So the second running of the TCR Europe Trophy happened several weeks ago at the Adria International Raceway in Italy and I for one thoroughly enjoyed it! Here are the Guru’s thoughts on the weekends activities…
After the 2016 running of TCR Europe Trophy took the format of drivers competing in seven different events that were also Domestic TCR series weekends, the decision was made to give the Trophy a one off weekend for 2017.
Not a bad idea in my opinion and I now quite a few of the members in my TCR Talk facebook groups likened it to how the European Touring Car Cup used to run for a while and also as far back as the original FIA Touring Car Challenge/World Cup events back in 1993 and 1994.
As usual there were a few talking point from over the weekend and here are the Guru’s thoughts on them…
The Entry List…
With the entry requirements for the 2017 Trophy being that a driver had taken part in at least one TCR event during the year (International and/or Domestic), I for one hoped for quite a large entry with the maximum figure being 32.
However 24 isn’t a bad number either… In fact it better that what some single-seater and tin-top World Championships can muster on a normal weekend…
Some of Europe’s best were there to see if they could secure the prize but what came to my attention were the ones who didn’t appear but still qualified to be at Adria.
Having competed in the qualifying round of the TCR International Series, I was looking forward to seeing how the likes of Jens Reno Møller, Stian Paulsen and Milovan Mikica Vesnić who were the mainstays of the European roundes of the series…however they were a no show and I dare say for good reasons whatever they maybe.
However seeing the likes of Giacomo Altoe, Josh Files, Luca Engstler, Florien Thoma and Maxime Potty to name a few made me happy. The idea of this event was to have the best of the Domestic European TCR Series take each other on and that they certainly did.
What also made me happy as a fan was seeing other drivers from other TCR Series that I myself don’t follow as intently as others. Drivers from TCR Russia, TCR Scandinavia, TCR Portugal and TCR Iberico were represented as well as an inclusion of local drivers that were also involved in TCR Italy.
Hyundai Shows Its Heels Again…
I take my hat of to the PR and Marketing team at Hyundai for the way they have handled the debut of the Hyundai i30 N TCR model that has been built and will not doubt be raced across series in Europe next year.
With both Gabriele Tarquini and Alain Menu piloting the newest TCR model out there and making the stylish debut as they did in China with Tarquini taking the win, I wasn’t surprised to see that the Italian Touring Car Legend was entered for the TCR Europe Trophy.
If your going to sell a TCR car, do it the way Hyundai have. Put one of the best tintop drivers in it to develop it and then let them race it for customers to see what it can do.
Well, Gabriele certainly did that.
As Race One showed, Both Files and Altoe had the measure of the Hyundai, however you get the feeling that there was more to come. Tarquini’s drive through the field in Race Two certainly showed that and whilst the Hyundai was invisible to the points, it certainly was visible on track.
With one last appearance in the TCR International Series in Dubai before the car is then on sale to potential customers, expect to see more of this pedigree in action.
Team Target Competition In The Hunt…
After winning the ADAC TCR Germany title with Josh Files and taking an on track victory with Giacomo Altoe during the TCR Italy weekend in Monza, seeing Team Target Competition on the entry list seemed a no -brainer.
With both Files and Altoe in Honda’s for the weekend, they looked the strongest pairing on the entry list and also started as favourites for the title. Whilst both drivers missed out on the Drivers Trophy, the team secured the TCR Europe Teams Trophy and with the pace that both drivers showed on race day its no wonder.
Throw in the Pole Position that Files secured for Race One and it was obvious that its was going to be the Honda’s that were going to be fighting against Tarquini. And fight they did.
Were it not for the penalty that Files suffered in Race Two, the TCR Europe Drivers Trophy would have gone his way and that would have added to an impressive tally of three TCR Titles already. Altoe was also in with a shout for the title and pushed Comte hard in Race Two and would have been a worthy winner as well.
In my opinion, I’m hoping that Team Target decide to return to the TCR International Series and keep both Files and Altoe on as well.
A tall order to ask for but with the performances that the team have shown at International level previously (Taking Stefano Comini to the first ever TCR Drivers Title in 2015 and stand out guest performances from Jordi Oriola) to me this makes sense.
The long winter is already on us as at the time of writing this, Josh Files has already made his appearance in the 2017 TCR International Series finale for M1RA Racing. With Altoe having experience in five different makes of TCR car as well, he is a prospect to watch. So who knows what could happen…
The Audi Weight Break…
One fact that was obvious during the TCR Europe Trophy weekend was that the Audi’s entered didn’t seem to be on the same pace as the other TCR models taking part.
Now lets be clear: Anti Burri and Plamen Kralev are no slouches in their Audi RS3’s. Burri himself has taken a win this year in TCR Germany during his regular activities so there is talent there stright away whilst Kralev is experienced with the Audi as well.
However the weight break comes in handy for two reasons.
First, the weight break is the Audi’s fitted with a sequential gearbox were entitled to run 5 kilograms under the minimum weight of 1285 kg including the driver during the weekend from Qualifying onwards. For cars fitted with a DSG gearbox, they added 5 kilograms to their own minimum weight of 1250 kg including the driver.
This allowed Burri and Kralev a chance to go for better times and as it ended up, Burri qualified in seventh place whilst Kralev qualified in 11th place, only three tenths back. During the races, Burri made up a lot of ground until his contact with Files in race two, showing the effect BoP had.
Here’s the second reason: BoP changes effect TCR cars worldwide.
That’s right, meaning that this change will also affect the Comtoyou Racing Audi’s of both Stefano Comini and Frédéric Vervisch in the TCR International finale that takes place in Dubai. That will be a help right there.
The Audi has suffered in recent TCR International races, so having a weight break, however minimal will help the Saloon shaped TCR car in the final races of the year.
Adding The DSG Trophy…
This to me was a master stroke by the organisers and also allowed any late arrivals to still compete in the weekends activities.
There were six drivers who were racing for the DSG Trophy. They were using cars that were fitted with DSG gearboxes only, but it allowed them to compete on the same stage as the TCR Class Drivers and Teams.
There’s also the location to be considered behind this move. Adria International Raceway is also the home of the TCR Training Academy and the TCR Endurance Academy. The circuit has quite a TCR cars on hand that include the VW Golf, the Audy RS3 and the SEAT Leon.
As it was, Giovanni Altoe ended up as the driver who won the DSG Trophy, having driven a VW Golf DSG during the event.
The Volkswagen Challenge…
There were Volkswagen Golf TCR’s entered for the weekends activities and many were expecting a challenge to come from Luca Engstler, who secured the ADAC TCR Germany Rookie Title this year.
However, it didn’t work out that way…
Whilst he was fast in Free Practice and Qualifying, Engstler suffered mechanical issues during both races which ruled him out of the running for the Trophy. However Maxime Potty, Florian Thoma and Francisco Abreu upheld the honours for VW.
Potty, who is a TCR Benelux regular driving for WRT, was best VW finishing 6th in race one and 4th in race two and enjoyed the fights he had with the likes of Comte, Burri and Ferrara. Abreu also got his elbows out during both races and it was good to see the TCR Iberico competitor in the mix as well.
Thoma had a better race two as he started from Pole Position, but the fighting with the likes of Burri, Comte, Potty and Tarquini at the start dropped the Engstler Motorsport driver down the field. However all of the VW drivers showed well and backed up the fact that the Golf has been the car to have in 2017.
Comte Surprised Them All…
Coming into the weekend, the name Aurelien Comte would not be one you would have had placed a bet on to win the TCR Europe Trophy… however he beat them all.
However the TCR Benelux driver worked the system well as he quietly proceeded during the weekend with the DG Sport Competition run Peugeot 308 Cup car, the same car that Comte has driver all season. In Qualifying he secured 9th position for Race One and this led to a front row spot for race two on the reversed top ten grid.
In the races was where Comte made his mark though. Whilst the focus was rightly on Josh Files, Gabriele Tarquini and Giacomo Altoe for the lead of the race, Comte quietly made his way through the field to finish in fourth place. However with Tarquini not scoring, this gave Comte points for third place going in to Race Two.
Add in the front row start and the Frenchman used the acceleration of his 1.6 litre turbocharged machine to good use and soon he was in the lead. Despite being hounded by Altoe for second place on the road as Tarquini strode off into the distance Comte would score maximum points from the which sealed him the title.
Ironically, whilst Hyundai are selling their car through its racing, the first proper Peugeot 308 TCR car goes on sale for competition next year and what better way to sell it…
“This car is the improvement on the machine that was driven by the winner of the 2017 TCR Europe Trophy Champion…”
For its second year of competition, the TCR Europe Trophy attracted a decent sized grid with some very talented drivers at a track that seemed to showcase the excitement of close and competitive touring car racing well.
However, what will the third season of this Trophy look like I wonder?
Well, it could be a third different format in place if rumours are to be believed. The 2016 running of TCR Europe Trophy took the format of drivers competing in seven different events across several different Domestic TCR series weekends and that seemed to attract a good mix of European drivers.
This year it was a one off weekend held after most of the Domestic European Series had completed their seasons. Potentially for 2018, TCR Europe Trophy could be a dedicated series all of its own with up to four rounds at least in various different countries and there are benefits to this type of format.
The TCR International Series travels around the world and the teams and drivers that take part are some of the best in Touring Car racing, however they also require big budgets and sponsors to go racing.
So a dedicated European Series would be an alternative to those who cannot make the move to International just yet but are capable of racing in Europe as well as their own domestic series with loyal sponsors and support.
Again, the beauty of TCR cars being equal through Balance of Performance means that you can race your car in a season of ADAC TCR Germany for example and if there are no clashes, you can race the same car in TCR Europe Trophy during off weekends.
Its a possibility which many teams will investigate but we’ll look forward to some official confirmation from WSC in the coming months on the future plans of this series.
As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of the TCR Talk International Facebook Group & the TCR Talk UK Facebook Group & The TCR UK Fans 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.
I’m also pleased to announce that The Checkered Flag will be covering both the TCR International Series and the TCR UK Series with the talents of Alessio Campigotto and Tim Lumb at the helm. I’ll be continuing my World RX and Euro RX duties at the site, however please give these two gentlemen a follow for all the up to date news.
Please note that all images are used courtesy of WSC/TCR Europe Trophy.
Until next time, all the best!