2016 TCR International Series Finale: Macau

A four-way fight to decide the Drivers’ Championship

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

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

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

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

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

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

Success Ballast only for James Nash’s SEAT

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

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

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

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

Tiago Monteiro and Josh Files join the final party

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

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

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

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

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

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

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

Fulín and Belicchi are back with Mulsanne Racing

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

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

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

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

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

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

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

WSC launches TCR Middle East Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q1: Oriola sets the fastest lap

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q2: Vernay sets pole in the wet

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

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

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

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

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

Quotes after the Qualifying session

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

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

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

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

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

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

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

A further 20-kilo weight break for Alfa Romeo

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

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

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

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

Stefano Comini clinches a second successive Drivers’ title

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comini wins a chaotic Race 1, as Nash crashes

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

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

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

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

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

RACE ONE KEY FACTS

Start: Comini takes the best start from Monteiro and Vernay

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Race 2 – Monteiro wins and Comini is champion

TCR International Series Macau, 17 - 20 November 2016

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

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

Once again half points were awarded.

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

RACE TWO KEY FACTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotes from the podium finishers in both races

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

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

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

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

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

TCR International Series unveils 2017 calendar

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2017 TCR International Series – provisional calendar

2 April – Rustavi International Motopark, Georgia

16 April – Bahrain International Circuit (F1 event)

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

28 May – Circuit de Monaco (F1 event)

11 June – Salzburgring, Austria

2 July – Hungaroring, Budapest

9 July – Motorsport Arena Oschersleben, Germany

3 September – Chang International Circuit, Buriram, Thailand

8 October – Korea / China

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

2016 TCR International Series: Malaysia

TCR returns to Sepang 18 months after the inaugural event

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leopard Racing cars to be laden by Success Ballast

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

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

TCR Asia joins the International Series at Sepang

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

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

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

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

Nicky Pastorelli to drive the FRD Motorsport Ford Focus

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

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

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

New Italian champion Colciago with Target in Malaysia

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

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

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

Michela Cerruti and Petr Fulín to miss Sepang

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

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

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

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

Grid penalty for Rafaël Galiana at Sepang

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

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

Audi launches RS 3 LMS TCR car in Paris

Audi RS 3 LMS

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

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

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

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

Audi RS 3 LMS

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

Qualifying – Surprise pole position for Roberto Colciago

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Qualifying – What the pole sitter had to say

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

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

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

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

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

RACE ONE KEY FACTS:

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

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

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

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

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

Lap 7: Oriola overtakes Vernay for fourth at Turn 1

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

Quotes from the podium finishers in Race 1

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

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

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

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

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

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

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

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

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

Kevin Gleason wins as Stefano Comini gets penalty

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

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

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

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

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

RACE TWO KEY FACTS:

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

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

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

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

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

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

Lap 7: The safety car is deployed

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

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

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

Quotes from the podium finishers in the second race

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

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

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

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

Homola receives ten-second penalty after Race 2

TCR International Series Sepang, Malaysia 29 September - 01 Octo

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2016 TCR International Series: Singapore

TCR International Series re-joins Formula 1 in Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

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

Success Ballast for the top three title contenders

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

Kissling Motorsport to run an Opel Astra for Jordi Oriola

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

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

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

Famous comebacks: Gleason, Hezemans and Target

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

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

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

Two Asian teams join for the event in Singapore

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

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

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

Morbidelli gets a brand new Honda Civic for Singapore

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The TCR International Series will visit Georgia in 2017

rustavi-international-motopark_map

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penalties shake up qualifying results behind the pole

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

RACE ONE KEY FACTS:

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

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

Lap 5: De Souza stops on the track

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

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

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

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

Quotes from the podium finishers in Race 1 

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

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

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

Title battle heats up on the streets of Singapore

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikhail Grachev wins a shortened second race

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

RACE TWO KEY FACTS:

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

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

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

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

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

Quotes from the podium finishers in Race 2

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

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

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

TCR International Series Singapore 16 - 18 September 2016

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

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

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

 

2016 TCR International Series: Thailand

TCR’s Asian leg begins in Thailand…

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

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

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

In last year’s event Pepe Oriola and Stefano Comini took a win apiece, in a weekend that saw the SEAT cars dominate their rivals. The Craft-Bamboo Lukoil team posted a 1-2-3 in Race 1 (Oriola, Gené and Afanasyev) and Target Competition then returned a 1-2 in Race 2 with Comini and Hezemans. It was a weekend to forget for the Honda and Volkswagen cars, all victims of technical issues or race incidents; notably Gianni Morbidelli who saw his hopes to stay in contention for the title washed away by a drive-through for jump-start in Race 1 and an engine failure in Race 2.

Maximum success ballast for Comini in Thailand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TCR series Sochi, Russia 02 - 03 July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Top Run Motorsport re-joins from Buriram with new Subaru

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

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

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

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

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

A strong Thai contingent enhances the field to 26 cars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rafaël Galiana’s return with WestCoast Racing

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

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

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

Qualifying – Pepe Oriola beats Gianni Morbidelli by 1/1000

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

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

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

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

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

Q1: Morbidelli and Comini are very close

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

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

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

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

Q2: Oriola on pole for the first time

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

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

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

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

Quotes after Qualifying at Chang International Circuit

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

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

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

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

TCR Thailand joins the International Series for a family photo

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

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

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

Buriram United young stars beat TCR drivers after penalties

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

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

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

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

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

The Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil boys star in Thailand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RACE ONE KEY FACTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lap 9: Grachev pits for repairs after a contact

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

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

Lap 12: Grachev re-joins

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

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

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

Race 2 – James Nash wins and takes the point lead

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

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

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

Key facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lap 6: Comini overtakes Borković for fourth

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

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

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

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

Lap 10: Afanasyev overtakes Ittiritpong for ninth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotes from the podium finishers in the two races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2016 TCR International Series: Germany

The Motorsport Arena hosts an event full of emotions

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

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

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

The maximum ballast shifts from Comini to Vernay

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016 

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

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

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

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

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

Antti Buri redoubles his efforts over the German weekend

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016 

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

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

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

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

Liqui Moly Team Engstler signs Mackshin for home event

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016 

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

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

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

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

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

TCR Germany shares the bill with the International Series

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

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

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

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

TCR names Motorsport.com as ‘Official Media Partner’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Qualifying – Borković and Homola make 1-2 for B3

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q1: Oriola is the fastest by far

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q2: Borković creates a surprise

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

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

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

Drivers’ quotes after the Qualifying session

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

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

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

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

Cerruti deprived of Alfa’s progress by a pedal issue

 TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

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

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

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

TCR Germany: Fugel wins Race 1 after penalties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oriola and Nash lead the championship on equal points

 TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Race 1 – Mat’o Homola claims his maiden win

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

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

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

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

The two Mulsanne Racing’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta cars were brilliantly running in seventh (Michela Cerruti) and eighth (Petr Fulín) when they were both stopped by mechanical failures in the final laps.

With these results, Homola is the new championship leader, Nash is second, one point behind; Oriola and Comini are on equal points, with a gap of 11 from the leader.

Race One Key Facts

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Start: Borković takes the lead from Nash and Homola

Lap 1: A collision at T1 involves Grachev, Kajaia, Oriola, Comini and Afanasyev

Lap 2: Homola and Buri overtake Nash who drops to fourth; Morbidelli goes wide and drops at the back

Lap 3: Tassi spins off at Turn 2 while trying to overtake Comini; Borković makes a mistake and drops to third

Lap 4: The safety car is deployed to recover Tassi’s car

Lap 6: The race resumes, Homola leads from Buri, Borković, Nash, Vernay and Comini

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 7: Comini passes Vernay for fifth; Oriola overtakes Afanasyev for seventh

Lap 8: Morbidelli and Sheehan make contact, the American spins; Borković and Nash pass Buri who drops from second to fourth; the rain comes

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 9: Borković makes a mistake and drops behind Nash and Buri

Lap 10: Borković retakes third from Buri who is fighting with Comini

Lap 11: Comini missed the braking point at T1 and drops to sixth behind Oriola; Oriola and Buri make contact, the former crashes into the tyre wall

Lap 12: Comini stops in the run-off area at T1; Grachev spins and hits Comini car; the safety car is deployed again

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 15: The race resumes once again; Morbidelli moves up to seventh overtaking Fulín and Cerruti; Fulín pits and retires

Lap 16: Buri overtakes Vernay for fifth.

Lap 17: Cerruti stops on the track losing the eighth position

Lap 18: Sheehan makes a mistake and gets stranded onto the grave trap

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 19: Borković overtakes Nash for second; Homola wins from Borković, Nash, Afanasyev, Buri and Vernay.

Race 2 – Pepe Oriola returns to victory

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Pepe Oriola ended a three-month drought and returned to victory with a convincing performance that helped him to regain the championship lead, though on equal points with his teammate James Nash.

Dušan Borković and Nash encored their results from the first race and finished second and third once again.

Stefano Comini completed a brilliant recovery to sixth after an incident at the start and a tough but fair fight with the up-and-coming youngsters Attila Tassi and Niklas Mackschin.

Michela Cerruti was finally able to capitalize on the technical improvement made by the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and finished in a well-deserved ninth position .

Race Two Key Facts

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Start: Kajaia makes good use of his pole and leads the field ahead of Oriola and Vernay

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 1: Once again there is a pile up at T1; Comini and Morbidelli clash and rejoin at the back; Fulín is also involved, then pits and retires. Borković and Vernay make contact, the Serbian loses control and hits Homola but they manage to stay on the track; Vernay retires

Lap 2: Oriola takes the lead from Kajaia; Homola misses the braking point at T1 and drops to sixth; Grachev and Buri make contact, the latter retires

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 3: Oriola pulls away; Nash, Afanasyev and Homola have a tough fight over fourth position

Lap 5: Tassi and Mackschin fight for seventh

Lap 7: Borković and Nash are closing in on Kajaia

Lap 8: Comini passes Cerruti for ninth

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 9: Kajaia makes a mistake at T1 and loses second place to Borković

Lap 11: Kajaia repeats the mistake at T1 and drops at the back

Lap 12: Oriola controls Borković’s attempt to close the gap; Nash is third, chased by Afanasyev, Homola

TCR series Oschersleben, Germany 17 - 19 June 2016

Lap 14: Tassi, Comini and Mackschin are in a close battle for sixth

Lap 15: Comini steals sixth from Tassi with a clashing overtaking manoeuvre

Lap 17: Oriola wins from Borković, Nash, Afanasyev and Homola; Cerruti claims ninth

Quotes from the podium finishers

Mat’o Homola (winner Race 1): “I got this first win I was looking for so hard, and I feel very happy about it. It’s a dream come true after seven years in touring car racing. I chose to do the TCR because it is an international series, and I think it was the right choice. The race was quite tough, as it was very wet in some portions of the track and conditions kept changing. On top, there were two safety car periods, which is always stressful, but I managed to control everything. Now I am also well positioned in the championship but things are too tight to make any prediction, I’ll take them step by step.”

Pepe Oriola (winner Race 2): “After a very bad weekend at Salzburgring because of technical problems, it is nice to be spared by bad luck. Still, Race 1 was quite eventful, as I was involved in two race incidents and even touched the barriers. Luckily, I could finish the race and damage was only cosmetic. In Race 2, I could avoid trouble at the start and passed Kajaia after a few laps. Then everything went fine and I focused mostly on saving my tyres in the closing laps. It’s nice to be back in the lead of the standings, although the title race is still very long. I’m on equal points with James, he is very consistent and being both in the same team, we share all the data, so it’s going to be a close fight, and I am sure that Morbidelli and Comini will also be part of it.”

Dušan Borković (second in both races): “Two seconds is a very good result, and most of all, it means I am again able to finish races! I really thought I could win Race 1. I took the lead and was trying to build a gap, but unfortunately I did a mistake in the rain, going wide and losing positions. I was able to charge back, although there was some more sliding, and Race 2 had a relatively similar scenario. I’m still wondering how I survived all that, but the good news is that we are back on the podium and that this time there isn’t additional work for the mechanics.”

James Nash (third in both races): “It was a positive weekend, with two good races, and it’s nice to be on equal points in the standings with Pepe, although he has more wins than I do. That’s what I need to do, try to win more often, but today, given the conditions, I really went for the points, trying to avoid overdoing and doing mistakes.”

TCR Germany: Files pips Zimmerman on last lap

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Josh Files claimed his third victory of the season, the first after Target Competition switched from SEAT to Honda cars. The Briton emerged as the winner at the end of a thrilling race that ended with a six-car fight for the lead.

Everything was decided in the last lap, when Files and Bas Schouten pipped Tim Zimmermann who had led for most of the race after Antti Buri has been slowed down by electronics issues. With these results, Files regained the championship lead, five points ahead of Harald Proczyk.

The first lap was full of action, also because it began to rain while the drivers were on slicks; Buri took the lead from Zimmermann, Proczyk, Lautehschlager and Dablander. A mid-field incident involved Schamrl, Leuchter and Eberle; the latter’s car stopped in the middle of the track and forced the race director to deploy the safety car.

Soon after the race resumed, the leader Buri slowed down for a while and rejoined in 11th position. Zimmermann inherited the first place ahead of Files, Kirsch, Proczyk, Halder and Schouten.

The safety car was prompted again on lap 9 after Jordan’s car got stranded onto the gravel trap. When the race resumed Files and Kirsch made contact while fighting for second; Kirsch got the worst of it and retired.

Zimmermann was defending the lead from Files, Proczyk, Schouten, Buri and Halder; the six cars were covered by less than two seconds. On the last lap Files and Schouten managed to overtake Zimmermann and crossed the line in first and second, with Halder and Proczyk following in fourth and fifth.

The TCR International Series will resume on July 2 and 3 at Sochi, Russia, for rounds 13 and 14.

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

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2016 TCR International Series: Austria…

TCR drivers return to superfast track on the Austrian Alps

The fifth event of the TCR International Series took place at the Salzburgring, the high-speed track that lies in the superb setting of the Austrian Alps.

This is one the most demanding circuit for Touring Car drivers, because its combination of long straights with fast corners and a tricky chicane always results in the fastest average speed of the season and significant wear of the front left tyres.

The circuit was built in 1968 inside a narrow valley and its layout underwent very few changes since, although the pit building and paddock were rebuilt a few years ago. For many years (1971/1994) it was home of the Motorcycling Austrian GP and hosts the TCR International Series for the second time.

Actually this is the first time so far in the current season that TCR drivers return on a track they visited last year.

Stefano Comini to carry the maximum ballast

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

 For the first time so far this season, 2015 TCR champion Stefano Comini will have to carry the maximum Success Ballast on board his Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf Gti.

The Swiss was the best scorer in Imola, with a victory and a third place that, added to fourth in qualifying, brougth him 42 points that will result in 30 extra kilos for the Austrian event at the Salzburgring.

The current championship leader Pepe Oriola of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil, will keep on with the same 20-kilo ballast he had carried at Imola, while the 10 kilos for the third best scorer in Italy will be laden on Mikhail Grachev’s WestCoast Racing Honda Civic.

With these Success Ballasts added to the BoP, the running weights of the three cars will be: 1315 kg for Comini’s Volkswagen Golf, 1345 kg for Oriola’s SEAT León and 1335 kg for Grachev’s Honda Civic.

Cerruti and Fulín will drive two Alfa Romeo cars

2016-2016 Salzburgring Friday---Mulsanne Racing

After skipping the two previous events in Spa and Imola, Mulsanne Racing rejoin the TCR International Series in Austria. At the Salzburgring, the Italian team doubles its commitment and fields two Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR cars, with Petr Fulín joining the team’s regular driver Michela Cerruti.

During the previous month the Romeo Ferraris engineering company has worked flat out to both develop the Giulietta TCR and build a second car. This phase was completed by a successful test at Cervesina’s Tazio Nuvolari circuit, where Cerruti and Fulín took the wheel of the two cars that have been significantly upgraded since their last appearance at Estoril and painted in a bright red.

 Said Cerruti: “The team has worked a lot to improve performance, aerodynamics and handling. The most important changes are about the front suspension and the front part of the bodywork, with a new splitter and larger cooling intakes. During yesterday’s test the car proved to be faster and reliable. We will see how much we have improved only when we face the competitors on the track, but I am moderately optimist.”

Twice winner of the FIA European Touring Car Cup (2013 and 2014), Fulín drove the Alfa for the first time. The Czech driver has built himself a solid reputation in Touring Car competitions, and over the last two seasons has switched to front-wheel drive, racing a SEAT León TCR in the ETCC; he was runner up last year and is currently leading the standings.

“Running a second car was one of our goals, and I believe that having an experienced driver like Petr will help the team to make a further step ahead,” Cerruti added.

WestCoast Racing signs Harald Proczyk for his home race

2016-2016 Salzburgring Saturday---43 Harald Proczyk_6

After running its third Honda Civic car for Alain Menu at Imola, WestCoast Racing has signed another experienced driver, the Austrian Harald Proczyk, for this weekend’s race meeting at the Salzburgring.

Proczyk, who was born 41 years ago in Knittelfeld, nearby the Red Bull Ring, has established himself as one of the most experienced and successful Austrian drivers in recent years. His career has spanned from the early years in one-make trophies to the latest seasons in GT racing.

The Austrian has claimed a great deal of race victories and has fought several times for the titles in the German Ford Fiesta Cup, MINI Challenge and GT Masters, but also in the FIA European GT3 Championship and the Blancpain Endurance Series.

During the current season, Proczyk is racing in the new ADAC TCR Germany at the wheel of a SEAT León and, during the series latest event at the Sachsenring, he was victorious in the first race and jumped on top of the Drivers’ Championship standings.

Team manager James Rogers commented: “We are very pleased to offer Harald Proczyk the opportunity to take part in his home event at the wheel of a competitive car. We are very much looking forward to working with him, as we know he’s a fast driver. He may be a rookie in the International Series, but has already proved to be a winner in TCR Germany. It is also an opportunity for our team to showcase the performance of the Honda Civic TCR.”

And Proczyk added: “I’m very excited to discover the TCR International Series that is a step upward compared to the national series. I know that the team is very professional and I am curious to find out the potential of the Honda Civic. I need to focus on driving a front-wheel driven car at the limit again, because I have just raced the Nürburgring 24 Hours in a Porsche. And on top of this I need to get used to the Michelin tyres and get my bearings on the track again, as I haven’t raced at the Salzburgring since six or seven years. But I am relaxed and I want to enjoy this experience.”

 Florian Janits joins Liqui Moly Team Engstler

2016-2016 Salzburgring Saturday---45 Florian Janits_1

 Young Austrian racer Florian Janits will join the Liqui Moly Team Engstler for his home event of the TCR International Series, at the Salzburgring.

The 18-year old driver is facing his first experience in a front-wheel driven touring car, as he has only raced in karting and single seaters (Formula Renault and Formula 4) so far.

“I’m very much looking forward to this opportunity!” he said. “I have only raced formula cars in previous years, where I learned a lot. So being back on the track in the TCR International Series makes me very excited. I have never raced a front-wheel driven touring car before, but this does not worry me at all! And the good news is that I know the track well, having raced with the Lechner Racing School in 2014 and 2015. My expectations are getting used to the car as fast as possible, becoming familiar with the team and making the best out of my possibilities!”

Janits will team with Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s regular Davit Kajaia who has just claimed his first podium result in the series by finishing third in Imola’s Race 1.

Proczyk is fastest, but Vernay inherits pole position

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Austrian racer Harald Proczyk achieved an outstanding – and unexpected – result by emerging as the fastest driver in Qualifying at the wheel of his WestCoast Racing Honda Civic car in his maiden appearance in the TCR International Series.

Proczyk, who had already won a TCR race in the German series with his SEAT, benefited from the changing conditions at the Salzburgring that grew worse during the session as the rain intensified. He was the first to admit that this result was due more to that fact than to his control of the car.

However, Proczyk lost his right to start from pole position, just as Gianni Morbidelli lost his fourth place on the grid for tomorrow’s Race 1. Both drivers were given a penalty of two positions on the grid because their cars were standing in the fast lane during the session. As a result, Jean-Karl Vernay inherited the pole position and Pepe Oriola will start from the second spot. Proczyk will start third, with Morbidelli sixth behind Jordi Oriola and Dušan Borković.

These grid penalties did not change the Qualifying results; Proczyk retains the pole position as far as points scoring and statistics are concerned.  

Some of the championship’s main contenders struggled with different issues: Stefano Comini and James Nash were hampered by technical problems, while Mat’o Homola paid for a mistake in the early part of the session.

On his first outing for Mulsanne Racing, Petr Fulín placed his Alfa Romeo Giulietta in eighth, the best result so far for the Italian car. His teammate Michela Cerruti did not take part in the session, as her Giulietta was sidelined by engine problems that were the consequence of her trip into the gravel trap during this morning’s first Practice.

Attila Tassi and Mikhail Grachev qualified in tenth and ninth respectively and will be on the front row of the top-ten reversed grid for Race 2.

Q1: 1-2 for WestCoast Racing

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

First a red flag and then the rain spoiled this part of the session and eventually the chances of Stefano Comini and James Nash to make the cut for Q2.

The red flag was waved in the early stages, after a double incident at Turn 1 that saw Davit Kajaia’s Volkswagen stranded in the gravel trap and Mat’o Homola’s SEAT hitting the barriers.

When the session resumed, the crew of the B3 Racing Team managed to replace the front splitter on Homola’s car. In the meantime, the Slovak’s teammate Attila Tassi had posted a fastest lap of 1:26.682 that was not to be beaten, as rain poured down with nine minutes left.

Comini was one of the few to make a qualifying attempt after he had missed the dry part of the session while his team was working to replace the gearbox. However, on the wet track the Swiss could not clock a good enough time to advance to Q2.

Davit Kajaia, who had rejoined and set the 12th fastest lap, was later excluded for having received external aid after his incident at Turn 1, and this handed his teammate Florian Janits the last spot for Q2. As for Nash, his car suffered from transmission problems, which sidelined him for almost the entire session.

The following drivers made the cut: Tassi, P. Oriola, Morbidelli, Afanasyev, Borković, J. Oriola, Grachev, Vernay, Fulín, Proczyk, Homola and Janits .

Q2: Proczyk claims surprise result

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Newcomer Harald Proczyk surprisingly emerged as the fastest driver in a Q2 that was flooded by pouring rain. The Austrian was the first driver to hit the track and set a time of 1:38.923 that he managed to improve on the following lap to 1:38.767. Soon afterwards the rain intensified, making it impossible for the other drivers to go faster than that.

Jean-Karl Vernay (1:39.079) and Pepe Oriola (1:39.359) secured the second and third places on the grid, while a last gasp improvement from Sergey Afanasyev granted him the seventh place and demoted Mat’o Homola from 10th to 11th, stripping him of the pole position on the reverse grid for Race 2.

Quotes from the fastest qualifiers

Harald Proczyk (fastest): “I think we were very lucky today; we were out at exactly the right moment and the conditions changed immediately afterwards. I tried to go faster later on, but it was not possible. The car is working well and we did a good job in both Practice sessions. The Honda is a strong car, particularly here, but it takes a few sessions before you can get the best out of any car. I hope tomorrow it will be dry because I was sideways about five times. When it rains, it’s dangerous at the Salzburgring and so I hope it’s dry for us to have two good races.”

Jean-Karl Vernay (second): “We thought we would be fighting for P10 and so our aim was just to go through to Q2. We were lucky in that we did a good lap time in Q1 before the rain came and in Q2 we did the same. I was close behind Proczyk and then Pepe and that’s when I did my best lap. After that, the weather got worse and worse with every lap. I hope that it rains tomorrow or that we have a wet track because otherwise it will be very tough for us. The problem for us is not from the BoP, but the SEAT and the Honda have had a lot of work and our car is still new. We have to improve the aero package to be able to fight with the other guys.”

Pepe Oriola (third): “I’m really happy – Gianni is behind me and Stefano didn’t make it into Q2, so for the Championship it’s really good. Without the mistake on my first lap, I think I could have been on pole position. I said to myself that I was going to wait to brake for the first corner, but I braked too late. After that, every lap was worse and worse. Towards the end of the session, I was aquaplaning; it will be very difficult if it’s like that for the races. I don’t mind if it rains tomorrow, but I hope it’s not as much rain as today.”

Results of Austrian races rock the championship

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Describing the TCR International Series race meeting at the Salzburgring as ‘eventful’ would be an understatement. The changing weather conditions and the unique challenges of the circuit contributed to an outcome that has significantly altered the situation in the championship fight. With ten out of twenty-two races now in the archives, the top six drivers are separated by just 18 points – the equivalent of a second position.

Stefano Comini has regained the lead by one point ahead of Pepe Oriola who was stopped by a technical issue while on his way to winning the first race. After starting from the rear of the grid after missing Qualifying, also because of a technical problem, James Nash has climbed up to third, eight points adrift of the leader. Jean-Karl Vernay claimed a brilliant victory on the flooded track in the second race and is now lying fourth with a gap of 13 points, exactly the same as Gianni Morbidelli. Mat’o Homola completes the sextet a further five points adrift, the only driver of those top six who still has to win a race.

Although this classification gives quite an accurate picture of how the forces performed on the track so far this season, today’s results were, in some way, misleading. The SEAT cars, that appeared to be the most at ease at the Salzburgring, were defeated more by a chain of adverse circumstances than by the competition. And the Volkswagen cars, that struggled to stay on the pace in the dry, were definitely helped by the rain in the second race.

But all this is now history. The simple truth is that six drivers at the wheel of cars built by three different manufacturers are closely grouped for what promises to be an exciting second part of the season.

A few words need to be spent on Mikhail Grachev and the Mulsanne Racing team. After waiting one-and-half seasons to claim his first victory, Grachev scored his second in the very next race; he was also helped by Lady Luck and inherited the lead in Race 1 after Pepe Oriola withdrew, but he was able to retain it despite strong pressure from Nash and Homola.

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

As for Mulsanne Racing, they have worked hard, together with the Romeo Ferraris engineering company, to both further develop the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and run a second car. The promising lap times clocked by Petr Fulín in Practice and Qualifying made the team dream of some brilliant results, but the incident in which the Czech driver was involved at the start of Race 1 swept away all their hopes. The first point scored by Michela Cerruti was not an adequate reward for their efforts.

Race 1 – Second victory in a row for Mikhail Grachev

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Two weeks after breaking his duck at Imola, where he claimed a maiden victory in the TCR International Series, Mikhail Grachev scored a second one in a row at the end of another race plenty of drama. The WestCoast Racing driver managed to survive a series of incidents and technical failures that eliminated some of the main players such as the Oriola brothers, Dušan Borković and Harald Proczyk.

It was a sweet and sour race for Mulsanne Racing; Petr Fulín’s Giulietta was eliminated in the incident at the start, while Michela Cerruti scored her first championship point.

In terms of the championship fight, the result played in favour James Nash who finished second and Gianni Morbidelli, who was able to recover to fourth position after being involved in the incident with Jordi Oriola at the start. With Pepe Oriola out of the points and Stefano Comini classified eighth Nash moved up to third, with a gap of 19 points, while Morbidelli lies only one further point adrift.

Race One Key Facts:

Start: Vernay sprints, from Pepe Oriola; behind them there is contact between Jordi Oriola and Morbidelli; Proczyk spins in avoidance and is hit by Fulín

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Lap 1: Pepe Oriola passes Vernay and takes the lead; Proczyk and Fulín pit for repairs

Lap 2: Jordi Oriola passes Vernay for second

Lap 3: Afanasiev goes off onto the gravel trap at Turn 7

Lap 4: Jordi Oriola is chasing his brother Pepe; Borkovi ć, Grachev, Vernay and Nash fight for third

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Lap 5: Jordi Oriola slows down and pit with a sensor problem; the safety car is prompted to recover Afanasyev’s car

Lap 7: The race resumes; Pepe Oriola leads from Grachev, Borkovi ć, Nash, Vernay, Homola and Morbidelli

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Lap 8: Homola and Morbidelli overtake Vernay and move up to fifth and sixth

Lap 11: Pepe Oriola is chased by Grachev

Lap 13: Pepe Oriola slows down and retires with a suspected westgate failure; Grachev inherits the lead with Borkovi ć on his tail

Lap 16: Grachev defends the lead from Borkovi ć who is under pressure from Nash

Lap 17: Borkovic and Nash make contact while fighting for second; the Serbian driver goes off onto the gravel at Turn 11; Grachev wins from Nash, Homola and Morbidelli.

Race 2 – Jean-Karl Vernay surfaces as the winner in the flood

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Weather conditions affected the results of the second race. Eventually was Jean-Karl Vernay who managed to make fewer mistakes than the other competitors and claimed his second victory of the season.

Sergey Afanasyev was classified second and reached his first podium of the season so far, while Stefano Comini scored a third place that propelled him back on top of the Drivers’ Championship standings.

With Pepe Oriola sidelined by the technical failure that had stopped him in Race 1, four other top contenders – Gianni Morbidelli, Jordi Oriola and Mikhail Grachev – had their chances spoiled by a wrong tyre choice that forced them to pit for a change at the end of the formation lap. Eventually Morbidelli managed to recover until a sixth position that might prove crucial for his ambitions in the championship.

Race Two Key Facts:

Grid: Fulín, Pepe Oriola and Borković’s do not appear; it starts pouring rain

Warm up lap: Cerruti’s car stalls on the grid and is pushed back to the pits; at the end of the lap four cars pit for changing tyres: Morbidelli, Grachev, Tassi and Jordi Oriola

Start: Vernay takes the lead from Kajaia, Janits and Comini

Lap 1: Janits is given a drive through penalty for changing tyres on the grid after the 5-minute board

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Lap 2: Vernay leads from Kajaia, Comini and Proczyk

Lap 3: Afanasyev overtakes Nash for fourth

Lap 4: Comini and Kajaia have a close fight for second place

Lap 7: Proczyk makes contact with Jordi Oriola and stops, losing fourth position

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Lap 8: Kajaia’s car aquaplanes at the braking and hits the tyre-pack at Turn 1

Lap 9: The safety car is deployed while Kajaia’s car is recovered

Lap 12: The race resumes; Comini misses the braking point at Turn 1 and takes the escape road, dropping from second to third

Lap 13: Morbidelli and Jordi Oriola overtake Tassi and move up to sixth and seventh

TCR series Salzburgring, Austria 04 - 05 June 2016

Lap 14: Janits goes wide at Turn 11 while trying to overtake Tassi

Lap 15: Vernay imitates Comini at Turn 1 and loses the lead to Afanasyev; but the French retakes the position at Turn 11

Lap 17: Vernay wins from Afanasyev, Comini and Nash.

Quotes from the podium finishers at Salzburgring

Mikhail Grachev (winner Race 1): “It was really unexpected for me to win in Imola, but here it was even more unexpected because I was P9 at the start. My role was to save the car and just to finish so I could start Race 2 from the front row. I made a good start and I was lucky to avoid the incident with the other cars flying around me. Without Pepe Oriola’s technical problems it would have been impossible for me to win because he was in front and I had no real opportunity to overtake. We had a compromise set-up in case of a wet race and it was a little bit softer than it needed to be, but it meant I had a better exit from some of the corners, which meant I could be fast on the straights.”

Jean-Karl Vernay (winner Race 2): “We woke up this morning and Stefano (Comini) said it was going to rain! Race 2 was crazy but I made a good start and I was able to get a good gap. After the safety car, I was able to make a good gap again. I then made a little mistake and Sergei (Afanasyev) was able to pass me, but I re-passed him on the back straight. I think it was a perfect result for the points; we weren’t thinking about that when we arrived because it was dry. Thanks to the team for their hard work this weekend – I just hope I don’t have too much weight next time.”

James Nash (2nd in Race 1): “Qualifying was not how we wanted to start the weekend, but championships come from your bad weekends. We managed to push our way through the accident at the first corner, which meant we were in the hunt. The incident with Borkovi ć was marginal as I couldn’t see him alongside me and I was committed. We had the smallest of touches, which sent him off.”

Sergey Afanasyev (2nd in Race 2): “Most of this race was done in the pits so my thanks to the guys who were working on my car. There was no other solution except to end parc fermé and to start from the back of the grid. In the first race, I planned to keep four wheels on the track, but only managed to do it with three! In the second race, my aim was to score points after the technical issues in Imola. The team did all the hard work – all I did was keep four wheels on the track.”

Mat’o Homola (3rd in Race 1): “Qualifying was really bad because I had a crash when I was in P1 – thanks to the team because they repaired my car really fast. The start of Race 1 was disappointing because of the Turn 1 accident, but I had a really good race pace and I was able to recover and fight for the podium positions. It was really nice for me”

Stefano Comini (3rd in Race 2): “Before the weekend, I sent Pepe Oriola an SMS and said I was looking forward to passing him in the Championship! I am really disappointed with the Golf because if you look at the first race we had no chance to battle on the dry track. I was the first one to put on wet tyres on the grid for Race 2 and it was the right choice – thanks to Leopard Racing, as this result put me back on top of the classification.”

The TCR International Series will resume on June 18 and 19 at Oschersleben, Germany, for rounds 11 and 12.

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

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2016 TCR International Series: Imola

International touring cars return to Imola after seven years

The fourth race meeting of the TCR International Series takes place this week at Imola, on another legendary racetrack in motorsport history that is named after Enzo and Dino Ferrari.

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

The event marks the return, after seven years, of an international Touring Car series to the Italian circuit that was home of the 1980 Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix and the San Marino Grand Prix between 1981 and 2006.

Inaugurated in 1953 as a semi-permanent road course, the circuit hosted in 1963 an F1 non-championship race won by Jim Clark’s Lotus-Climax and in 1968 the Cycling Road World Championship with the victory of Italy’s Vittorio Adorni. The layout of the track was redesigned in 1972 and then it was slightly modified twice in 1994 and 2006.

The whole TCR International Series action took place on the Sunday, with only one 60-minute Free Practice in the early morning, followed by Qualifying in the late morning and the two races that ran back-to-back in the early afternoon.

Alain Menu and Mikhail Grachev join WestCoast in Imola

WestCoast Racing has significantly reshuffled its driver line-up for the upcoming TCR International Series event that takes place at Imola.

Touring Car legend Alain Menu and Mikhail Grachev replace Aku Pellinen and Kevin Gleason at the wheel of two of the team’s three Honda Civic TCR cars; they will join Gianni Morbidelli who is currently third in the Drivers’ Championship.

According to the team, after winning his maiden TCR race in Spa, Pellinen cited budget complications after his key sponsor was no longer able to commit to the series as the reason for his departure, TCR regular and race winner Gleason has also been forced to step down while negotiations with a key backer continue.

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

Returning to the championship after a couple of appearances last year in the Top Run Subaru, Menu said: “It’s nice to be back and I am grateful for this opportunity. WestCoast is one of the top teams in the series with one of the front running cars, so I am very much looking forward to it, although it will be tough as I haven’t had any opportunity to test the car ahead of what will be a single day event.”

As for Grachev, he has switched from the Liqui Moly Team Engstler for which he had driven since the past season: “For me it is important to grow as a driver and in a team such as WestCoast with an experienced team mate such as Gianni Morbidelli now I fully have it.”

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

Team Owner Greger Petersson commented: “Grachev has shown commitment to the TCR International series and we are delighted that he sees WestCoast as a team that can help him meet his racing goals. And with Alain we add great experience in Touring Cars that would be a benefit to any team. Of course we are very disappointed to have lost Aku and Kevin with Aku, but this is the reality of racing where commercial partners are needed to meet budgets and hopefully both of them will be able to return to us and the series soon.

Liqui Moly Team Engstler hires Jordi Gené for Imola

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

Experienced Spanish Touring Car driver Jordi Gené has been hired by the Liqui Moly Team Engstler for the TCR International Series event at Imola.

Gené replaces Mikhail Grachev and joins Davit Kajaia in the second Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR run by the German outfit.

The Spaniard was one of the leading players in last year’s TCR International Series; he scored three race wins for Craft-Bamboo Lukoil at Sepang, Sochi and Singapore, and eventually was classified third in the Drivers’ Championship.

He also knows the Golf Gti TCR very well as he took part in the technical development of the German car.

 Carlotta Fedeli and Diego Romanini join with B.D. Racing

2016-2016 Imola Saturday---Carlotta Fedeli & Alessandra Neri

Two Italian drivers will join the TCR International Series field for their home event at Imola. Carlotta Fedeli and Diego Romanini will drive a couple of SEAT León cars run by B.D. Racing Motorsport.

Fedeli, 24 years old from Rome, has built enough experience in recent years, taking part in SEAT Italia’s one-make trophies. She was classified a brilliant sixth in the 2014 Ibiza Cupra Cup and improved to fifth last year; in both seasons she managed to claim podium results at Imola.

She has been upgraded to the León Cup for the current season, achieving an outstanding third place for B.D. Racing in the opening round at Adria.

A former competitor in the FIA Touring Car championships and the Superstars Series, the experienced Romanini will return to the TCR International Series after making a few appearances last year in a Ford Focus.

B. D. Racing will field a León TCR for Fedeli and a Cup Racer for Romanini; the team directed by Davide Bernasconi had already visited the TCR International Series last year, running Antonio D’Amico’s SEAT at Monza.

Jordi Oriola rejoins the championship at Imola

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After taking part in the TCR International Series opener at Bahrain, Jordi Oriola will make his return to the championship at the wheel of a Honda Civic TCR run by Target Competition.

Target team manager Walter Gummerer explained the situation: “Following the decision taken by Opel Motorsport to have a break from racing and focusing on testing to develop the Astra TCR, we have been looking for an alternative solution that could enable Jordi to rejoin the championship. Now the plan is to race at Imola and Salzburgring with the Honda. Afterwards we will reconsider the situation according to any further developments.”

Success ballast for Pepe Oriola and Jean-Karl Vernay

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It would have been the WestCoast Racing Honda Civic of Aku Pellinen to carry the maximum 30-kilos of success ballast at Imola. In fact, the young Finn was the highest point scorer in Spa, with a victory (his maiden one in TCR) and a fifth place in the two Belgian races that, added to third in qualifying, granted him 38 points. However, Pellinen will not take part in the event.

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This will leave Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Pepe Oriola – who retook the championship lead in Spa – and Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay – the other rookie winner in Belgium – as the only drivers with the ballast. Oriola will carry 20 extra kilos on board his SEAT León, while the remaining 10 kilos will be imposed to Vernay’s Volkswagen Golf Gti.

In terms of the title fight, Oriola’s closest competitors – his team-mate James Nash and WestCoast Racing’s Gianni Morbidelli – will have the advantage of driving ballast-free cars on the ups and downs of the Italian racetrack.

Morbidelli was on pole position for his home event

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

Italian fans’ favourite Gianni Morbidelli achieved his first pole position of the season for his home event at Imola. The former F1 driver set the pace throughout the Qualifying session, posting the fastest laps in both Q1 and Q2.

His best lap of 1:53.228 was only 0.057 faster than Pepe Oriola’s 1:53.285, which promises a very close fight between them in Race 1.

Davit Kajaia and Stefano Comini will fill the second row of the grid, while Mikhail Grachev and Mat’o Homola will share the third row.

The Qualifying session was also incredibly close, with the nine fastest drivers covered by less than eight tenths.

Jordi Gené and Sergey Afanasyev qualified in tenth and ninth respectively and will be on the front row of the top-ten reversed grid for Race 2. Actually James Nash had posted the ninth fastest lap, but he was demoted to 11th after the Stewards disallowed his fastest lap for trespassing the track limits.

Morbidelli said: “I think this was the maximum we could do and we scored five points for the championship, so I am happy. I wasn’t able to do better than this, even though I expected a little bit more, but when the temperature goes high for us it’s a little bit complicated. The SEAT is very close, even when Oriola has extra kilos, it’s unbelievably quick; twenty kilos in Imola is worth around half a second. Let’s see in the race. Imola is my home circuit and the atmosphere is good so we are happy. Up until now we’ve done a good job but we have to carry on.”

Comini and Grachev shared race victories in eventful day

The all-in-one-day event at Imola provided plenty of drama, glory for new faces and a shake-up on top of the Drivers’ Championship.

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

Stefano Comini (Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf Gti) and Mikhail Grachev (WestCoast Racing Honda Civic) shared the race victories. It was the first one in the season so far for Comini and the first one ever for Grachev.

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

Two other drivers were able to achieve the first podium results for themselves and their teams: Mat’o Homola (B3 Racing SEAT León) who was second in Race 2, and Davit Kajaia (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf Gti) who finished third in Race 1.

The dark side of the day consisted in the merciless bad luck that hit Gianni Morbidelli and James Nash. They both had arrived in Imola with the hopes to move further up in the standings, but eventually came away empty-handed, and not because of their faults.

Pepe Oriola was able to stay away of troubles and scored precious points that stretched his leadership to 15 points ahead of Comini, who is now his closest competitor.

Maybe it a prelude to a repeat of last year’s duel that ended up only at the last race in Macau. But it’s not granted, because the fight is closer than ever and provides continuous surprises as it is proved by the fact that seven different drivers in three different types of cars have been victorious in the eight races held so far.

Stefano Comini wins a Race 1 full of drama

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Reigning champion Stefano Comini claimed his first victory of the season at the end of a race that was plenty of drama and gave Leopard Racing amd Volkswagen their second consecutive win after Jean-Karl Vernay’s in Spa Race 2.

The outcome of the first race in Imola spoke in favour of Pepe Oriola as far as the title fight is concerned, because the Spaniard’s closest rivals – Gianni Morbidelli and James Nash – were both scoreless. The Italian seemed on the way to secure a comfortable win when a power steering failure resulted in a dramatic incident that involved his own team-mate Alain Menu. As for Nash, he was first slowed down by engine misfire and then hit by another car.

Door-to-door fights resulted in a number of contacts and clashes that eliminated or slowed down some of the top players such as Jordi Oriola, Borkovi ć and Vernay .

The Frenchman was later demoted from 6th to 12th by the Stewards who imposed him a double penalty for trespassing the limits of the track and for his incident with Borkovic.

Attila Tassi, Carlotta Fedeli and Alessandra Neri managed to finish in seventh, ninth and tenth positions respectively and scored their first points in the championship.

Race One Key facts:

Start: Morbidelli takes the best start ahead of Comini, Kajaia and Pepe Oriola who nearly stalled the engine

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Lap 1: Comini tries to overtake Morbidelli on the outside line at the Tosa, but to no avail

Lap 2: Kajaia defends third place from P. Oriola; Nash drops with his rear bumper hanging loose

Lap 3: Kajaia struggles to keep P. Oriola behind; Grachev is fifth right behind them

Lap 4: P. Oriola tries an overtaking move but drives wide at Rivazza 2 and drops to fifth

Lap 5: Morbidelli struggles with power-steering problems, slows down before the Variante Alta and is hit by Menu; they both are out of the race

Lap 6: Comini is now leading from Kajaia, P. Oriola and Grachev

Lap 7: The safety car is deployed to recover Menu’s car

Lap 8: The race resumes and P. Oriola manages to steal second from Kajaia

Lap 9: Homola and J. Oriola make contact and the latter retires

Lap 10: P. Oriola sets fastest lap and chases Comini

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Lap 11: Grachev makes a mistake and drops from fourth to ninth

Lap 12: Genè defends fourth place from Afanasyev, Borkovi ć and Vernay

Lap 13: Gené also makes a mistake and drops to seventh; Borkovi ć and Vernay have a tough fight for fifth, they make contact at Rivazza 1 and Borkovi ć spins off onto the gravel

Lap 14: Comini wins from P. Oriola and Kajaia; Afanasyev finishes fourth ahead of Homola, Vernay and Gené.

Mikhail Grachev claims first victory in new car

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

Motorsport can be funny sometimes. The very same car that had won Race 1 in Spa, was victorious in Race 2 at Imola, but with a different driver: Mikhail Grachev who has just joined WestCoast Racing in the place of Aku Pellinen.

The Russian had reasons to rejoice, as this move granted him that first TCR race win he was chasing since last year. And the icing on the cake for him was that he took the lead overtaking the very same car he had driven until the previous event.

Mat’o Homola finished second and climbed on the TCR podium for the first time, while Stefano Comini secured third place after an epic battle with Pepe Oriola.

With both, Gianni Morbidelli and James Nash sidelined by technical issues, Oriola and Comini are now first and second in the Drivers’ Championship, separated by only 14 points.

Race Two Key Facts:

Grid: Borkovic and Nash are missing, as their cars could not be repaired; Menu takes the start from the pit lane

Start: Gené darts from the pole, followed by Grachev, Tassi and Homola; Afanasyev retires with a broken drive-shaft

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

Lap 1: Morbidelli recovers to 10th after starting from 13th

Lap 2: Morbidelli slows down and retires with brake problems

Lap 3: Tassi tries to defend the third position, but is passed by Homola and Pepe Oriola

Lap 4: Grachev steals the lead from Gené

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

Lap 5: Comini and Vernay run abreast fighting for sixth; Homola and P. Oriola overtake Gené moving up to second and third

Lap 6: Gené drops further down behind Tassi and Comini

Lap 7: Gené and Vernay overtake Tassi who drops to 7th; Vernay passes Gené for 5th

Lap 8: Kajaia skids wide over the gravel at Villeneuve, but rejoins

Lap 9: the leading quartet – Grachev, Homola, P. Oriola, Comini – is covered by 1.5 seconds

Lap 10: Grachev creates a gap; Homola is chased by P. Oriola and Comini

Lap 11: Comini overtakes P. Oriola for third at Rivazza 2; Kajaia passes Jordi Oriola for eighth

Lap 12: P. Oriola loses also the fourth place to Vernay

Lap 13: Grachev takes the chequered flag ahead of Homola, Comini, Vernay and P. Oriola

What the two race winners had to say

Stefano Comini, Race 1: “The most important thing about this victory was from Leopard Racing. They did an incredible job with the Volkswagen; now the car is competitive. To win here in Imola is like winning at home, since Lugano is really nearby. The race was quite perfect – I managed my tyres as I didn’t want to stress them too much, the car was consistent and I think I did a perfect job. It’s good for me, good for Leopard and good for the Championship because I was the Champion last year and I want to be Champion again this year. The fight with Pepe was very fair and quite fun. I wanted a little more combat with him, but I was faster as I think he had stressed his tyres. I wanted more of a show for the people watching at home and the people here in Imola.”

Mikhail Grachev, Race 2: “I am very, very happy with this victory. I’m afraid I don’t have the words to say how happy I am, as I’m not used to saying this! I will have to learn some more English words, I think. The deal for me to drive the Honda was quite late in being done, so I have to thank WestCoast Racing for all their hard work and for welcoming me. We had a problem with the car after we tested, so they had to put in a lot of work to fix the problem. I want to thank them and say well done to the team for this result. It was somehow strange to chase what was my car until the previous race, but it made things easier because I know it well and figured out where and how to overtake it.”

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

VERNAY’S PENALTY MEANT POINTS FOR B.D. RACING GIRLS

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

Jean-Karl Vernay was stripped of his sixth place in today’s Race 1 after the Stewards imposed him a double penalty for not respecting the track limits and for causing the incident that eliminated Dušan Borkovic.

This dropped the Frenchman down to 12th and promoted a number of other drivers, including the B.D. Racing pair of girls: Carlotta Fedeli and Alessandra Neri.
Even without Vernay’s penalty, Fedeli would have pocketed one point for her tenth place, but she was eventually promoted to ninth and scored two.

TCR series Imola, Italy 22 May 2016

As for Neri, who was also commentating the race live from the inside of the cockpit on SKY Italia Formula 1 HD channel, she advanced to tenth and scored as well. Considering how many drivers, with much more experience than them, ran into troubles in today’s races, the two girls deserved the respect of the paddock.

The series will resume in fifteen days at the Salzburgring, Austria, on June 4 and 5, for rounds 9 and 10. (One of my personal favourite tracks that often lends itself to fast and furious racing action, plenty of slipstreaming and overtaking…)

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

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

2016 TCR International Series: Belgium…

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The third weekend of the 2016 TCR International Series took place at the historic Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and it played host to two cracking races which further gave insight as to how tough the fight for the Drivers Championship is this season…

Lets see how it panned out…

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TCR drivers face the legendary track in the Ardennes hills

The third race meeting of the TCR International Series takes place this week at Spa-Francorchamps, a legendary racetrack in motorsport history.

The 7-kilometre circuit – one of the longest permanent tracks – winds up the Ardennes hills in South-East Belgium.

Inaugurated in 1922 as an open-road course, the circuit underwent many changes during the years; the current layout dates back to 2007. It has been home to 49 editions out of 61 of the F1 Belgian GP, from 1950 to 2015.

During the weekend the TCR International Series was part of the 6 Hours of Spa, second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. And this resulted in an adjustment of the usual format.

The drivers will hit the track first on Thursday, for two 30-minute Free Practice sessions; the Qualifying will take place Friday in the early afternoon, followed by the first Race in the late afternoon. Race 2 will start on Saturday at lunch time.

Sébastien Loeb Racing at Spa with two Peugeot 308 cars

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The Belgian event will mark the first appearance of the Peugeot brands in a TCR competition.

Two Peugeot 308 Racing Cup cars have been entrusted by Peugeot Sport to the Sébastian Loeb Racing for racing at Spa, and the team has chosen Grégory Guilvert and Jimmy Clairet to drive the two Peugeot 308 Racing Cup cars in the TCR International Series event, next week at Spa-Francorchamps.

“We are proud that Peugeot Sport has entrusted the two cars to our team for their maiden appearance in the TCR International Series. We hare happy to take this responsibility, as our team is ambitious and always looking for delivering the best performance. Thanks to Peugeot Sport we may count on the experience of Guilvert who has developed the car. As for Clairet, he’s a young and fast driver, and very motivated. We have a strong pair of drivers that will help us to make a good job,” said the team’s sporting director Franck Tiné.

The 34-year-old Guilvert is a test driver for Peugeot Sport and took part in the technical development of racing cars such as the RCZ Racing Cup, the 208 T16 Pikes Peak and, more recently, the 308 Racing Cup. His racing CV includes the title in the 2009 Peugeot Spider Cup and race victories in the French Supertourisme, the European GT Championship and the Blancpain Endurance Series.

“As test driver of the 308 Racing Cup I am thrilled to drive the car in an actual race meeting. We have to face a unique racetrack and a top-level championship, which makes me approach this task humbly, but with a lot of motivation because I very much wish to show the potential of the car in both, performance and reliability,” he said.

Clairet, 25-years old, only began racing in the 2013 Peugeot 208 Racing Cup in which he finished as vice-champion in 2014, behind his brother Teddy. Last year he was classified 6th in the French Renault Clio Cup.

“I am excited by the opportunity of driving the 308 Racing Cup. Especially because it is a car entrusted directly by Peugeot Sport to Sébastien Loeb Racing. This is a prestigious step in my racing career. I can’t wait to race at Spa and I will do my very best to achieve a good result,” echoed Clairet.

Corthals and Buri join the field at Spa-Francorchamps

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The TCR International Series welcomes two new drivers for the Belgian event at Spa-Francorchamps. Local hero Pierre-Yves Corthals and Finland’s Antti Buri will join the field this weekend.

One of the most experienced touring car drivers in Belgium, Corthals (in the picture) was crowned champion a stunning six times in the national and international Renault trophies; he also claimed victories and podium results in Super Production championships as well as competing in the European and the World Touring Car championships.

‘Pilou’ – as he his better known – returns to circuit racing after a break and will be at the wheel of a SEAT León of the Netherlands-based Ferry Monster Autosport that will also run Loris Hezemans’ sister car. Corthals’ car will sport the colours of the new TCR Benelux series.

As for the 27-year-old Buri, he will drive a Volkswagen Golf Gti run by the Belgian outfit WRT. The young Finn is in great form; he is taking part in the new ADAC TCR Germany with a LMS Racing SEAT León and last Sunday at the Sachsenring claimed a brilliant victory in the fourth round of the championship.

Top Run Motorsport and Mulsanne Racing skip Belgium

Both Top Run Motorsport and Mulsanne Racing have elected to skip the next event of the TCR International Series that takes place this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps.

The two Italian outfits – that are developing and running a Subaru WRX STi and an Alfa Romeo Giulietta respectively – have chosen to take a break and focus on upgrading their cars.

Top Run team manager Renato Russo explained: “Following the meeting we had in Tokyo with Subaru STi, we agreed on some technical improvements and we were also provided some new parts that are better suited to the TCR regulations. Therefore, bearing in mind the advice we received from Luca Rangoni after the races in Portugal, we have reluctantly decided to skip Spa and produce the maximum effort to run the final version of the TCR car in the following event.”

A press release from Romeo Ferraris engineering company stated: “Our Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR hit teething problems in the first two events of the season. Problems have been identified and are about to be solved. However we need to check these technical solutions and will do it in the next weeks. For this reason we have taken the hard decision of not racing in Spa and come back in the following events with a more competitive car.”

TCR promoter Marcello Lotti commented: “We know that it takes time to develop new racing cars. The growth of TCR has been so quick that some of the companies that are building them struggle to keep up with the pace. For a team is always tough to elect to skip a race weekend, so these decisions show how much Top Run and Mulsanne are keen to make their cars efficient and reliable. It’s true that we currently lack some cars, but it is clear that the field will be growing as the season goes on.”

30 kilos of success ballast for Gianni Morbidelli

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After taking the lead of the Drivers’ championship with a victory and a second place in Estoril, Gianni Morbidelli will race at Spa carrying the maximum success ballast of 30 kilos on board his WestCoast Racing Honda Civic TCR.

The Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR of 2015 champion Stefano Comini, that finished third and second in the Portuguese races, will be laden by 20 extra kilos.

The lightest success ballast of 10 kilos will be imposed to James Nash’s SEAT León TCR of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil; the Briton won the second race at Estoril and is now second in the Drivers’ championship, only one point short of Morbidelli.

Qualifying: Borković beats Oriola in the fight for the pole

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Dušan Borković gave B3 Racing Team its second consecutive pole position in the TCR International Series after that won by Mat’o Homola at Estoril two weeks ago.

After being stripped of the fastest Q1 lap by a penalty, the Serbian driver posted an impressive 2:33.065 in Q2, beating Pepe Oriola by a bit more than two tenths. “It’s great to get the pole, it was a good reward for the team after the difficult weekend in Portugal. Considering the car that has done the pole here is exactly the same that suffered the accident at Estoril, you realize how well the boys worked. Today, everything worked well: car, tyres, strategy… I just tried to keep calm after one of my best laps in Q1 was deleted and remain focused,” Borković said.

 Him and Oriola locked the front row on the Race 1 grid for SEAT. Aku Pellinen’s Honda Civic qualified in third, the only car able to compete with the Spanish machine for the top positions.

The first Volkswagen Golf – Stefano Comini’s – qualified in eighth, while the other two Honda cars of Kevin Gleason and championship leader Gianni Morbidelli surprisingly did not make the cut for Q2.

An impressive Jimmy Clairet managed to qualify 11th in his Peugeot 308, while local hero Pierre-Yves Corthals posted the tenth fastest lap and won pole position on the top-ten reverse grid for Saturday’s Race 2.

Aku Pellinen signs maiden win under the Belgian sun

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Aku Pellinen has joined the club of TCR race winners, after taking a clear win in Race 1 at Spa, on a sunny Friday afternoon. Once again, the young Finn of WestCoast Racing took an excellent start from row 2 and kept the lead throughout the entire race with his Honda Civic TCR.

Pepe Oriola and Dušan Borković concluded in second and third, after the Spaniard passed the Serbian on lap 1, both achieving their main goal of scoring heavy points. Mat’o Homola, Gianni Morbidelli, Kevin Gleason and Davit Kajaia took positions from 4th to 7th, after Jean-Karl Vernay and James Nash had ended their duel with a contact that cost several positions to the Briton (he eventually finished 8th) and a drive-through to the Frenchman, who dropped from fourth to 14th.

The last points were scored by Sergey Afanasyev and Antti Buri who both had stalled at the start. It was an even worse day for Stefano Comini, as the reigning champion’s car was stopped by a broken driveshaft before joining the grid.

The young Attila Tassi had a scary shunt in the last lap, caused by a puncture, but luckily he escaped unhurt.

Today’s result have closed the gap at the top of the points standings, with Morbidelli leading now only by 2 points on Oriola and 6 on Nash.

Race One Key facts

Grid: Comini’s car stops at the bottom of the pitlane and is pushed back to the pits with a drive-shaft problem

Start: Excellent start of Pellinen from row 2; the Finn takes the lead ahead of Borković , Oriola, Nash, Homola and Tassi; Afanasyev and Buri stall on the grid

Lap 1: Oriola passes Borković for second ; Tassi drops 4 positions.

Lap 2: Vernay passes Homola for 5th at les Combes; Morbidelli is already behind them

Lap 3: Pellinen leads by 2.5 seconds from Oriola, Borković , Nash, Vernay, Homola, Morbidelli, Gleason and Tassi; Hezemans, Corthals, Afanasyev and Guilvert fight for the 11th position

Lap 4: Hezemans is given a drive-through for a track limits infringement; Corthals pits with turbo issues

Lap 5: Vernay is putting pressure on Nash for 4th; Tassi is also given a drive-through penalty for track limits 

Lap 6: Both Hezemans and Tassi serve their drive-through

Lap 7: Vernay and Nash make contact at the Bus Stop; Nash goes wide and rejoins in eighth position

Lap 8: Oriola closes the gap on Pellinen; Vernay is given drive-through for the incident with Nash and drops to 14th

Lap 9: Pellinen wins from Oriola and Borković , while Kajaia passes both Afanasyev and Nash for 7th; Tassi pèrovides the last thrill, crashing into the barriers at turn 12

Race 1 – Quotes from the podium finishers

Aku Pellinen (winner): “It wasn’t an easy win, despite the appearances, but it was a nice one. I took again a perfect start as soon as the lights went off; it seems I’m getting good at this… The plan was to push in the opening laps and then try to preserve the tyres. The car was very good today but as expected, I started to struggle with the front tyres after mid-race. The last two laps were very tough and I tried not to look to the mirrors, stay focused on my driving and avoiding mistakes. It went well and this first win is quite a relief. It definitely will help building self-confidence. We still have some work to do on the car, but the speed now is there and I thank the team for the excellent work.”

Pepe Oriola (second): “I am happy but I also have some regrets because of the bad start. I think that with a better start, I could have won, because I had a better pace than Aku. Still, it is a good result, as I am getting much closer to Gianni (Morbidelli) in the championship.”

Dušan Borković (third) : “Third is a good result, I am satisfied, I got the heavy points I was looking for, but it could have been a better day. Unfortunately I had a very bad start and Aku pulled away immediately. I probably got a little bit nervous and made a small mistake getting into the Esses, which allowed Pepe to pass me. I had some oversteer, but I could keep a good pace and almost catch Pepe again. But I knew I could not pass him and preferred to lift off a bit in the final laps.”

A triumphant day for Vernay and Leopard Racing

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For a maiden win, it was a real triumph! Leopard Racing conquered its first TCR success very close to its Luxembourg headquarters and signed a stunning 1-2-3 with its three drivers: Jean-Karl Vernay, Stefano Comini and guest TCR Germany racer Antti Buri.

It was also the first victory of the year for the Volkswagen Golf Gti cars and the maiden TCR success for Vernay. The Frenchman has proven a quick adaptation to touring car racing and took a well-deserved victory after a close duel with teammate and reigning champion Comini.

Mat’o Homola and Aku Pellinen took fourth and fifth respectively after a relatively trouble-free race, while James Nash, Pepe Oriola, Kevin Gleason and Sergey Afanasyev animated the final laps with a close fight the for sixth position. Local hero Pierre-Yves Corthals took the last point in a race that saw much action at the back of the field, with the Peugeot 308 cars shining in the first part of the race, when Jimmy Clairet ran as high as eighth.

Following the two races, the situation in the championship is closer than ever, with the three first drivers (Oriola, Nash and Morbidelli) covered by only 4 points. 

 Race Two Key facts

Start: the Leopard Racing cars take a brilliant start, with Vernay ahead of Buri (they make contact before La Source) and Comini

Lap 1: Vernay leads but is chased Buri; Comini, Homola, Pellinen, Nash, Oriola, Afanasyev and Clairet follow

Lap 2: Comini passes Buri for second; Borković and Morbidelli make contact: the Serbian retires in the pits while the Italian loses a tyre and stops on the track

Lap 3: Homola passes Buri for third at Les Combes, but goes wide and hands the position back to the Finn; Gleason passes Clairet for ninth  

Lap 4: Comini steals the lead from Vernay with a beautiful move at Les Combes; Kajaia hits Tassi at Blanchimont during a three-way fight with Hezemans

Lap 5: Vernay retakes the lead from Comini with the same manoeuvre at Les Combes; Grachev outbrakes himself and goes straight at the bus stop

Lap 6: Kajaia and Tassi are given a drive-through for trespassing the track limits

Lap 7: Grachev retires in the pits with brake problems

Lap 8: Tassi, Clairet, Hezemans and Guilvert are in a close fight for 11th

Lap 9: Vernay wins from Comini, Buri, Homola and Pellinen; Nash claims sixth beating Oriola by a small margin, while Gleason overtakes Afanasyev for eighth.

Race 2 – Quotes from the podium finishers

Jean-Karl Vernay (winner): “It was a great day for the team. We knew victory was going to come, but now it’s done and this will release pressure and encourage us for the forthcoming races. It’s a very good team, very professional and very motivated. You see it in the way we are making the car progress outing after outing. This first win is great for me too, adaptation to touring car racing and front-wheel drive cars has been smoother than expected, thanks also to the support from the team and my teammate. The race has been lively: I took a good start, the contact with Buri was completely accidental, I was looking in my mirrors and probably moved, then I had a good fight with Stefano. He passed me but I could repass him, it was all very fair and I could stay in front.”

Stefano Comini (second): “A very good team effort and a brilliant success. We needed something like this and I am very happy for everybody. The fight with Jean-Karl at the beginning was fun, but I did not want to push too much not to kill the tyres. I knew that otherwise I would be penalized in the second part of the race because of the 20-kg ballast. Now comes Imola and I really want to win there!”

Antti Buri (third): “It was a good result and a good race for me. My start wasn’t very good, once again, and soon after that Homola passed me too, with a great move, but I could pass him again. Then, I mostly tried to protect my podium position. The car felt good but it was my first time with the Golf and find it different from the León despite they share the same basis. My main programme this season is TCR Germany but I hope there will be other opportunities to come to the International Series, which I enjoyed very much.”

Unshaken Attila Tassi hopeful to race tomorrow 

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Attila Tassi was the lucky guy today in Spa-Francorchamps, as he suffered no consequences after a violent shunt in turn 12 (Pouhon) during the last lap of Race 1.

The fearless young Hungarian seemed not shaken by the incident and even minimized what occurred: “Actually the accident was more spectacular than severe”, he explained. “I had a puncture in one of the front tyres and went off. There was nothing I could do to avoid going straight into the tyre-wall. It was a big shunt but, luckily enough, the tyres are quite thick there and that limited the damage, although images on TV were quite dramatic.”

The relaxed attitude of the 16-year-old driver contrasted completely with the expression on the faces of the B3 Racing crews, still scared and relieved to see the jockey-sized Attila in one piece.

“The most important thing is that Attila is ok. Even the car doesn’t look too damaged and we’ll do everything we can to repair it for tomorrow”, confirmed team manager David Bári. After Tassi’s accident in Bahrain and Borkovi ć ’s shunt in Estoril, another long night of work awaits the mechanics of the Hungarian team.   

Imola to host the Italian round in two weeks

The Italian round of the 2016 TCR International Series will take place in two weeks at Imola, on May 22.

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The timetable of the event will be concentrated in one day only, on the Suday, with the aim to make the most out of the promotion and gather as much public as possible during what will be a mid spring weekend.

TCR promoter Marcello Lotti explained: “We are grateful to the Municipality of Imola and Formula Imola for offering us this opportunity to bring an international touring car series back to this glorious and demanding racetrack. And we are currently meeting with a lot of interest from Italian teams and drivers that want to join for the event.”

Imola’s circuit, named after Enzo and Dino Ferrari, was built in 1952, along the Santerno river; it underwent a complete reconstruction in 1979 and hosted both the Italian and San Marino F1 Grands Prix between 1980 and 2006. The racetrack was further modified and its facilities rebuilt in 2010.

The lap distance is 4.5 kilometres; TCR competitors will complete 14 of those laps in each race.

Corthals plays ambassador role for TCR Benelux

Pierre-Yves Corthals is more than ‘local hero’ this weekend at Spa. The Belgian is also the unofficial ambassador of the TCR Benelux, the new regional series that will kick-off in two weeks, precisely at Spa.

No surprise then that the SEAT León of Pilou Corthals is sporting the logos of the new series, the RACB, and of the innovative ‘Make the Grid’ concept that the TCR Benelux will inaugurate.

‘Make the Grid’ will allow everybody, from team members and partners to family, friends and fans, to determine, through their vote, the grid of the Qualifying Long Race at each event. The voting application, ½Make the Grid½, is integrated in the Facebook account of the series, and has been developed in cooperation with Live Buzz. The vote will be open 15 days ahead of each Qualifying Long Race up until the race day. Voters will also participate in a draw for prizes.

The championship heats up after the Belgian round

The 2016 TCR International Series’ first visit to Spa-Francorchamps resulted in an exciting weekend that heated up the championship further.

After Aku Pellinen had claimed his maiden TCR victory in yesterday’s Race 1 at the wheel of a WestCoast Racing Honda Civic, today it was Jean-Karl Vernay’s turn to score a first win for himself and Leopard Racing. It was also the first success of a Volkswagen Golf Gti in the current season.

These results meant that five different drivers and three different brands of car manufacturers have won in the six races held so far.

Quite obviously the Drivers’ championship’s classification is extremely close. After Gianni Morbidelli had managed to jump on top of the standings at the end of Race 1, Pepe Oriola retook the leadership after Race 2. The Spaniard has now a two-point margin ahead of James Nash, while Morbidelli is third, two further points adrift.

But the others are not far away. Pellinen, Stefano Comini, Vernay, Sergey Afanasyev, Mat’o Homola and Dušan Borković fill the positions from fourth to ninth, with the latter having a gap of 37 points from the leader.

The championship will resume at Imola, Italy on May 22, for rounds 7 and 8.

As this was the third weekend of TCR International Competition, no doubt there will be many more announcements to come and I will try to share as many as possible both on here and in the TCR Talk Facebook Group.

All the best!!

Phil!!

2016 TCR International Series: Estoril…

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The second round of the 2016 TCR International Series took place at the former Grand Prix venue of Estoril in Portugal

Heres how things panned out…

The most famous Portuguese racetrack hosts second event

Three weeks after the season kicked off in Bahrain, the TCR International Series is heading to Portugal for rounds three and four.

The event will take place at Circuito Estoril, arguably the most famous Portuguese racetrack that was built in 1970 and hosted the Formula One Grand Prix between 1984 and 1996.

After adapting its format to the F1 timetable in Bahrain, the International Series reverts to its standard scheme with both races on Sunday, each over a distance of 60 kilometres.

The drivers will hit the track first on Friday afternoon, for a 30-minute Free Practice session; the second Practice will be run on Saturday morning, followed in the afternoon by the Qualifying, split in Q1 (20 minutes) and Q2 (10 minutes, for the twelve fastest in Q1).

The focus is on testing for the Opel Astra TCR

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Following its first appearance in the TCR International Series at the Bahrain International Circuit, the new Opel Astra TCR will continue its technical development within the next few months and will come back to competition after finalizing its test programme.

Jörg Schrott, Opel Motorsport Director, stated: “The event in Bahrain, where the Astra TCR competed as part of our test and development programme, provided us with some valuable results. The race weekend under special climatic conditions proved that the development of the Astra TCR is not finalized yet, so we will now thoroughly continue the test and development programme. As soon as it is completed, we will start the delivery of the Astra TCR to our customers.”

TCR promoter Marcello Lotti added: “The Astra TCR it is one of the most beautiful and eagerly-awaited cars in the field, but Opel Motorsport needs to focus on testing in order to finalize its technical development. We are well aware that when a new racing car is built to comply with a brand new set of rules like TCR’s – that is only in its second season – it takes some times before this phase is completed. We have seen this happening with other brands that have recently joined the series. We hope Opel will complete the development soon and look forward to seeing the three Astra TCR cars run by Target Competition join the TCR International Series for good.”

The Volkswagen Golf Gti is given a 30-kilo weight break

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The TCR International Series technical department has revised the Balance of Performance on the basis of the TCR International Series results in Bahrain.

For the Portuguese event, the Honda Civic TCR and SEAT León TCR remains the heaviest cars and keep on carrying 40 extra kilos that bring their running weight from 1285 to 1325 kilos, including the driver.

The Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR cars were given a 30-kilo weight break and will now run at the minimum weight of 1285 kilos as per the Technical Regulations.

A weight reduction will be also applied to the Opel Astra TCR and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR cars; they will run at 1265 kilos, just like the Subaru STi TCR.

The weight of the SEAT León Cup Racer cars remains unchanged at 1250 kg.

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The success ballast is applied on top of these weights. Following the Bahrain results, in Portugal Pepe Oriola, James Nash and Dušan Borković will carry 30, 20 and 10 extra kilos respectively.

Baporo Motorsport with Hezemans and Mora

SEAT specialist Baporo Motorsport will make its first appearance in the TCR International Series at Estoril, running two Le ó n cars for teenagers Loris Hezemans and Francisco Mora.

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Both drivers have already tasted TCR on a few occasions last year. Hezemans, 18-year-old from the Netherlands, took part in the events of Singapore and Buriram, claiming a brilliant second position in Thailand. As for the 19-year-old Portuguese Mora, he had joined in Algarve and Macau; his best result was eighth in the second race at Portim ã o.

The Spanish team has entered one Le ó n updated to 2016 TCR specifications with sequential gearbox for Hezemans and one Le ó n Cup Racer with DSG gearbox for Mora.

“Our plan is to be in the TCR international series for the remainder of the season. I am very happy to be back in the same car that last year gave me my first TCR podium and also I’m pleased to compete yet again in the TCR international series. My goal for Estoril will be to qualify within the top-three and reach the podium in at least one of the races,” said Hezemans. 

Mora added: “This is an important challenge for me, as the TCR International Series is a kind of world championship: top-level competition with the some of the best touring car drivers and you have to learn everything quickly. It is not going to be easy for me, as I will drive the car for the first time after Macau. But I’m very motivated, because it will serve me as a training in view of my participation in the TCR Portugal with the same car.

Cooperation between Top Run and Subaru gains force

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Top Run Motorsport’s programme with the Subaru STi TCR received an important boost from Team Manager Renato Russo’s recent visit to the headquarter of Fuji Heavy Industries in Japan.

“We were invited by Makoto Shimamura, managing director of all Subaru motorsports activities and I met him and Yosuke Takahashi who is in charge to follow the TCR programme,” explained Russo who added. “Shimamura-san congratulated us for thefar-sightedness in committing with the Subaru brand to the TCR International Series that is already creating a growing interest in Japan with teams and fans. As a matter of fact, this meeting was prompted following different enquiries about TCR that Subaru STi received from the Japanese media.”

The Italian team continues to develop the Subaru TCi TCR that will be driven by Luca Rangoni in the upcoming Portuguese weekend at Estoril. Top Run Motorsport is working in cooperation with Subaru’s STi department and their joint efforts are now aiming to field the final update of the Japanese car in the Italian event of the TCR International Series in May.

Mat’o Homola on pole after breathtaking qualifying

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Mat’o Homola and B3 Racing Team won their first pole position on their second appearance in the TCR International Series.

Once again it was a very close session, with the ninth fastest drivers covered by only six tenth and three different brands – SEAT, Honda and Volkswagen – filling the top-three positions within three tenths.

The young Slovak and his SEAT edged out the rest of the field with an impressive lap of 1:48.518 that was posted on their first run in Q2. Gianni Morbidelli placed his WestCoast Racing Honda in second position, only 0.155 seconds behind the poleman (1:48.673). The Leopard Racing duo of Jean-Karl Vernay and Stefano Comini fought for the third position until the very end; eventually the Frenchman’s 1:48.860 beat the reigning champion’s 1:48.965 by one tenth.

After topping the time sheet in Q1, Pepe Oriola qualified in a disappointing seventh position, while Loris Hezemans was classified tenth and won pole position on the reverse grid for the second race .

Qualifying 1: One lap is enough for Oriola

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It took only one lap to Pepe Oriola for posting the fastest lap at the beginning of the session. His time of 1:49.231 was nearly two tenths faster that everybody else’s. Jean-Karl Vernay (1:49.424) climbed to second fastest in the latest moments, demoting Mat’o Homola (1:49.479) to third. After aborting one attempt due to a mistake, Gianni Morbidelli salvaged the situation with a last lap of 1:49.508 that placed him in fourth, ahead of Stefano Comini and James Nash.

The leg was disrupted by the red flag after only four minutes, when Dušan Borković lost his car and hit the barrier head-on at Turn 3. The following drivers advanced to Q2: Oriola, Vernay, Homola, Morbidelli, Comini, Nash, Afanasyev, Gleason, Pellinen, Hezemans, Kajaia and Tassi. They were all covered by only nine tenths of a second.

Qualifying 2: SEAT beats Honda and Volkswagen

Mat’o Homola’s SEAT set an impressive fastest lap of 1:48.518 that was good enough for claiming pole position.

The other drivers did their best and improved their times, but not enough. Gianni Morbidelli managed to post the second best lap (1:48.673), while Jean-Karl Vernay (1:48.860) beat his team-mate Stefano Comini (1:48.965) for third.

Quotes from the fastest qualifiers

Mat’o Homola (pole position): “I’m very happy with pole position in only my second TCR Qualifying. I’d like to thank my team B3 Racing, because they’ve done an amazing job since Bahrain where I didn’t have very good pace. We tested on Wednesday and I wasn’t so sure that we had a good setup, so we had to make some changes and clearly it was a good move and a good step forwards. I’m very happy with the car. From my point of view, it was a normal lap; with the new tyres, I had a lot more grip and I could push more. Maybe there could have been a few more tenths.”

Gianni Morbidelli (2nd fastest): “I have to be happy because I wasn’t here on Wednesday for the test. We were quite unlucky yesterday because the weather didn’t help me make some laps and today I didn’t have much time. We struggled with the power steering and I’m a little bit worried about it. I didn’t expect to be so quick so I’m happy for the team as we scored some points for the Championship. Now we have to solve the power steering issue. Behind me I have a good team and I believe in them, so I know they will do everything they can for me.”

Jean-Karl Vernay (3rd fastest): “It was a really good performance and we are not that far compared to the others so it’s a big improvement. We saw that we still have lots of work to do on the car to come back on the SEAT and the Honda so that we can fight for the pole but it’s really good and Stefano is also really close, so it’s good for the team. We gained two or three tenths thanks to the BoP and it’s good for the championship to have different cars fighting for the win.”

B3 Racing at work to repair Dušan Borković’s car

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Dušan Borković escaped with only a few bruises by a spectacular crash during today’s Qualifying session at Estoril.

In the early stages of Q1, on his first flying lap, the Serbian lost the back of his SEAT León and crashed head-on into the Armco barrier at Turn 3.

“I don’t really know what happened. I was not pushing particularly hard, I was on my racing line, but all of a sudden there was a lot oversteer. I lost the back of the car and hit quite heavily. I still don’t know if the damage is repairable,” he said.

The B3 Racing Team crew is already at work to try repairing the car that suffered from extensive damage to the front right.

Loris Hezemans wins pole position for Race 2

On his comeback to the TCR International Series, Loris Hezemans set the tenth fastest lap in Q2 Qualifying, which will earn him pole position on the reverse grid for tomorrow’s Race 2.

The Baporo Motorsport driver said: “Surprisingly, perhaps, I’m actually not that pleased with today’s results. The bad weather in Free Practice 1 meant I changed to slicks just as the rain started, so I only had the second practice to learn the track. We made some changes for Qualifying but we had a really bad understeer problem, especially power understeer out of the corners. I’m happy that I’m able to start from pole position in Race 2, but we need to fix this issue, otherwise I won’t be able to hold that position. I’m confident we’ll find something so hopefully I can be on the podium at least.”

Pepe Oriola endures difficult qualifying session

Current championship leader Pepe Oriola had a difficult qualifying session today at Estoril and ended up with only a seventh position on the grid for tomorrow’s Race 1.

After posting the fastest lap in Q1, Oriola had his best time in Q2 disallowed for not respecting the track limits. This provisionally placed him in ninth place. However, the Stewards of the meeting reviewed their decision after the end of the session and reinstated the young Spaniard in seventh position.

Oriola said: “Q1 went really well; I did almost the perfect lap. I really thought I could get pole position because I had made some mistakes on my flying lap. So I knew I could go two or three tenths faster. Somehow the other drivers found one second from their pockets and then my lap got cancelled. On the last lap, my engineer told me that I had to finish the lap because I was in P12 and I managed to move up to P9.”

FIA Vice President Carlos Gracia visited Estoril

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Carlos Gracia, President of the Spanish National Sporting Authority (RFEdA) and Vice President of the FIA, was one of the guests who visited Estoril today. He had the opportunity to meet with all key players of the different series that are racing in Portugal.

Gracia also spent some times in the paddock, talking with Jaime Puig (SEAT Sport director), Marcello Lotti (TCR promoter) and Jesús Pareja (GT Open and Euroformula promoter).

Morbidelli takes series lead by one point over Nash

TCR drivers treated the Portuguese fans to a pair of exciting races that saw Gianni Morbidelli (WestCoast Racing) and James Nash (Craft-Bamboo Lukoil) claim one victory apiece and jump to the top of the Drivers’ Championship, with the Italian leading the Briton by only one point.

The close fights in both races – but also in Saturday’s qualifying session – that involved Honda, SEAT and Volkswagen cars, proved that the latest revision of the Balance of Performance had hit its target in equalizing the three fastest models in the field.

That factor also enabled a number of other drivers to shine. Some of them were able to capitalize in terms of results like the Leopard Racing duo of Jean-Karl Vernay and Stefano Comini who drove their Golf Gti cars to podium finishes. Others were only capable of coming close to those exploits, like Mat’o Homola who lost a possible win and even a podium position in the final laps of the first race.

Pepe Oriola, who had dominated the season opener in Bahrain, had a very disappointing weekend. Only seventh in qualifying, he was betting everything on the reverse grid of the second race, but a clash with Loris Hezemans unbalanced his car and jeopardized his hopes. He is now third in classification, 14 points off the lead.

The TCR International Series will resume on May 6 and 7 at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, for rounds 5 and 6.

Race 1 – Gianni Morbidelli steals victory from Mat’o Homola

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Gianni Morbidelli and his WestCoast Racing Honda Civic took their first win of the season in a lively Race 1 at Estoril, which heated up in the second half. Despite having had less practice mileage than his direct rivals, the Italian put in a great performance, trailing Mat’o Homola, who led most of the race.

The Slovak defended his position hard, but from mid-race onwards he struggled with the deterioration of the front tires and eventually had to surrender 3 laps from the end. Later he lost two more positions to Leopard Racing’s Volkswagen Golf cars of Jean-Karl Vernay and Stefano Comini, who clinched their first podium finishes of the year.

The Craft-Bamboo Lukoil duo of Sergey Afanasyev and James Nash took 5th and 6th, followed by Aku Pellinen and Pepe Oriola.

On his comeback to the series, Loris Hezemans was a good 9th, while the other Baporo Motorsport SEAT of local hero Francisco Mora took the last available point.

Oriola and Morbidelli are now on top of the standings on equal points.

Key facts

Start: Morbidelli takes the best start ahead of Homola, Vernay, Pellinen, Comini, Afanasyev, Nash and Oriola

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Lap 1: Borkovi ć recovers to 10th after starting from the back of the grid

Lap 2: Homola attacks Morbidelli at the beginning of the second lap and takes the lead; Gleason pits with engine problems

Lap 3: Pellinen is passed by both, Comini and Afanasyev; Cerruti pits with transmission problems; Kajaia goes very wide on the grass but rejoins

Lap 4: Nash takes 6th from Pellinen; Mora passes Rangoni for 13th.

Lap 6: Rangoni stops at Turn 10 with an open wheel (front left); Cerruti rejoins the race

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Lap 7: Grachev passes Borkovic for 10th, while Mora fights with Kajaia for 12th

Lap 8: Hezemans chases Oriola, who is eighth and hits the tyre pack at Turn 9

Lap 9: Morbidelli is closing in on Homola and tries a first attack at the “esses”

Lap 11: The fight between Homola and Morbidelli heats up, with the two making contact and driving abreast in the “esses”

Lap 12: Morbidelli eventually manages to pass Homola in Turn 3; the latter is unable to resist also to Vernay

Lap 13: Comini passes Homola for third

Lap 14: Grachev passes Hezemans for 9th and they make contact

Lap 15: Morbidelli wins from Vernay, Comini and Homola; the last thrill is a contact between Borkovi ć and Grachev who were fighting for ninth with Hezemans and Mora.

Race 1 – Quotes from the podium finishers

Gianni Morbidelli (winner): “Winning is always the best thing, so I am quite happy! I knew that it was key to preserve the tyres in the first part of the race and that is what I did. I also saw that Homola was a little bit harder on his tyres and figured that he would be in trouble. It was a nice and fair fight, because he was faster on the straights and defended very well his position, but eventually he started to feel the pressure and I could pass. It was about time, because Vernay and Comini were getting very close and I was in the uncomfortable position of having to attack and defend at the same time. The car felt good and I thank the team for the good work done to solve the power steering problem we had in practice and qualifying.”

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Jean-Karl Vernay (second): “It’s a good result, the best possible in this race, and it’s good to score my first points. I had a good start but like Morbidelli, tried not to stress the tyres. The duel between him and Homola allowed me to get closer to them. Unfortunately, at some point, they had a contact and debris broke my windscreen, so I had to close my helmet visor to continue. Towards the end I was well-placed to use any opportunity that may come from the fight between the first two and eventually, I could pass Homola, even if I didn’t want to take any risk.”

Stefano Comini (third): “After free practice we completely changed the set-up of the car, and it proved the right thing to do. The car felt much better. My start wasn’t great as I wanted to avoid any problems and lost one position. The first half of the race was a little bit boring, but then things got livelier. I managed to overtake Pellinen and then Vernay and I joined the two leaders. Third is a good result, but we still have a lot of work to do.” 

Race 2 – James Nash claims dominant victory

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It did not take much time to James Nash to find his way to victory in his return to Touring Car racing. After an excellent weekend in Bahrain, the Brit of Team Craft Bamboo Lukoil took his maiden win in the TCR International Series in Estoril.

The SEAT driver dominated Race 2 from lights to flag, beating Stefano Comini, who continued improving with the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf Gti and Gianni Morbidelli, with the WestCoast Racing Honda Civic.

The Italian brilliantly won a couple of duels, notably with Jean-Karl Vernay and Sergey Afanasyev, to take a second podium finish this weekend and grab the leadership in the points standings, albeit by a single point over Nash.

Afanasyev claimed an excellent 4th ahead of Vernay, Aku Pellinen, Davit Kajaia, Mat’o Homola and Francisco Mora, while Pepe Oriola finished only 10th, after struggling the entire race with a car damaged in a contact with Loris Hezemans at the start.

Key facts

Start: Nash takes the best start after fighting with Pellinen, Comini, Vernay and Oriola; Hezemans stops after few meters, following contact with Oriola

Lap 1: Morbidelli passes Pellinen for 6th;

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Nash leads from Comini, Vernay, Oriola, Afanasyev and Morbidelli; Kajaia passes Grachev for 8th

Lap 2: Nash pulls away and creates a 2-second lead

Lap 3: Homola passes Grachev for 9th; Borkovi ć and Tassi make contact and the former retires with a pierced radiator

Lap 4: Oriola’s car is out of balance after the contact with Hezemans at the start; the Spaniard loses positions to Afanasyev, Morbidelli, Pellinen and Kajaia, dropping from fourth to eighth

Lap 7: Homola passes Oriola, taking 8th

Lap 8: Mora overtakes Tassi for 11th

Lap 9: Vernay in P3 is chased by Afanasyev and Morbidelli

Lap 10: Morbidelli takes 4th from Afanasyev

Lap 11: Mora passes Oriola for 9th

Lap 12: Vernay and Morbidelli are in a close fight, eventually the Italian passes the Frenchman for third

Lap 13: Afanasyev passes Vernay as well

Lap 15: Nash starts to lift off a bit but has everything under control and wins ahead of Comini, Morbidelli, Afanasyev and Vernay

Race 2 – Quotes from the podium finishers

James Nash (winner) “It was probably the best start of the season for me and that helped much. I skipped free practice to save t y res and that allowed me to push quite hard in the first part of the race and build some advantage. It was a stressful gap though, because at the end of the race I struggled with the t y res. Still, everything went well and now I am enjoying a good position in the championship, only one point behind Gianni. Too early to say anything, the championship is still very long and it will be about consistency.”

Stefano Comini (second) : “I am second, so climbing another step after third in Race 1 , which is good. My start was not very good and I missed the first braking point. After that I was behind my team mate and could pass him when he did a little mistake in turn 4. There was not much I could do to reduce the gap with Nash, so I did not push too hard, not to kill the t y res, and I went for some heavy points.”

Gianni Morbidelli (third) : “It was again a good race, I am happy with the result. I lost some time behind Oriola and I think I was a little bit too hard on my front t y res to try to pass him. After that, I had some understeer and mostly tried to preserve the t y res. Being first in the championship doesn’t mean much, it’s way too early.”

All drivers were able to start in the second race

All the TCR drivers managed to take part in the Estoril second race today.

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The Top Run Motorsport crew managed to repair the front left suspension of Luca Rangoni’s Subaru WRX STi that broke during the first race.

The technical failures that stopped Kevin Gleason’s Honda Civic for good and forced Michela Cerruti’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta to pit were both solved. 

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The mechanic of Mulsanne Racing discovered a false contact in the gear linkage and sent Cerruti back on track after a brief stop. As for WestCoast Racing, Gleason’s Civic suffered from an engine wiring problem that was also solved.

Both, Gleason and Rangoni took the start from the back of the grid as their teams asked for neutralization of the parc fermé rules.

As this was the second weekend of TCR International Competition, no doubt there will be many more announcements to come and I will try to share as many as possible both on here and in the TCR Talk Facebook Group.

All the best!!

Phil!!

2016 TCR International Series: Oriola Rules In Bahrain

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The TCR International Series kicks off at F1 Bahrain GP

The second season of the TCR International Series kicks off this weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit, as support event to the Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.

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

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

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The 2016 TCR International Series will award three titles at the end of the season.

Stefano Comini and Target Competition are the reigning champions in the Drivers’ and Team’s Championship respectively.

New for this season is the introduction of a ‘Model of the Year’ title that will be awarded by adding the points scored by the best two cars of each model in each qualifying session and race.

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.

Two Bahraini drivers join TCR for their local event

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The entry list of the 2016 TCR International Series opening event in Bahrain consists of nine teams, with twenty-two cars of six different brands: Alfa Romeo, Honda, Opel, SEAT, Subaru and Volkswagen.

The latest additions were two SEAT León cars in 2015 specs, run by the Netherlands-based Bas Koeten Motorsport for local drivers Salman Al Khalifa and Hussain Karimi who are currently ranking first and third respectively in the 2015/2016 Bahrain International Circuit 2000cc Challenge.

Al Khalifa, a former champion in the Batelco 2000cc Challenge (2008), has claimed seven victories out of the twelve races held so far at the wheel of his Honda Civic; Karimi was twice vice-champion in the series (2014 and 2015), having scored several wins in a Honda CRX.

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TCR promoter Marcello Lotti said: “We give a very warm welcome to Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa and Hussain Karimi, the first Middle East drivers to join TCR. The concept we have launched last year is spreading quickly and we are now looking at the Middle East for further expansion.”

Jordi Oriola and Andrea Belicchi to drive the debutante Astra

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The opening event of the 2016 TCR International Series in Bahrain will also mark the debut of the new Opel Astra TCR. Two cars will be run by Target Competition for Andrea Belicchi and Jordi Oriola.

The Astra TCR is facing its first major challenge as the forecast temperatures of over 40C will represent a stiff test for the engine cooling system, turbocharger, transmission and brakes. Tyre wear will also expected to be a major issue.

The technical staff of Opel Motorsport and Target Competition made significant progress in the vehicle set-up during the pre-season test in Valencia.

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Opel Motorsport Director Jörg Schrott is excited ahead of the Astra TCR’s race debut but is also managing expectations: “We are a newcomer to the TCR series with our Astra and we will definitely need a bit more time to further optimize the vehicle. Furthermore, the conditions in the desert are unique. Therefore, we should treat the two races in Bahrain as another important test. We aim to learn as much as possible to fine tune the Astra TCR for the coming races.”

Luigi Ferrara at Bahrain in the Top Run Subaru

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It will be Luigi Ferrara to drive the Top Run-built Subaru STi TCR in the International Series season opener at Bahrain.

A former champion in the Italian F3 (2005) and Porsche Cup (2008), Ferrari proved his Touring Car skills at the wheel of a Mercedes AMG (also built by Top Run), winning several Superstars races and finishing twice runner up in the International Series (2011 and 2012).

 “I’m so excited to race in the TCR International Series that is a top-level championship. I’m also pleased to get back to sprint races, that is where I claimed by best results. It is true that I don’t have experience with front-wheel drive cars, but I’m used to adapt myself quickly to any new cars. And I’m not like a fish out of water, because I know the team and I know the track, where I claimed a fourth place in the 2009 Porsche Supercup. My only regret is not to have time to test the Subaru before, but I am optimist and my goal is to finish in the points,” said Ferrara.

Team manager Renato Russo added: “Bahrain will be another important test on the way to develop the Subaru TCR, and in this respect we are happy that Ferrara agreed to drive, because we have worked very well with him in the past.”

TCR fans to vote on special award in 2016

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Fans of the TCR International Series will, via social media, play a vital part in awarding a special prize after each pair of TCR races.

Following each TCR race weekend, a panel comprising of the International Series’ Promoter and the promotional and media team will decide a shortlist of two candidates (not necessarily drivers) they feel are deserving of the award. The names will then be posted on the TCR International Series Facebook page and fans will have 24 hours in which to ‘like’ either candidate. The ‘TCR Fans’ Award’ will then be given to the candidate with the most likes.

A new TV website for the TCR community worldwide

The TCR promoter, WSC Ltd., has launched today a brand new website that is dedicated to showcasing videos from the different TCR championships and series worldwide.

The new free-on-air portal – www.tcr-series.tv – is divided into three main sections: one for the TCR International Series, one for the TCR Regional championships and one for the National championships in which TCR cars are eligible to race.

Each series has been given an account to upload their own videos and a dedicated page that gathers together all videos and news from that series: full races, highlights and spectacular clips.

The home page features the latest and most-liked videos, plus windows for live timing and live streaming, a summary table of the upcoming TCR events worldwide and a ‘news brief’ section.

Pepe Oriola wins a breathtaking opening night race

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The 2016 TCR International Series kicked off with a breath-taking night race during the Barhain Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The 2015 vice-champion Pepe Oriola started his new campaign on a high note with a spotless performance the young Spaniard drove his SEAT León of Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil to claim an authoritative victory. Oriola got the better of his team-mates James Nash and polesitter Sergey Afanasyev during the first lap, then was able to control Nash’s attacks in the early stages and the return of Gianni Morbidelli’s Honda Civic in the final laps.

The Italian driver put in a strong effort to recover from fourth to second, jumping ahead of Afanasyev and Nash who finished in the order. Dušan Borković was able to finish in sixth position, inches behind Aku Pellinen, after he had been involved in a four-car clash with Stefano Comini, Kevin Gleason and Jean-Karl Vernay.

The reigning champion Comini was classified seventh and best of the Volkswagen drivers, while Mat’o Homola and Davit Kajaia finished in eighth and ninth at the end of a long and fair fight.

None of the 18 cars retired for technical reasons, only Gleason and Vernay did not finish because of the incident. Jordi Oriola’s Opel Astra, Luigi Ferrara’s Subaru and Michela Cerruti’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta managed to complete the race, just like the two Bahraini drivers in the Bas Koeten Racing old SEAT cars.

RACE ONE Key facts:

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Start: Afanasyev and Borković take a bad start on the front row; Nash takes the lead clashing with P. Oriola; at the back of the field, Cerruti is squeezed by Belicchi and Grachev.

Lap 1: Borković and Vernay make contact; Comini passes Gleason for 9th. P. Oriola leads from Nash, Afanasyev, Morbidelli, Pellinen and Vernay

Lap 2: Gleason passes Comini for 7th. Kajaia are in a fight Homola for 11th.

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Lap 3: Afanasyev tries to resist Morbidelli, but eventually concedes the position.

Lap 4: Vernay passes Pellinen for fifth, while Nash chases P.Oriola. Borković closes in on Comini, they make contact and collect Vernay and Gleason who are forced to retire

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Lap 5: Kajaia passes Grachev for 9th whilst Morbidelli is closing the gap from the leading duo of P. Oriola and Nash

Lap 6: Comini takes 6th from Homola who strikes back and regains the position; eventually both Comini and Kajaia are able to overtake Homola

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Lap 7: Morbidelli passes Nash for 2nd on the straight, but the Brit retakes the advantage, just to lose again it shortly afterwards

Lap 8: Kajaia takes 8th from Homola

Lap 9: Morbidelli is on P. Oriola heels

Lap 10: P. Oriola wins ahead of Morbidelli, Nash, Afanasyev; Homola retakes 8th from Kajaia.

Race 1 – Quotes from the podium finishers

Pepe Oriola (winner): “It’s definitely a good way to start the season. It was a pretty good race for me, although not easy. I did only one mistake at the beginning, when I attacked too hard my team-mate James Nash. Other than that, the only real trouble is that the tyres started to get consumed by mid race, which brought massive understeer. That allowed Gianni to close the gap a bit, but I don’t think he was as fast as us today. It is a really enjoyable experience to be racing here at Bahrain within the F.1 Grand Prix, although it means less practice time.”

Gianni Morbidelli (second): “Pepe is right: we are not as quick as the SEAT cars! It is clear that we have to work a lot to catch up, but the race was very useful to understand where we are and to see our strong and weak points. There was some good fighting along the way too, that’s nice too, but the most important was that I could score good points for myself and WestCoast. Second today is a very good result towards the championship.”

James Nash (third): “It’s definitely a good result for the team and also for me. My race was good and it’s nice to be immediately competitive on my return to touring car racing. Maybe we fought a little bit too hard with Pepe, but the important thing is that we brought home an excellent result. I really look forward to this championship and to working with my team.”

Afanasyev claims his first TCR pole position

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Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Sergey Afanasyev claimed his first pole position in the TCR International Series putting in a perfect lap in Q2 that enabled him to beat Dušan Borković of B3 Racing Team and his own team-mate James Nash.

“It’s a very strange feeling, because I wasn’t even aware of the result, as the radio was working on and off. I had a good pace but was certainly not under the impression that it could mean pole position!” the delighted Russian said.

Gianni Morbidelli failed to make the top-three by only two thousandths of a second; Pepe Oriola and Aku Pellinen were placed in fifth and sixth in very close session that saw the fastest six drivers covered by less that two tenths.

Jean-Karl Vernay was the fastest of the Volkswagen drivers, qualifying his Golf Gti in ninth, just ahead of Davit Kajaia who won pole position on the top-ten reverse grid for tomorrow’s Race 2.

Jordi Oriola was classified 12th in the only Opel Astra that was admitted to Q2, while Michela Cerruti’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Luigi Ferrara’s Subaru STi – that suffered from a broken drive shaft – did not make the cut.

Attila Tassi to skip the season opener

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The third B3 Racing Team SEAT León TCR has been withdrawn from the Bahrain meeting due to the damage resulted in a crash during yesterday’s second Practice session.

Attila Tassi lost control and crashed into a wall head on. The young Hungarian escaped unscathed, but the car suffered from extensive damage to the front. Notably the left rail of the engine compartment was badly bent and could not be repaired at the track.

Team manager David Bári commented: “We are very sorry that we have to withdraw the car and that Attila cannot make his TCR debut, but that’s racing. We’ll see what we’ll do when we are back in Europe, but I believe it is going to be easier to get a new chassis altogether.”

VIPs visit the TCR International Series

There were some illustrious guests in the TCR paddock in Bahrain last weekend. Double WRC champion Carlos Sainz was eager to visit some old friends, like Claudio Bortoletto, today at Mulsanne Racing, who led in the past the Jolly Club team, the successful rally team for which the Spaniard was driving in his early years.

Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito, the man behind the Golf Gti TCR project was, of course, very interested in checking the form of the cars entered by Leopard Racing and Liqui Moly Team Engstler in the 2016 season-opener. This has been one of the last public appearances of Capito in his current capacity, as it has been already announced that he will soon join the management of McLaren F1.

Pepe Oriola encores in Craft-Bamboo Lukoil 1-2

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Pepe Oriola performed an encore at the Bahrain International Circuit. After victory in yesterday’s night Race 1, the Spanish driver and his SEAT León won the second race in a sunny and hot day. Oriola managed to recover from the sixth position on the grid and took the lead from Kevin Gleason’s Honda Civic on lap 8 of 10. He eventually crossed the line ahead of James Nash in a 1-2 finish for Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil.

Behind them, Gleason and his WestCoast Racing teammates Aku Pellinen and Gianni Morbidelli challenged each other for the last spot on the podium. Gleason and Morbidelli made contact; the American was forced to stop, while the Italian suffered from a flat tyre, which handed third to Pellinen.

Dušan Borković was classified fourth, followed by Davit Kajaia, Mat’o Homola and Sergey Afanasyev. Jordi Oriola (8th) and Luigi Ferrara (10th) scored the first points in the Drivers’ championship for the new Opel Astra and the Subaru STi respectively, while Morbidelli limped in ninth.

The reigning champion Stefano Comini and Mikhail Grachev retired aftermaking a contact, while Jean-Karl Vernay was also eliminated for the consequences of a racing incident.

RACE TWO Key facts

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Start: The Honda cars of Gleason and Pellinen jump ahead of the Volkswagencars of Kajaia and Vernay that start from the front row; Belicchi’s Opel stalls

Lap 1: Vernay’s rear bumper is hanging loose after a contact

Lap 2: Vernay loses three places to P. Oriola, Nash and Pellinen; Homola and Morbidelli fight for sixth; Comini and Grachev fight hard for 9th and clash, the former retires with a broken suspension

Lap 3: P. Oriola attacks Pellinen and passes him moving up to second

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Lap 4: With a brilliant move Nash passes Pellinen and P. Oriola at the braking for first corner to take second; Morbidelli passes the Finn for fourth; Grachev pit and retires

Lap 5: P. Oriola retakes second from Nash, Gleason extends his lead to 1.4 seconds

Lap 6: P. Oriola closes the gap from Gleason to 0.8; Al-Khalifa passes Cerruti for 13th.

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Lap 7: Borković passes Kajaia and takes 7th; Vernay retires with brakes problems

Lap 8: P. Oriola takes the leadmuscling his way past Gleason who has to concede also second to Nash; Cerruti retires with a broken drive shaft

Lap 9: Morbidelli manages to keep Pellinen at bay and to pass Gleason for third; they make contact and the American stops at the pit exit

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Lap 10: Pellinen takes third from Morbidelli, who has a flat tyre and drops to ninth; P. Oriola wins from Nash and Pellinen

Race 2 – Quotes from the podium finishers

Pepe Oriola (winner): “It’s true that yesterday I was a little bit upset for missing the pole, but having won the two races, I think I can be satisfied! Today was again a very intense race and I had a lot of fun fighting with Gleason and Nash, and luckily everything went well. My start wasn’t good, because of some clutch issues, so I was aiming at the podium but nothing more. Still, after we have changed the set up, the tyres stayed good into the race and that gave me confidence to push.”

James Nash (second): “It’s again a great result for the team and for me as well. After a third and a second here, I’m really looking forward to the next round in Portugal! It was again tough competition today and things are not easy when you have such a strong driver as Pepe on the same car and in the same team. My tyres were not in a good condition towards the end, so that prevented me to keep fighting.”

Aku Pellinen (third): “To finish my first weekend in the TCR and with the Honda on the podium is of course a very good result, and I am very happy. There was quite a good deal of fighting in both races, even with my teammates, but that’s fine. I just tried to be clever and stay out of trouble, aiming at the points, and I think the strategy paid-off.”

Borković inherits third after Pellinen’s penalty

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B3 Racing Team’s Dušan Borković inherited the third place on the podium oftoday’s second race at the Bahrain International Circuit after WestCoast Racing driver Aku Pellinen was handed a 30-second time penalty for jump-start.

The Serbian commented: “These were two crazy races but I am happy with the result and very happy with the team. In Race 1, I had a very bad start and then a big contact with Comini. Even with open wheels, though, I realized the pace was good. Today, the start was better but I was stuck in P12 and got a little bit nervous, because I saw I had the pace, but too many cars in front of me. When I cooled down, I started to overtake cars one by one and finished fourth, which became third after Pellinen’s penalty. Mostly, I see it as good reward for the boys who worked very hard.”

The same penalty was imposed to Mat’o Homola, who had finished the race in sixth. As a consequence, Pellinen was dropped to 10th and Homola to 11th, this also meant that Bahraini driver Salman Al Khalifa was promoted to ninth and tenth, scoring points in the Drivers’ Championship at the wheel of a Bas Koeten Racing SEAT León.

Comini presents his winning helmet to Lotti

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During a cheerful happening after the Bahrain races, reigning champion Stefano Comini presented the helmet with which he raced in his triumphant 2015 season to Marcello Lotti, promoter of the TCR International Series.

Winning the first edition of the TCR International Series meant a lot to me”, said the Swiss driver, “I thought it would be nice to give my helmet to Marcello, to thank him for the great series he has put together.” 

Very touched by the gesture, Lotti said: “It’s a very nice thought from him. We actually brought back the helmet from Macau where Stefano forgot it after winning the title. He is from Lugano, where we have our offices and we arranged to meet there for a coffee and give him back his helmet. That’s when he told me he would give it to us as a present but that we should wait for until the Bahrain event for his new helmet to arrive!”

The TCR International Series will resume on April 23 and 24 at Estoril, Portugal, for rounds 3 and 4.

As this was the first weekend of TCR International Competition, no doubt there will be many more announcements to come and I will try to share as many as possible both on here and in the TCR Talk Facebook Group.

All the best!!

Phil!!