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
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.
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 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
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
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
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
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 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.”
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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 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
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
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
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
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!