So, with the TCR International Season well underway and with several domestic TCR Series also getting their seasons underway as well, heres a round up of all the news that has been released since the end of the opening weekend in Bahrain, right up to this weekends third round of the International Series at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium…
THE GIULIETTA TCR IN JOHN GENTRY’S HANDS
John Gentry, one of the most experienced engineers in motorsport, has joined the TCR International Series to take care of Michela Cerruti’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR.
Gentry boasts an impressive professional CV that began in Formula One had a few interludes in Moto GP and continued in Touring Cars, single seaters and Sportscars before teaming up with Romeo Ferraris and the Mulsanne Racing to work on the Giulietta TCR project.
“It all started for me at March at the end of 1970; we were building all sorts of cars, from Formula Ford to CanAm and it was a really good introduction to working in a proper racing team,”said Gentry. “Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to work for teams like Tyrrell, Brabham under Bernie (Ecclestone), Renault Sport and Triple 8 with Derek Warwick.”
“I wrote to Mario Ferraris, saying I was interested on working for him, not realising that Miki (Michela Cerruti) was already driving for the team. I’d worked with her in Auto GP, where she won at Imola and finished on the podium in Monza, so that sealed the deal for me. The Alfa Romeo is an interesting car; it needs some refining as we built it quite quickly, but I think it could be quite successful – we’re still modifying it but our aim is to have two cars in Estoril.”
TCR CARS’ DEBUT IN THE SPANISH ENDURANCE SERIES
The Spanish Endurance Championship (CET) kicked off at Barcelona-Catalunya circuit recently, featuring a TCR class for the first time.
Nine SEAT León Cup Racer cars took part in the two-hour race, fighting against a swarm of GTs and other Touring Cars; 51 vehicles that were divided into eight classes took the start.
The Baporo Motorsport team claimed a 1-2 finish in the TCR class, with Jaime Font and Faust Salom beating their Andorran teammates, brothers Joan and Amàlia Vinyes by twenty-nine seconds. The PCR Sport trio of Unai Arrabarruena, Iñaki Vigiola and Óscar Fernández claimed the last spot on the podium a further four seconds adrift.
The SEAT of Font-Salom was classified tenth overall, only two laps behind the winning Porsche 911.
The next CET meeting will take place in Lédénon, France, on May 8.
ARRIVAL OF TCR CARS TO THAILAND CREATES SENSATION
The arrival of the first TCR cars in Thailand created sensation. Photos of the two Honda Civic TCR Cars unloaded from a 40-foot shipping container at the freight yard of Lat Krabang after making the long journey from Italy zoomed round the Internet within minutes of being posted.
Within just 48 hours the photos had racked up an unprecedented 18,000 shares and 800 comments. Quite simply no new racecar for many years has generated more interest in Thailand than the Civic TCR. The cars were ordered by TBN MK I Here team and the drivers, Nattachak Hanjitkasem and Wijak Lertprasertpakorn were on hand to take delivery. The former flew to Italy last month to test the Civic TCR and so he was already somewhat familiar with the striking new machine.
“It’s my second time to see the Civic TCR,” said Hanjitkasem. “So I think Wijak is more excited than me. I was really excited to see for the exterior I really like the wide body and the big rear wing. Inside JAS has done a good job with a clean and well arranged cockpit.”
The TCR Thailand’s maiden season will kick off at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit on May 22.
HENRY HO JOINS TCR ASIA WITH HONDA CHINA
Multiple Macau Touring Car champion Henry Ho announced his participation in the 2016 TCR Asia Series. After making his debut in the TCR International Series on the streets of his home Guia Circuit last year at the wheel of a JAS Motorsport-built Honda Civic TCR, Ho is now looking forward to the new season.
“I think TCR is a very successful formula throughout the world and I like what the concept is doing for Touring Cars,” he explained. “As an official driver for Honda China, and with the support of JAS Motorsport, I feel we can be very competitive in the Asian series, especially after the Civic TCR claimed the title last year, and the 2016 International Series has already shown the Honda to be a very fast and capable challenger.”
Ho is still working out the details on team logistics for his Honda entry, but he is convinced the Civic will be one of the cars to beat this year.
“I had a great battle in the CTCC last year with Andy Yan who has just revealed he will be in TCR Asia this year. Sadly I missed one round of that championship last year, so couldn’t take the fight all the way to the final round, but I will be doing my best to go after the crown this year, regardless of who the competition will be. I’m really looking forward to the opening round in South Korea.”
GUILVERT AND CLAIRET TO DRIVE AT SPA FOR SLR
Sébastien Loeb Racing has chosen Grégory Guilvert and Jimmy Clairet to drive the two Peugeot 308 Racing Cup cars in the TCR International Series event 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.
MONTEIRO TO RACE IN THE TCR BENELUX OPENER
Portuguese driver Tiago Monteiro will take part in the opening round of TCR Benelux in support of Stéphane Lémeret in a Boutsen Ginion’s Honda Civic TCR. A friendly participation and first-rate back-up to enliven the first event of this new championship.
The TCR Benelux meeting in Spa-Francorchamps on 20 and 21 May will provide an opportunity for the Belgian audience to see him in action. The former Formula 1 driver is particularly familiar with the Ardennes circuit, a course that he likes.
The cars driven by Tiago Monteiro and Stéphane Lémeret will bear the traditional colours of the Boutsen Ginion team: black and orange livery displaying on the doors the number 18, the Portuguese’s lucky number!
TCR BENELUX: DELAHAYE RACING TESTS AT SPA
Less than one month from the kick off of TCR Benelux – 21 and 22 May at Spa-Francorchamps – Delahaye Racing has begun testing on the very same track.
The German car was delivered only a few days ago to the workshop directed by Gilles Terlinden and Pierre Sevrin, and the team’s pair of drivers – Didier Van Dalen and Amaury Richard – is driving for the first time the Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR they will be sharing during the upcoming season.
“We would be lying by saying that we were not excited by the idea of driving it for the first time,” the two young drivers commented. “Our first impressions were excellent, even if the rain spoiled a bit our plan. We hope that the weather will improve and that we will be able to test in different conditions.”
MAT’O HOMOLA REWARDED WITH FANS’ VOTES
After distinguishing himself as one of the leading players during last weekend event at Estoril, Mat’o Homola of the B3 Racing Team has been rewarded by the public votes received in the Fan Award.
In Portugal, the young Slovak posted an impressive qualifying lap time that gave him his first pole position in the TCR International Series, then led for most of the first race, fairly defending his position from a rampant Gianni Morbidelli.
Only in the last three laps was Homola forced to surrender, as the front tyre wear affected the performance of his SEAT. So much that Homola was also outrun by Leopard Racing teammates Jean-Karl Vernay and Stefano Comini, slipping out of the podium positions.
His brilliant performance and fair defence granted him the nomination for the Fan Award, together with Morbidelli; Homola eventually received 86.4% of the vote cast, a landslide that was some compensation for losing a possible victory.
“I found it really nice, that I have received this award. This means that the people liked my performance during the weekend. I was very happy with the pole position, however a not ideal tyre management and defensive driving cost me the podium. I fought as hard as I could, as I really tried to keep at least the third place.But I’m not disappointed, though. The season has just started and there are 18 races still to go! I thank everyone for voting, I really appreciated it!” Homola commented.
TCR ASIA: TEAMWORK MOTORSPORT REVEALS DRIVERS
After revealing its entry into the 2016 TCR Asia Series last month, Chinese Touring Car outfit TeamWork Motorsport unveiled its driver lineup ahead of the opening round of the new season, which gets underway in South Korea.
Experienced Macanese driver Kevin Tse and Hong Kong-based American Bill O’Brien will spearhead the team in TeamWork’s newly acquired Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR cars.
Tse is no stranger to the circuits of Asia, having competed in a variety of categories since 2005. Over ten years in the sport he has raced in and won in many different cars and categories such as Lotus Cup, Formula Geely, VW Scirocco Cup, Lamborghini Super Trofeo, Porsche Carrera Cup, Asian Le Mans Series, Dubai 24-Hours, and a round of the Chinese Touring Car Championship with the Ford Factory team in 2015.
Tse admitted. “TeamWork Motorsport is a new team for me, but I have known a few key personnel from the team for some time so it’s not completely ‘new’. I know there will be some intense competition this year, so right now I am trying not to think too much about results. I just want to focus on my own performance and let the results speak for themselves. I hope my experience in different cars and tracks can create an edge for us.”
With more than 30 years of racing experience – much of it in Asia – O’Brien has great knowledge in a variety of cars across many of the Asian circuits. More than just a racer, O’Brien also formed his own racing team – BlackArts Racing – in 2015 that clinched the Driver’s and Team’s titles in Asian Formula Renault 2.0 that year.
“I think my experience in racing plus TeamWork’s expertise in Touring Cars will make us a strong squad,” he explained. “I may have relatively less experience in a front-wheel-drive race car, but the racing principles are the same.”
STARD UNVEILS KIA TCR CUSTOMER RACING PROGRAMME
After a first image of the car was released a few weeks ago, further details have been unveiled about the new Kia cee’d TCR.
STARD (Stohl Advanced Research and Development), an experienced R&D company and long term Kia Motors partner is running this first ever customer motorsport project based on a Kia racecar. Among other things, STARD is behind the successful participation of the Kia K3S in the China Touring Car Championship.
A 5-door Kia cee’d TCR is currently being developed, fitted with a new 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with output of 330 bhp and torque of 243 kW, plus a number of high–tech solutions including sequential paddleshift gearbox, safety concept complying with the latest FIA standards, multi-adjustable motorsport suspension and optimised aero-package.
The racing car will be officially launched later this year, after the completion of an intensive testing phase. Soon after the Kia cee´d TCR will be produced in a limited series that will be made available to customers.
“The combination between the TCR International Series and the Kia cee´d appeared absolutely perfect from the very beginning. A huge demand among interested customers even before the official release equally demonstrates how anticipated the appearance of Kia-cars was in the motorsport world and how right the choice was with the TCR international series. We even have requests from Australia!” said Manfred Stohl, president of STARD.
Michael Sakowicz, CEO of STARD, added: “We are already in discussions with some teams that are primarily interested in international activities. To satisfy their needs in the best possible way, already during the development stage, we plan to cooperate very closely with at least one team in order to provide a customer friendly car since the beginning. The testing schedule is fixed and will be completed strictly as planned. Reliability and a perfectly functioning car are the most important factors for a successful TCR project.”
TCR ASIA: SHANGHAI REPLACES SEPANG
WSC Asia Limited has revealed a change in the schedule of the 2016 TCR Asia to accommodate Shanghai mid-season, replacing the Sepang round on the calendar.
“As a result of the resurfacing of the Sepang Circuit which was scheduled for the first half of this year, the Malaysian circuit was struggling to accommodate all the Series into just six months,” WSC Asia Ltd’s David Sonenscher explained. “As a result of having to shuffle the calendar for an alternative, the August date scheduled for the GT Asia Series in Shanghai became the logical replacement, and it offered teams a much better package, so it was the ideal fit, and aligns us now in four of the five rounds this season.”
The opening event of the second season will be held at Korea International Circuit in South Korea in mid-May (13-15), before the Series returns to Thailand to join the Thailand TCR Series, promising a big field of cars.
Entries are already confirmed for the second season, with a good mix of established and new teams. The International Series winning SEAT León will again form the backbone of the championship, with a mix of Honda Civic and Volkswagen Golf Gti cars.
Sonenscher said: “This year will see another big step forward for Asian motorsport, and we look forward to watching TCR continue to grow in the region.”
30 KILOS OF SUCCESS BALLAST FOR GIANNI MORBIDELLI
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.
CORTHALS AND BURI JOIN THE FIELD AT SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS
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.
A NEW TCR SERIES IN CENTRAL AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN
WSC America has officially launched TCR Las Americas, a brand new regional series reserved for TCR cars.
The announcement was made last Thursday in Santo Domingo, following a meeting between WSC Ltd. CEO Marcello Lotti and Series manager Alberto Puig with the local promoters that took place during the presentation of Dominican Republic’s Campeonato de Velocidad Sunix.
The new series – the latest in a number of national and regional championships that have embraced the TCR concept – will be run between October 2016 and March 2017, visiting seven countries in the Central America-Caribbean area.
Negotiations are ongoing to finalize the inaugural event as part of the Formula One Mexican Grand Prix at Mexico City’s Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
Marcello Lotti explained: “This was a plan we have worked on for some time, as this region is an important market for car manufacturers and has a long-standing tradition for touring car competitions. Some of the countries that will host the series already have strong national championships. As soon as we began negotiating with the local promoters we met with an overwhelming enthusiasm from them, but also from local teams and drivers. The fact that the series will be run in what we consider the ‘off season’ in Europe may encourage some of the European teams to take part.”
The series aims for a field of 16 cars for the maiden season.
2016/2017 TCR Las Americas – provisional calendar
30th October: Mexico, Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez (F1 Mexican GP)
27th November: USA, Homestead-Miami Speedway
18th December: Dominican Republic, Autódromo Sunix
15th January: Guatemala, Autódromo Pedro Cofiño
12th February: Costa Rica, Circuito Grupo Sur en Parque Viva
12th March: Colombia, Autódromo de Tocancipá
26th March: Venezuela, Autódromo Internacional Simón Bolívar
TCR ITALY TO KICK OFF AT ADRIA THIS WEEKEND
The Italian Touring Car Championship (CIT) will kick this weekend off at the Adria International Raceway. The series underwent a significant reassessment, with the adoption of the TCR technical regulations for the major class and the return to the sprint-race format.
No less that ten cars have been entered in the TCR class, with the field to be completed by competitors of the new TCS class for production touring cars.
Most of the drivers will be driving SEAT León cars, although one of the favourite contenders for the title fight is the experienced Roberto Colciago; a former Italian Touring Car champion, Colciago makes his comeback after a long break at the wheel od a Honda Civic run by AGS Motorsport.
The inaugural weekend in Adria will see the drivers taking to the track for two 30-minute free practice session of Friday (11:00 and 15:40), the qualifying and first race on Saturday (11:30 and 17:50) and the second race on Sunday (10:00).
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.
The timetable of the event will be concentrated in one day only, on the Sunday, 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.
So, as you can see, there is plenty of movement happening with what is turning out to be a fantastic year of action throughout the TCR Arena and with domestic series being announce and getting underway, I am sure that there is plenty more to come. Please keep following my blog for all the news updates durig 2016 as well as joining up on the TCR Talk Facebook Group.
Until next time, All the best!