TCR drivers from all over Europe are bound for Adria
The 2017 TCR Europe Trophy recently took place at the Adria International Raceway in Italy. In a change in format from 2016 where competitors had to race in events taking place over several Domestic TCR Series race weekends, 2017 would be a dedicated one off weekend.
Drivers who have raced in the various TCR series and championships all over Europe were eligible to take part in the Italian race meeting and those who entered were allocated Pre-Qualifying points based on the number of TCR appearances they have made during the season.
Seven brands represented in the 2017 TCR Europe Trophy
The Adria International Raceway welcomed drivers and teams coming from no less than nine different series, whilst eight brands of car manufacturers were represented:
Alfa Romeo, Audi, Honda, Hyundai, Peugeot, SEAT and Volkswagen.
Files and Altoè pair up at Target Competition
Target Competition fielded the strong duo of Josh Files and Giacomo Altoè at the wheel of two Honda Civic cars.
Files was aiming for a third TCR title in the current season after winning both the Middle East and Germany crowns (the latter for the second consecutive year), while his 17-year old teammate Altoè has established himself as one of the most competitive young drivers with brilliant results in the International, Benelux and Italian series.
One Peugeot 308 for Aurélien Comte
Several weeks ago at Le Castellet, Peugeot Sport showed for the first time the new 308 TCR that will be racing from next year. However, even without the full TCR kit, the Peugeot 308 Racing Cup car has already won TCR races in the Benelux and 24H series.
The twisty circuit of Adria suited the French car that was in the experienced hands of Aurélien Comte, who classified fifth in the TCR Benelux with three race victories.
Buri and Kangas come from the North
Fellow Finns Antti Buri (Audi RS3 LMS) and Olli Kangas (SEAT León) raced under the banner of LMS Racing. Buri comes fresh from a successful campaign in TCR Germany that saw him claiming one race victory at the Nürburgring and finishing a brilliant eighth in the Drivers’ championship.
Far less experienced than his teammate, Kangas has competed in the maiden season of TCR Scandinavia. Together, they have won the 12 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, final round of the 24H Touring Car Endurance series a few weeks ago.
A Russian duo for Innocenti-AMG Motorsport
TCR Russia competitors Lev Tolkachev and Denis Grigoriev raced in two SEAT León DSG cars run by the Innocenti-AMG Motorsport team.
Grigoriev was classified tenth in the Russian series, claiming his maiden TCR victory in Race 1 at the Smolensk Ring; his teammate Tolkachev ranked 13th in the final standings.
Engstler Motorsport enters the youngest team
The age of the two drivers entered by the Liqui Moly Team Engstler adds up to just 38 years. Luca Engstler (17) and Florian Thoma (21) form the youngest team that competed for the TCR Europe Trophy.
And yet, they have already shown their potential. After winning his maiden touring car race at Dubai in the TCR Middle East series, Engstler was crowned Junior champion of TCR Germany. Also a rookie in touring cars, his Swiss teammate Thoma made a sensational debut in TCR Germany, winning the second race in the season’s opener at Oschersleben. Engstler and Thoma will race two Volkswagen Golf GTI cars.
An Alfa Romeo Giulietta for Luigi Ferrara
Italy’s V-Action Racing Team will run a Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta for Luigi Ferrara.
The 35-year old from Bari is an experienced driver who has already had different occasions of sitting at the wheel of TCR cars. Ferrara has driven the V-Action Giulietta twice this year, in the German and the Italian series (at Hockenheim and Monza respectively), showing the potential of the Italian car.
TCR Ibérico champion joins with a Volkswagen
Previous to the TCR Europe Trophy, Francisco Abreu was crowned the first champion in the TCR Ibérico series. Winning two of the four races of the final event at Portimão in the Team Novadriver Volkswagen Golf GTI cars, Abreu was able to close the gap from the previous leader Francisco Mora to clinch the title. He also finished second in TCR Portugal behind Mora.
Team WRT with Maxime Potty’s VW Golf
While Team WRT is in the best position to win a second consecutive TCR International Series title in conjunction with Leopard Racing, the Belgian outfit is also one of the top seeds in the TCR Europe Trophy.
The young Belgian Maxime Potty will be at the wheel of the team’s single Volkswagen Golf GTI at Adria. Last weekend at Assen, Potty won the final race of TCR Benelux, securing third place in the championship standings.
Bulgaria’s Plamen Kralev to race his Audi
Bulgarian Touring Car specialist Plamen Kralev will compete in the TCR Europe Trophy with his Kraf Racing Audi RS3 LMS car.
Kralev, who switched to touring car racing three years ago after several season in GT and Formula 2, has successfully taken part in both TCR Italy and the FIA European Touring Car Cup with his Audi, ranking fifth and ninth in the two series respectively.
Hyundai will be ‘transparent’
The Hyundai i30 N has been accepted to take part in the TCR Europe Trophy under temporary homologation form.
Therefore they were ‘transparent’ as far as the race results are concerned.
BRC Racing Team ran the Hyundai that will be driven by Touring Car legend Gabriele Tarquini who only a few weeks ago gave the Korean car its first victory on its maiden appearance, in the TCR International Series at Zehjiang.
A Special Trophy for Drivers in DSG Cars & Late arrivals add to the TCR Europe Trophy…
As well as the drivers already announced ahead of the weekends activities, several more appeared from Practice onwards at Adria. Included in the late entries were TCR Italy star Kevin Giacon in his unmissable Opel Astra whilst others were Daniele Cappellari, Giovanni Altoè, Sandro Pelatti, Giovanni Berton and Ermanno Dionisio.
Seven cars out of the 20 entries are fitted with a DSG normal-production gearbox.They are three SEAT León (Daniele Cappellari’s, Denis Grigoriev’s and Lev Tolkachev’s), two Volkswagen Golf (Giovanni Altoè’s and Sandro Pelatti’s) and two Audi RS3 LMS
(Giovanni Berton’s and Ermanno Dionisio’s).They will also competed for special DSG Trophies that will be presented by the Adria International Raceway during a dedicated podium ceremony after Sunday’s second race.
Tarquini sets pole in the Hyundai But Files scores the points with his Honda
Gabriele Tarquini claimed pole position for the TCR Europe Trophy at Adria International Raceway. At the wheel of his BRC Racing Hyundai i30 N, the Italian driver emerged as the fastest in both, Q1 and Q2, posting a best lap of 1:19.341 that no one was able to match.
However, as the Hyundai was running with a temporary homologation document and therefore it was transparent as far as point scoring is concerned, the five points for the pole position were awarded to Josh Files of Target Competition. The Briton qualified his Honda Civic as second fastest with a lap of 1:19.518, only two tenths behind Tarquini and three tenths ahead of his teammate Giacomo Altoè (1:19.815).
The other drivers remained above the 1:20 mark, with Luca Engstler (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf), Luigi Ferrara (V-Action Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta) and Maxime Potty (Team WRT Volkswagen Golf) filling the positions between four and six. The three of them were covered by only one tenth of a second.
Antti Buri (LMS Racing) qualified the fastest Audi in seventh, ahead of Francisco Abreu (Team Novadriver Volkswagen) and Aurélien Comte (DG Sport Compétition Peugeot 308).
The latter will share the front row of the top-ten reverse grid for Race 2 with Giovanni Altoè who qualified tenth in his Volkswagen and will start from the pole position.
Q1 – Tarquini is faster than Potty
Gabriele Tarquini set the pace in Q1, posting the fastest lap of 1:19.923 after ten minutes of the half-an-hour period. The former world champion was the only driver capable to break the 1:20 wall and second fastest was Maxime Potty (1:20.182).
Target Competition’s teammates Giacomo Altoè (1:20.287) and Josh Files (1:20.316) placed themselves in third and fourth, with the young Italian capable of a improving significantly on his last lap. Luigi Ferrara clocked a brilliant fifth fastest lap of 1:20.535, followed by Antti Buri (1:20.672), Luca Engstler (1:20.679) and Aurélien Comte (1:20.832).
As usual there was drama for securing the last spots among the top-twelve.
Kevin Giacon managed to post the 12th fastest lap just under the chequered flag, demoting Francisco Abreu down to 13th. However, the Italian had his last lap disallowed for trespassing the track limits and the Portuguese regained the last place in Q2.
The following drivers qualified for Q2: Tarquini, Potty, Giacomo Altoè, Files, Ferrara, Buri, Engstler, Comte, Thoma, Giovanni Altoè, Kralev and Abreu
Q2 – Tarquini and Files are the fastest
Giacomo Altoè was the first to post a valid lap time of 1:20.038, with Luca Engstler second fastest in 1:20.126.
Gabriele Tarquini aborted his first attempt, but on the second one, he was clocked at 1:19.341 that was fast enough to claim the pole position, as the other drivers improved but not enough to beat him.
Eventually, Josh Files (1:19.518) and Giacomo Altoè (1:19.815) secured second and third places on the grid for Race 1, ahead of Luca Engstler (1:20.126) and Luigi Ferrara (1:20.229).
Drivers’ quotes after the Qualifying
Gabriele Tarquini (pole position): “I’m very pleased because this car is like a small child growing up to me and now it seems he is ready to go to university in 6 months! It was a very close Qualifying and the gaps are very small, plus we’ve never used the Yokohama tyres before. We worked on the set-up a lot because the car is used to running on other compounds.”
Josh Files (2nd fastest): “I’m really happy with the performance of the car, we worked very hard yesterday. We managed to save a lot of tyres throughout the free practice sessions as a result, so I could actually have two runs on new tyres in Q2, which was really important for that final lap. I couldn’t have beaten Tarquini, but I could have matched him had I not been held up, so I’m happy!”
Giacomo Altoè (3rd fastest): “It was quite good for me in qualifying, my aim was for pole position but I didn’t manage it. I’m proud because I was only slower than Josh [Files] by about 3 tenths, so it was good because Josh is a very good benchmark for me. The car is fast but not easy to drive, so I’m still getting used to it.”
Luca Engstler (4th fastest): “I’m really happy about this qualifying. My goal was to be the fastest Volkswagen Group car and I achieved it, so I’m quite satisfied. Now it will be maximum attack to score points tomorrow and not forgetting that we have a second race, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Giovanni Altoè (fastest of the DSG cars): “I’m happy with my lap but I know we could have done better, although I do prefer faster tracks. You can see the difference between the DSG and sequential gearbox cars on the straights. I think the Golf DSG is a very nice car to drive and very competitive in the corners. It’s also a little bit easier to work, so I think it’s a good compromise between a race car and a Cup car.”
Comte wins the TCR Europe Trophy in a Peugeot 308 as Files and Tarquini share race victories…
The TCR Europe Trophy at the Adria International Raceway delivered an unexpected result, as Aurélien Comte was able to grab the title at the wheel of his DG Sport Compétition Peugeot 308, the smallest car in the field with its 1.6 litre engine and standard bodywork.
Comte did not cross the line first in any of the two races that were won by Josh Files (Target Competion Honda Civic) and Gabriele Tarquini (BRC Racing Hyundai i30 N).
Yet the young Frenchman benefited from the fact that Tarquini was not allowed to score points – because his car is still racing under a temporary homologation form – and that Files took what seemed to be an unnecessary risk in Race 2, which resulted in a penalty.
However, Comte was a worthy winner as he led the second race until halfway before surrendering to Tarquini and then he was able to keep Giacomo Altoè (Target Competition Honda Civic) at bay until the chequered flag.
They finished on equal points, but Comte was awarded the title thanks to his better results, while Files was classified third in the Trophy, only two points behind Comte and Altoè.
The Teams’ Trophy went to Target Competition; DG Sport Compétition was placed second, and is worth remembering that the Belgian outfit had already won last year’s TCR Europe Trophy with Pierre-Yves Corthals in an Opel Astra.
The second race delivered a thrilling show, with six drivers involved in a close battle for the lead. And – most important – they were at the wheel of cars from five different brands: Hyundai, Peugeot, Honda, Audi and Volkswagen.
Race 1 – Files wins from Tarquini and Altoè
Josh Files took a great victory in Race 1 in the Target Competition Honda Civic; the Briton pipped pole sitter Gabriele Tarquini at the start and led from lights-to-flag. Tarquini was chasing him for most of the race, even knocking on the Honda’s rear bumper, but in the final laps the Hyundai driver lost contact from the leader and had to defend the second position from Files’ teammate Giacomo Altoè.
“I had a fantastic car. I took a great start and was able to keep Tarquini at bay. The old guy is still very quick and tough! He also hit me a few times,” said Files.
Aurélien Comte drove his Peugeot 308 home in fourth place, ahead of Antti Buri’s Audi that was closely followed by Maxime Potty’s Volkswagen Golf.
Luigi Ferrara kept the fourth position in the first half of the race in the V-Action Alfa Romeo Giulietta, but he was dropped by a drive-through penalty. “I don’t understand it, actually I was hit by Buri and sent wide,” complained the Italian.
Luca Engstler’s hope vanished because of a shifting problem that prevented him from taking a good start and eventually forced him back to the pits. Giovanni Altoè won the DSG class in his Volkswagen Golf ahead of Sandro Pelatti in a similar car.
Race 2 – Tarquini wins, but Comte is the champion
In a breathtaking second race, Gabriele Tarquini claimed victory at the wheel of his BRC Racing Hyundai i30 N, but Aurélien Comte in the Peugeot 308 finished second and scored the 25 points for the TCR Europe Trophy.
This was enough for him to grab the European title.
Starting from tenth of the reverse grid, Tarquini put in a great show to recover and managed to take the lead in the ninth of the 20 laps. It was not an easy task, because the fight for the lead saw a close battle between Comte, Antti Buri (LMS Racing Audi) and Maxime Potty (WRT Volkswagen), while the Target Competition duo of Josh Files and Giacomo Altoè was chasing the Hyundai.
Eventually, Tarquini used all his experience to overtake Comte, while Files took a risk to pass Potty and Buri, which he paid dearly. In fact, he was given a penalty that spoiled his chances of winning the trophy.
With Tarquini well ahead, Comte and Giacomo Altoè had a close fight for the second place that was worth the title. They finished in the order and on equal points, but Comte was crowned the champion for the better results (third and first, against Altoè’s two second places).
Giovanni Altoè took a second victory in the DSG class and won the special trophy, while Target Competition won the Teams’ Trophy.
Drivers’ quotes after the two races
Aurélien Comte (1st in the TCR Europe): “The car is still lacking something in terms of performance, but it has really good race pace so I was not surprised to have been running at the front in the race. I had planned to make the best start I could and create a gap at the front. It was quite difficult at the end of the race to keep Giacomo Altoè behind, but in the end everything was OK and we took the title.”
Giacomo Altoè (2nd in the TCR Europe): “I’m very happy with the result, although I am also a little bit disappointed too. As Aurélien and I finished on the same points, but he won the race so he became the champion. It was a really tough second race and I have to overtake a lot of cars, but at the same time I didn’t want to take too many risks. Even so, it was still a good race for me. I asked the team on the radio about the points and they said that I was leading, so I could stay in 2nd place. If I’d known, I could have tried to overtake.”
Josh Files (3rd in TCR Europe and winner of Race 1): “I believe my move at Turn 1 in Race 2 was a calculated risk. I actually made the apex, but it was just unfortunate that Antti Buri turned in. But, this is motorsport – I didn’t come here to finish 2nd and just score points. I came here to win races. My goal was to get past Comte, which I did and then the team told me I had a drive through penalty, because I wanted to hunt down Tarquini for the win. I remember meeting Gabriele when I was three years old, in 1994 when he was racing in the BTCC. Not only did I get to race against him but also beat him in Race 1, so overall I’m very happy with the weekend.”
Gabriele Tarquini (winner of Race 2): “It wasn’t a bad weekend for us at all! I enjoyed it a lot and had the chance to experience lots of different types of tyres. It was a tough race, the Honda is very fast car and they did a great job to make the best starts. Even if I had a small problem, I still found it pretty tough to overtake Files. I tried to push as hard as possible during the race, but without any mistake from him it was impossible for me to overtake in Race 1. The second race was much more fun because by starting 10th, I had some great fights and overtaking with the other cars. Even though it wasn’t easy to take the win, I definitely enjoyed it.”
Giovanni Altoè (1st in the DSG class): “I think I made a very good start in the race. For me it was the first time I’ve raced and started a TCR car, so I didn’t know how to do it properly. Fortunately I was more consistent in the race, I managed to look after my tyres better and make the move for the lead. I’m very happy to finish so well with a lot of the sequential gearbox cars behind me, so it was very nice for me to score a good result.”
As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of both the TCR Talk International Facebook Group and the TCR Talk UK Facebook Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from The TCR International Series, Domestic Series and any news on the TCR UK Series that starts in 2018.
Please also keep an eye out as I share my own thoughts in another post due soon on how the 2017 TCR Europe Trophy panned out and including the talking points from the weekend…
Please note that all images are used courtesy of WSC/TCR International Series and Domestic TCR Series
Until next time, all the best!