.659s
16 Senna PROCTOR (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +0.673s
17 Luke DAVENPORT (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo +0.744s
18 Jason PLATO (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +0.751s
19 Aron TAYLOR-SMITH (IRL) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +0.762s
20 Stephen JELLEY (GBR) Team Parker with Maximum Motorsport +0.811s
21 Josh COOK (GBR) Team Parker with Maximum Motorsport +0.813s
22 Ashley SUTTON (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +0.826s
23 Aiden MOFFAT (GBR) Laser Tools Racing +0.884s
24 Martin DEPPER (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo +0.962s
25 Daniel LLOYD (GBR) MG Racing RCIB Insurance +1.022s
26 Ant WHORTON-EALES (GBR) AmDtuning.com with Cobra Exhausts +1.065s
27 James COLE (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +1.175s
28 Chris SMILEY (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing +1.192s
29 Ollie JACKSON (GBR) AmDtuning.com with Cobra Exhausts +1.214s
30 Will BURNS (GBR) Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing +1.427s
31 Josh PRICE (GBR) Adrian Flux Subaru Racing +1.480s
32 Dave NEWSHAM (GBR) BTC Norlin Racing NO TIME

Race Day itself would prove to have its usual exciting mix of action, thrills and spills with three different winners from the first three races, along with some questionable incidents as well…

Spoils shared at Brands Hatch with Success for Ingram, Shedden and Jordan in BTCC curtain raiser

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Tom Ingram, Gordon Shedden and Andrew Jordan took a win apiece as the 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship got underway at Brands Hatch this weekend (1/2 April).

Jeff Smith had secured the first pole position of the new campaign during mixed conditions on Saturday, but the experienced Eurotech Racing driver couldn’t hang on at the front once the lights went out for Sunday’s season-opener.

Fellow front row starter Ingram secured his move for the lead before the cars had even roared into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time, gliding his Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis around the outside of Smith’s Honda Civic Type R, whilst contact behind took two of the championship’s big guns out of the running.

Matt Neal tried to defend against the charging rear-wheel drive BMW of Colin Turkington off the line, but unfortunate contact was made as the Honda moved across the track. Both cars stuttered into retirement with damage, bringing about the first safety car period of the new season.

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Smith was immediately forced into full defensive mode when the race restarted, but he couldn’t keep Shedden’s Honda behind. The reigning champion made a superb move into Graham Hill Bend on lap six, whilst Adam Morgan eyed his opportunity to follow suit.

This left a top three of Ingram, Shedden and Morgan, an order that would remain unchanged until the chequered flag. It was an extremely good drive from race-winner Ingram, the 23-year-old repeating his 2016 performance with victory in the opening race of the season.

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Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Shedden grabbed victory in a frenetic second encounter after a series of incidents interrupted proceedings.

An aborted start due to a problem for pole-sitter Ingram was followed by an accident at the restart, as Jason Plato’s Subaru Levorg was turned into the pit wall off the line. Heavy contact left the double champion’s Japanese machine stricken on-track in a dangerous position, obliging officials to red flag the contest.

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Eventually it was lights-out for a reduced 23-lap race, as Ingram initially led the way from Shedden’s Honda. The ballast-laden Toyota Avensis couldn’t hang on however, as the Scot slipped by at Paddock Hill Bend on the second tour.

Shedden looked assured at the head of the pack, and his place was further cemented as Rob Collard hauled his BMW 125i M Sport onto the rear of Ingram’s Toyota. The experienced Collard nudged Ingram through Paddock Hill on lap 20 and eventually made the move stick on the run downhill. There was little time for him to make inroads into Shedden’s advantage, however, and the Honda man comfortably secured his first win of 2017.

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Jordan completed a dream debut for BMW by claiming a victory in the final race on the 1.27-mile Indy circuit.

The 27-year-old – who switched from Ford to BMW machinery during the off-season – held off a late attack from West Surrey Racing stablemate Turkington. The pair touched briefly during the final lap, but Jordan held on to clinch an historic win for the returning manufacturer.

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Tom Chilton made it a memorable podium as Vauxhall marked its own BTCC comeback with a fine third place for Power Maxed Racing.

BMW Pirtek Racing’s Jordan blasted from third on the grid to lead the field into Paddock Hill Bend on lap one, whilst Mat Jackson faced heartache trying to follow suit. Jackson’s Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo Ford went around the outside of Chilton’s Vauxhall Astra, but the former ran out of road after slight contact and endured a trip across the gravel.

Chilton maintained second while fellow front row starter Josh Cook was being shuffled down the order in the Team Parker with Maximum Motorsport Ford Focus.

Cook

Team BMW’s Turkington had jumped from tenth to third by a little over mid-distance and he busily closed in on Chilton’s PMR Astra ahead of him. The series returnee had no answer – deciding discretion was the better part of valour – and he allowed the Northern Irishman to nip by on lap 17.

Far from settling for second, Turkington reeled in Jordan at a rate of knots, and was on the blue Pirtek machine’s tail for the final few laps. He tried everything he could to get by – including a friendly rub through Clearways – but 2013 champion Jordan held firm to lead home a fantastic one-two for BMW.

Neal took fourth from Morgan, with both finishing ahead of the fading Collard, whilst Shedden had to settle for seventh – cementing an extremely positive day for the reigning champion.

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Eurotech Racing’s topsy-turvy day ended with eighth for Jack Goff, following his earlier fourth and 12th-place finishes, whilst the impressive Michael Epps and Jake Hill rounded out the top ten in the Team HARD-run VWs. Epps notably scored three top ten finishes throughout the day for Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing.

Other standout results included a fifth-place finish for Rob Austin in race one, although his day rather unravelled following exclusion from the second contest due to contact made with Jordan and completing an overtaking manoeuvre under yellow flag conditions.

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As the dust settled on an exciting opening weekend of the 2017 season, triple champ Shedden leads the standings by just six points from Ingram, with Jordan a further point in arrears.

Morgan is fourth after a trio of top five finishes, with Collard just behind following his own good run of results. Morgan and his Ciceley Motorsport squad also lead the Independents Drivers’ and Teams’ order.

BMW and Halfords Yuasa Racing top the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ tables respectively, whilst Vauxhall new boy Senna Proctor holds the advantage in the Jack Sears Trophy.

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Tom Ingram said: “That was absolutely fantastic, how do you put it into words? Winning here two years on the bounce – it’s the best way to repay all that hard work over the winter. It’s a heck of a result and I’m really pleased. Everyone was reminding me for the next race, ‘get points – just get points’. As soon as I saw Rob [Collard] throw his nose down the inside at Paddock in race two, I thought, ‘I remember this from last year!’ We prioritsed the points and considering the weight we were carrying, third was a great return.”

Gordon Shedden said: “I’ll take those three results any weekend of the year – it’s been a brilliant start to the season. The Civic Type R felt great throughout. In fact, it was even better with the weight in race two than without it in race one, which was slightly random – but very encouraging going forward. I think this must be my best ever start to a BTCC campaign, so we’re clearly going in the right direction. I’m absolutely chuffed – a very happy Scotsman heading back north tonight!”

Andrew Jordan said: “That was quite a start wasn’t it with rear-wheel drive and a new team? I was getting a bit twitchy with Colin (Turkington) looking really, really strong on the soft tyres behind – the rear-wheel drive expert! We had a little rub at the end there but it was a good way to end. I knew he wasn’t going to do anything silly. It’s really special, to get the win on my first event with BMW Pirtek Racing and West Surrey Racing. It’s down to the team – credit to the guys for all the work they’ve put in.”

Adam Morgan said: “To get on the podium in race one was incredible. A third, fourth and fifth was more than we expected and to be leading the Independents’ is magnificent. Consistency is going to win the championship this year. We need to keep those points ticking over and we’ll be near the front come the end of the season. The car was extremely quick in the first race and I think we’re in for a good shout. We aim to be in overall title contention this year although the Independents’ is our main target.”

Rob Collard said: “I was so relieved that the second race was red-flagged early on, because [Rob] Austin had tipped me into a spin at Druids and I was nowhere – virtually last. A good re-start was crucial for me, and after that we picked them off one by one. Andrew [Jordan] worked well with me when it was clear that I was quicker, and to get Tom [Ingram] at the end was brilliant. The BMW felt amazing throughout.”

Colin Turkington said: “It’s so easy to let the head drop at the start of the day when you make 12 yards off the line and end up facing the traffic, but I’ve been around in this championship for so long that I know you’ve just got to look to the next race. Race two was where all the hard work was done really, carving through from the back and giving myself a chance with a good slot on the grid for race three. The guys gave me a great car in the BMW for the last one. We tweaked it for the soft tyre and I couldn’t believe the pace.”

Tom Chilton said: “It was perfect. It’s our first event of the year and we’re still learning the car. It shows what a great job Power Maxed Racing has done and to get a podium is brilliant. It’s put me right up there in the championship in a new car – it’s amazing. I didn’t expect it at all. The BTCC has 32 of the best drivers in Britain and some of the best teams in the world, so to get a result is very difficult – especially a podium, so I’m absolutely over the moon. It was quite special and for us, it felt like a win.”

2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Round 1 – Brands Hatch (Indy):

1 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport 27 laps
2 Gordon SHEDDEN (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +3.181s
3 Adam MORGAN (GBR) Ciceley Motorsport +3.348s
Jack GOFF (GBR) Eurotech Racing +12.387s
Rob AUSTIN (GBR) Handy Motorsport +16.410s
6 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) BMW Pirtek Racing +16.610s
7 Rob COLLARD (GBR) Team BMW +16.760s
Mat JACKSON (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo +18.109s
9 Michael EPPS (GBR) Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing +18.326s
10 Tom CHILTON (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +18.632s

2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Round 2 – Brands Hatch (Indy):

1 Gordon SHEDDEN (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing 23 laps
2 Rob COLLARD (GBR) Team BMW +0.870s
3 Tom INGRAM (GBR) Speedworks Motorsport +2.657s
4 Adam MORGAN (GBR) Ciceley Motorsport +4.565s
Mat JACKSON (GBR) Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo +5.125s
6 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) BMW Pirtek Racing +5.140s
Josh COOK (GBR) Team Parker with Maximum Motorsport +8.013s
Tom CHILTON (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +8.197s
9 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Team BMW +9.441s
10 Michael EPPS (GBR) Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing +9.492s

2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Round 3 – Brands Hatch (Indy):

1 Andrew JORDAN (GBR) BMW Pirtek Racing 24 laps
2 Colin TURKINGTON (GBR) Team BMW +0.315s
Tom CHILTON (GBR) Power Maxed Racing +4.692s
Matt NEAL (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +7.558s
5 Adam MORGAN (GBR) Ciceley Motorsport +10.205s
6 Rob COLLARD (GBR) Team BMW +10.812s
7 Gordon SHEDDEN (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing +11.719s
Jack GOFF (GBR) Eurotech Racing +12.141s
9 Michael EPPS (GBR) Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing +12.970s
10 Jake HILL (GBR) TAG Racing +14.367s

The 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship continues at Donington Park on 15/16 April over the Easter Weekend.

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So as you can see, I’m going to be sharing a post through out the 2017 BTCC Season on all the action taking place. As well as having a read of my blog, I also recommend you have a read of the work from a guy I know called Lewis Glynn.

Lewis has a wonderful way of bringing across his viewpoint on recent activities in the BTCC and I urge you to give this guy a follow on Social Media. He’s honest and really to the point about all thing BTCC. Well worth a follow!

As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with both the BTCC and all thing TCR. If you have read this and fancy finding out more about TCR as well, why not become a member of the TCR Talk Facebook Group where others will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from the series.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2017 TCR International Series: 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.”

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

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

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

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.”

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

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.

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

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.”

2017-2017 Rustavi Race 1---21 Giacomo Altoe_113

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

2017-2017 Adria BoP---04 Honda Civic_12

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

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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

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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!!!