As we are all aware by now, the world of TCR is expanding ever further and as well as the TCR International Series being well underway, the various domsestic series have already begun their first seasons of competition as well.
Heres a round up of all the news since Spa…and there’s quite a bit thats been going on…
TCR ITALY – COLCIAGO DOMINATES THE OPENING EVENT
The Italian Touring Car Championship (CIT) has turned over a new leaf to follow the TCR concept and from this year has dropped the endurance format and reverted to two sprint races.
A TCR car made a first appearance in 2015, when the SEAT León of Valentina Albanese dominated the season and won the championship in front of more powerful machines.
This year TCR forms the championship backbone with a dozen of entries, while the TCS class for production cars completes the field.
The championship began last weekend in Adria, where Roberto Colciago – a former champion in the Italian F3 and Touring Cars – claimed a double victory at the wheel of his Honda Civic run by AGS Motorsport.
Despite he had rarely raced in recent years, Colciago proved that he has not lost a bit of his driving skills; his competitors, all driving SEAT León cars, were only able to challenge him during the early stages of the races.
Alberto Viberti finished twice runner-up, while Jonathan Giacon in Race 1 and Marco Costamagna in Race 2 claimed the third position.
The second race meeting will take place at Misano on June 12.
TCR THAILAND LAUNCHED IN BANGKOK
The new season of the Thailand Super Series that includes the brand new TCR Thailand was officially launched last week in Bangkok on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.
TCR has really become the talk of the town after the first two Honda Civic TCR cars arrived in Thailand. Then last Thursday morning six SEAT Léon Cup Racer cars pitched up in Bangkok’s Lat Krabang shipping yard and they also caused quite a stir. They will be split among four teams: Krating Daeng (three), Vattana Motorsport, Singha Motorsport Team Thailand and Racing Spirit (one apiece).
The TCR concept is now alive and kicking in Thailand and ready to burst onto the local scene in now just a week and a half’s time.
TSS Vice President Preeda Tantemsapya said: “Interest is growing. Our goal is to first have an exciting new series, one that is for a new generation of car, and at a good price. It’s an affordable car and drivers can use it to progress and join TCR Asia Series or TCR International Series.”
TCR RUSSIA: LUKOIL RACING ENTERS THREE SEAT CARS
The reigning champion in the Touring category of the Russian Circuit Racing Series, Lukoil Racing Team will defend the title with three SEAT León TCR cars. The team retained Aleksey Dudukalo and Roman Golikov, who finished first and second in 2015, adding double FIA ETCC winner Nikolay Karamyshev.
Evgeniy Malinovsky of Lukoil explained:“We have followed the TCR concept from the beginning, but even for us it was surprising to see the level of interest from Russian competitors. LastyearwewerefirsttobringTCRcarstoRussia. It was difficult because of the financial situation, but as the leaders in Russian auto sport we had to take such a risk. I’m glad our experience helped to set a full-fledged national series for TCR cars.”
Dudukalo said: “The Russian Touring category is making a huge step forward. There will be ten TCR cars compared with three/four of last season, and the driver line-up will be stronger. Considering that we all drive SEAT cars, the competition will be very close although we have a certain advantage because of last year’s experience.”
Golikov added: “I’m very happy to continue driving for Lukoil Racing after last year’s successful campaign. After finishing vice-champion in 2015, my goal is to fight for the title.”
Karamyshev concluded:“I’mgladtoreturnracing in Russia. Since I was last driving here there have been a lot of changes for the better. The championship looks strong, on the par with the European series where I used to drive. It will be interesting to measure myself against a strong opposition, after making experience and winning titles in Europe.”
ZANDVOORT HOSTED THE LAUNCH OF TCR BENELUX
TCR Benelux was officially launched during a Press/Test day at Circuit Park Zandvoort in the Netherlands.
The press conference was attended by drivers, team managers and media representatives from Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Mark van Dalen and Claire Dubbelman of Kronos Events presented the season and explained the sporting format of the series that will get underway next week at Spa-Francorchamps (21/22 May) for the first of six events, at each of which the drivers will compete in one Qualifying race and four Sprint races.
To go into details, the Qualifying race will last 60 minutes and its grid will be decided by the voting on the ‘Make the Grid’ application that is integrated in the championship’s facebook page (http://dir.re/c236440d4e9d2b4381cd). So far 1755 users have already logged in the ‘Make the Grid’ application.
A compulsory pit stop must be made between the 25th and the 35th minute.
The four Sprint races will last 20 minutes each. The grids for Race 1 and Race 3 will be determined on the basis of the fastest laps set during the Qualifying race (after and before the pit stop respectively). At the end of Race 1 and Race 3, the cars will be regrouped by the leading car for the rolling starts for Race 2 and Race 4.
It is compulsory that two drivers share the same car during the events; only amateur drivers may be authorized to drive alone.
SUN BLESSES TCR BENELUX TEST DAY AT ZANDVOORT
In a warm and sunny day twelve cars took part in the TCR Benelux testing days at Circuit Park Zandvoort, with twenty-two drivers taking turns at the wheel.
Five SEAT León cars were run by Delahaye Racing (1), WRT under the banner of the RACB National Team (1), Ferry Monster Autosport (1) and Bas Koeten Racing (2); Delahaye Racing (2) and WRT (1) also fielded Volkswagen Golf Gti cars, while two other VWs were run by Milo Racing (2). The Boutsen-Ginion Racing entered two Honda Civic cars.
The fastest lap of the day was set by Maxime Potty/Ronnie Latinne (WRT VW Golf) in 1:49.604, ahead of Renaud Kuppens (Boutsen-Ginion Racing Honda Civic) in 1:49.859 and Amaury Richard/Didier van Dalen (Delahaye Racing VW Golf) in 1:50.129.
In fourth, fifth and sixth positions followed the Mondron brothers (Delahaye Racing SEAT León) in 1:50.216, Sam Dejonghe/Dénis Dupont (RACB SEAT León) in 1:50.316 and Alexis van de Poele/Romain De Laval (Delahaye Racing VW Golf) in 1:50.691. A further evidence that the TCR Balance of Performance works well.
The two Volkswagen Golf cars of Milo Racing missed the afternoon session due to transmission problems, and so did Loris Hezemans’ SEAT that crashed because of a braking failure.
A NEW WEBSITE FOR THE TCR TROPHY EUROPE
The opening round of the TCR Trophy Europe takes place this weekend at the Smolensk Ring, within the season opener of the RAF Russian Circuit Racing Series.
A new website http://europe.tcr-series.com is dedicated to the Trophy, offering information, results and pictures.
The TCR Trophy Europe for Drivers will be awarded for the first time in 2016, based on the results of six events that are part of the corresponding number of TCR national championships.
Only competitors (teams or drivers) who have registered for the full season in one of the TCR championships or series will be eligible to score points in the TCR Trophy Europe.
They will compete for €100,000 prize money that will be split among the top six drivers in the final classification.
The winner will receive €30,000 while €20,000, €18,000 and €12,000 will be awarded to the drivers finishing the season between second and fourth positions respectively. Finally, both the fifth and sixth placed drivers will win €10,000 each.
After Smolensk Ring, the TCR Trophy Europe will visit Misano Adriatico (Italy) on June 12th, Zandvoort (Netherlands) on July 17th, Nürburgring (Germany) on August 7th, Zolder (Belgium) on August 20th and Jerez de la Frontera (Spain) on November 6th.
BRAGIN BEATS DUDUKALO IN SMOLENSK QUALIFYING
In a close qualifying session, Dmitry Bragin managed to beat the reigning champion Aleksey Dudukalo in the fight for pole position in the Russian Circuit Racing Series opening round at Smolensk Ring.
Eight SEAT León cars were entered in the Touring class that is reserved for TCR-spec vehicles, and they claimed the first eight positions ahead of the Super Productions that completed the field.
From the beginning of the 20-minute session, Bragin (TAIF Motorsport) and Dudukalo (Lukoil Racing Team) set the pace, improving their lap times consistently, although Nikolay Karamyshev (Lukoil Racing Team) was not far behind them.
Bragin set a provisional fastest lap of 1:33.848 that was soon beaten by Dudukalo’s 1:33.784. However, Bragin managed to retake the lead in the timesheet on his second timed lap, improving to 1:33.506.
After a pit stop for new tyres, Bragin improved further to 1:33.394, which was good enough to win pole position, as Dudukalo’s last attempt (1:33.550) only granted him the second place on the grid for Race 1. Karamyshev qualified in third (1:34.014) ahead of Lev Tolkachev (1:34.639) and Irek Minnakhmetov (1:34.758).
TCR RUSSIA: BRAGIN WINS THE FIRST RACE
Dmitry Bragin converted his pole position into a comfortable win during the first race of the Russian Circuit Racing Series at Smolensk Ring.
After emerging as the fastest in this morning’s qualifying session, Bragin drove his TAIF Motorsport SEAT León TCR car to a lights-to-flag victory and crossed the finish line with a 1.3-second advantage ahead of Lukoil Racing’s 2015 champion Aleksey Dudukalo.
Dudukalo’s teammates Nikolay Karamyshev and Roman Golikov were classified third and fourth, while Pavel Yashin (Neva Motorsport) managed to beat Lev Tolkachev (Innocenti-AMG Motorsport) in the final sprint for the fifth position after a long fight.
Bragin was in control for most of the race, while Dudukalo had the opportunity to attack his leadership only on lap 10, shortly after the race had resumed following a safety car intervention.
The neutralization occurred from lap 7 to lap 9, after a crash between the Super Production cars of Larionov and Nesvankin. When the race resumed, Dudukalo was the leading car’s tail and made a couple of attempts to pass, but soon afterwards Bragin was able to create a gap again.
TCR RUSSIA: DUDUKALO-KARAMYSHEV MAKE 1-2 FOR LUKOIL
2015 Russian champion Aleksey Dudukalo and double European Touring Car Cup winner Nikolay Karamyshev claimed a brilliant 1-2 finish for Lukoil Racing in the second race of the opening event of the SMP Russian Circuit Racing Series at Smolensk Ring.
Pavel Yashin (Neva Motorsport) took the lead at the start, sprinting from the pole position on the top-six reverse grid. However, Yashin lost the first position to Karamyshev during the first lap.
On lap 2, Yashin was further demoted by Irek Minnakhmetov and Dudukalo, as they moved up to second and third. A few moments later Dudukalo took second from Minnakhmetov.
On lap 4, Race 1 winner Dmitry Bragin overtook Minnakhmetov for third, while Roman Golikov and Lev Tolkachev passed Yashin climbing to fifth and sixth respectively.
On lap 5, Dudukalo took the lead from Karamyshev who was closely chased by Bragin; however, on the following lap the TAIF Motorsport driver made a mistake and lost contact; the gap between Karamyshev and Bragin grew consistently since.
Positions froze in the second part of the race, with the only change being Tolkachev overtaking Golikov for fifth. Dudukalo won from Karamyshev, Bragin and Minnakhmetov.
At the end of the first event, Dudukalo leads the championship with 198 points, two more than Bragin, while Karamyshev is third a further eight points adrift.
The SMP Russian Circuit Racing Series will resume at Nizhniy Novgorod on May 28 and 29, for rounds 3 and 4.
TCR PORTUGAL: DOUBLE WIN FOR CARVALHO AND BATISTA
The pair of Francisco Carvalho and Nuno Batista scored a double victory in the opening round of Portugal’s National Speed Championship (CNV) yesterday at Braga’s Circuito Vasco Sameiro.
With the series adopting TCR as its major class, Carvalho and Batista won a race apiece, sharing a SEAT León run by Veloso Motorsport.
In the first race Carvalho took the best start and jumped into the lead ahead of pole sitter Manuel Gião (Team Novadriver Volkswagen Golf Gti), Francisco Mora (Veloso Motorsport Seat León) and João Baptista (SEAT León). José Rodrigues had to pit for cleaning the front of his Honda Civic after going off.
The fight for second saw Mora overtaking Gião on lap 5, however in the 13th and last-but-one lap, Mora had to hand back the position as his car suffered from fuel-feeding problems. Carvalho benefited from the duel behind him and crossed the line with a 10-second advantage ahead of Gião, Mora and Baptista.
After a short break, the drivers took the start for the second race. Batista, who had replaced Carvalho in the winning car, imitated his teammate and took the lead. Mora was forced to retire because of a steering problem after a contact with Gustavo Moura’s SEAT León.
Batista was leading, followed by Moura (who had replaced João Baptista in the SEAT) and Francisco Abreu (who was sharing the Novadriver Golf with Gião).
Once again the fight for the second place was thrilling; Abreu overtook Moura on lap 7 and eventually Moura lost third place to the SEAT León of José Cabral, while Batista won the race with a gap of tree seconds.
BATISTA AND CARVALHO ENCORE IN BRAGA’S RACES 3 AND 4
After sharing victories in Saturday’s races 1 and 2 at Braga’s Circuito Vasco Sameiro, Veloso Motorsport’s Nuno Batista and Francisco Carvalho encored Sunday in races 3 and 4 of the Portuguese CNV.
In Race 3, Mora stalled the engine of his SEAT at the start and rejoined at the back of the field. However, he was able to recover.
After Cesar Machado’s SEAT had led during the opening lap, José Rodrigues’ Honda took over and set the pace for most of the race, chased by the SEAT of Nuno Batista.
On lap 7, Mora overtook Batista for second and three laps later he stole the leadership from Rodrigues; the two made contact and Rodrigues had to hand also the second place to Batista.
In the final lap Rodrigues managed to retain the third position beating José Cabral by a short margin. Machado finished fifth despite transmission problems.
After the end of the race, Mora received a 30-second time penalty for the collision with Rodrigues, thus Batista inherited the victory.
Once again Mora did not take advantage from the pole position in Race 4 and Francisco Carvalho took the lead at the start from Rodrigues. However, Mora managed to overtake Rodrigues by the end of the first lap and left the Honda driver fighting with Rafael Lobato for third.
On lap 4, Mora took the lead from Carvalho, while Lobato overtook Rodrigues for third; moments later Manuel Gião also passed Rodrigues for fourth.
With only two laps to go, Mora’s SEAT retired with a pierced radiator, which handed victory to Carvalho with Lobato and Gião finishing a close second and third respectively.
The championship will resume on 25 and 26 June in Vila Real.
LIQUI MOLY TEAM ENGSTLER HIRES JORDI GENÉ FOR IMOLA
Experienced Spanish Touring Car driver Jordi Gené has been hired by the Liqui Moly Team Engstler for this week’s 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 ROMANINI JOIN WITH B.D. RACING
Two Italian drivers will join the TCR International Series field for their home event at Imola, this weekend. 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
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
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.
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 teammate 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.
MENU AND GRACHEV JOIN WESTCOAST IN IMOLA
The WestCoast Racing team has significantly reshuffled its driver line-up for the upcoming TCR International Series event that takes place this weekend at Imola.
Touring Car legend Alain Menu and Mikhail Grachev will 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.
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.”
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.”
TCR THAILAND ON THE STARTING BLOCKS
After a lot of talk and anticipation TCR Thailand finally takes off this weekend at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit.
The entry list includes six SEAT León and two Honda Civic cars; amongst the drivers are a couple of experienced guys: Carlo van Dam from Netherlands, a class winner in the Japanese F3 Championship and the Nürburgring 24 Hours, and local hero Jack Lemvard, twice a champion in the Thai SuperSeries.
Van Dam, who drives a SEAT for Singha Motorsport Team, said: “I have enjoyed my outings in the Super 2000 class before and I’m very excited to be part of a new chapter for touring car racing in Thailand. I believe the TCR series will see a lot of close racing and I am determined to win it.”
Lemvard will be in a SEAT too, but for OMP Vattana Motorsport: “TCR is something I really like so I can improve myself as a better driver,”he said. “We all have had limited testing or none so it will be even more fun and we can see who can adapt the quickest. I think the first two races will be fun especially with the reverse grid for Race 2. I have prepared myself a bit more than usual this year so I’m very ready!”
Other competitors to watch are the reigning Super Car Class 3-GTC champion Grant Supaphong and Chen Jian Hong, teammates at Krating Daeng Racing Team.
A new series for TCR cars in Central America and Caribbean
TCR Las Americas will run from October to March
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
So, there you have it. Don’t forget that this weekend, the TCR International Series event at Imola takes place on Sunday only, meaning an action packed day for the teams and competitors. 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!