TCR in 2018: What we know about The FIA World Touring Car Cup so far….

In what is the last of my series of posts about recent changes for TCR Racing in 2018, this entry covers the change from the FIA World Touring Car Championship to the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR)…

(Warning: This is a long post with a lot of details provided. Tea and Biscuits are advised for the duration of reading this post…)

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Ever since the TC1 regulations were introduced into the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship, something the series has struggled with is entries and interest from Manufacturers, Independent teams and drivers. This was highlighted more than ever in 2017. Citroen and Lada withdrew at the end of 2016 and whilst Volvo joined the series in 2016, this left only two Manufacturers to fight for the MAC3/Manufacturers title.

Whilst Independent teams such as Campos Racing, ROAL Motorsport and Zengo Motorsport returned for 2017, two of these teams downsized to one car. SLR returned with three Citroens whilst Munnich Motorsport also downsized to one car for 2012 Champion, Rob Huff. The first race of the year started off with 15 cars racing around the streets of Marrakech (keeping in mind that a World Championship requires 16 full season entries for every round) and while there were more entries to come, the future of the series was clear.

TC1 Regulations weren’t working in WTCC and the World Championship was in danger of not running in 2018. Keep in mind that over seven different manufacturers were involved in the technical group for creating TC1 regs however there have only ever been four Manufacturers that have entered WTCC with TC1 cars. (The Chevrolet’s are a fifth car built to TC1 regs but these have never been run as manufacturer entries).

Something had to change.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

There were rumours during the year that there could be a change in the International Touring Car landscape that would involve the use of the successful TCR regulations and it soon became clear that there were talks to try to secure the future of the FIA World Touring Car Championship.

There were rumours that an announcement would be released at the final meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council and we were not let down.

This is the following release announcing the changes for 2018 which affected both the FIA World Touring Car Championship and the TCR International Series:

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

The FIA World Touring Car Championship will be replaced from 2018 with new technical regulations, a new format and a new name following a vote of approval by the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 6th December.

From next season, the FIA World Touring Car Championship will be renamed the FIA World Touring Car Cup and abbreviated to WTCR. It will run to the TCR technical regulations under a two-year licensing agreement between the FIA, WTCR promoter Eurosport Events Limited (EEL) and WSC,owner of the TCR concept and trademark.

As part of the agreement, the TCR International Series will be discontinued while the FIA European Touring Car Cup will no longer run.

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

In an exciting change to the existing WTCC race weekend format, each event will consist of three races – an increase from the current two. One qualifying session and one race will take place on the opening day, with the second day more in keeping with the current WTCC set-up: namely a three-phase qualifying session and two races with the first race utilising a reverse grid.

A maximum of 26 entries will be accepted with priority given to existing TCR International and WTCC teams. Two further wildcard entries will be permitted at each event at the discretion of EEL and the FIA. Entries can be lodged with the FIA from 15 December until 30 January 2018.

The new name, WTCR, has been introduced to reflect the switch from TC1 to the TCR technical regulations. Meanwhile, the change of status from world championship to world cup signals the start of an exciting new era for international touring car racing when it is hoped that more affordable technical regulations will trigger a flurry of competitor interest, while building on the existing fan and media following enjoyed by the WTCC.

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François Ribeiro (Head of Eurosport Events): “The combination of the TCR technical regulations, the expertise and neutrality of the FIA and its stringent sporting rules and procedures, plus the promotional strength of Eurosport Events gained since 2005 will deliver a highly competitive grid, exciting racing and a fan-friendly format that can only drive success.”

Marcello Lotti (Chief Executive, WSC): “We are very proud of this agreement that fully respects the very spirit of TCR. The association with such an experienced promoter as Eurosport Events together with the FIA label on the WTCR represent the ultimate recognition for the TCR concept that we launched three years ago and hasn’t stopped growing since.”

TCR International Series Oschersleben, Germany 08 - 09 July 2017

Sporting Regulations
Regulated by the FIA and backed up by an experienced race management team, WTCR events will be run to the highest organisational standards possible.

Technical Regulations
The TCR technical regulations will be licensed by WSC to EEL/FIA as the FIA WTCR regulations and frozen until the end of 2019. Only TCR cars homologated by WSC and assigned with the FIA WTCR passport issued by the FIA will be eligible. The FIA and TCR technical departments will determine the balance of performance (BOP) at each event, while success ballast will be allocated per driver. The FIA will be responsible for technical management in consultation with TCR representatives.

Promotion
WTCR promoter Eurosport Events will provide a level of promotional resource similar to that enjoyed by the WTCC to ensure that WTCR benefits from live coverage on Eurosport and more than 50 networks around the world, the expertise of Eurosport Events’ promotional and marketing personnel and a comprehensive social media campaign.

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

TCR regulations explained:
The TCR technical regulations cater for front-wheel-drive, four/five-door saloons or hatchbacks using turbocharged production engines with a capacity of between 1750-2000cc and with a maximum power output of 350bhp. No fewer than 19 TCR-based championships or series exist around the world while several manufacturers have, or are in the process, of homologating TCR cars including Alfa Romeo, Audi, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, KIA, LADA, Opel, Peugeot, Renault, SEAT, Subaru and Volkswagen. To date, more than 600 TCR racing cars have been built and sold to customer teams.

So, since this was released on 6th December, what do we know about the new look FIA World Touring Car Cup? Allow the Guru to educate you…

The Calendar…

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Well, we were made to wait 16 days but a provisional calendar was released on 22nd December by Eurosport Events Ltd. Whats clear is that the calendar has retained 90% of the events of the 2017 WTCC Calendar and only one event from the 2017 TCR International Series has been retained, but I’ve explained my thoughts on this in another post here.

2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) Calendar

7-8 April: Marrakech (Morocco)
28-29 April: Hungaroring (Hungary)
10-12 May: Nürburgring Nordschleife (Germany)
19-21 May: Zandvoort (Netherlands)
23-24 June: Vila Real (Portugal)
4-5 August: Termas de Río Hondo (Argentina)
29-30 September: Ningbo (China)
27-28 October: Suzuka (Japan)
15-18 November: Macau (Macau)

An additional event will be added on either 21-22 July or 6-7 October subject to approval.

However, this calendar clearly shows that only one event has been retained from the 2017 TCR International Series Calendar: Hungary.

Here are the list of events that have not been retained from 2017 TCR International Series:

Rustavi, Georgia
Sakhir, Bahrain
Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
Monza, Italy
Salzburgring, Austria
Oschersleben, Germany
Buriram, Thailand
Zhejiang, China
Dubai, UAE.

Here are the list of events that have not been retained from 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship:

Monza, Italy
Losail, Qatar.

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This alone makes you think for a moment. Ninety percent of the events from TCR in 2017 have not been retained whilst only two have been dropped from WTCC in 2017. This is clearly due to Eurosport Events Ltd having contracts in place for 2018, however you have to feel for those circuits dropped from TCR. A lot of them had some bloody good racing on them…

The benefit of this calendar is that a lot of the drivers and teams involved in either series will already have setup knowledge of a lot of these tracks. However for those that haven’t raced on these circuits before, the fact that the Race Weekend format has changed will also help a lot.

With two Free Practice Sessions, four Qualifying sessions and Three races to compete in, that’s a lot of time to find the cars sweetspot for the weekend and improve in performance over the three races. However, it’s also a lot of points to lose of your car is damaged in Free Practice and Quali and can’t race or if its damaged heavily in race one…

The Race Weekend Format…

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One of the downfalls of the FIA World Touring Car Championship has always been the confusing nature of the Qualifying format. Back in 2005 it was easy: One Qualifying session of thirty minutes to determine the race one grid. Race two saw the top eight finishers reversed with everyone from ninth place down starting in the same position as they did in race one.

Simple, right? Yeah I thought so too. I won’t go into the various changes that have taken place since but to clarify, here’s the Race Weekend Format for the 2018 FIA WTCR…

Day One:
Free Practice 1 (30 minutes)
Free Practice 2 (30 minutes)
Qualifying (30 minutes)
Race 1 (top 10 classified finishers score points as follows: 27-20-17-14-12-10-8-6-4-2)

Day Two:
Qualifying Q1 (25 minutes)
Qualifying Q2 (10 minutes)
Qualifying Q3 (top-five shootout)
Race 2 (top 10 positions reversed after Q2, top 10 classified finishers score points as follows: 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1)
Race 3 (grid as per combined order after Q3, top 10 classified finishers score points as follows: 30-23-19-16-13-10-7-4-2-1)

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

Even my head hurts looking at this!!! Unfortunately it seems that to give the new FIA WTCR its best chance of success, the organisers have opted for two days worth of full on action…and they don’t seem to have learnt from the confusions mistakes/issues of the past.

So let me get this straight for you:

There will be three races (One on the Saturday, two on the Sunday), four lots of Qualifying (One on Saturday, three on Sunday) and finally there will be three lots of points scoring systems depending on which race takes place on which day…

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

(I can already hear Martin Haven groaning in disbelief at the point systems alone…along with everyone else who will be either following or involved with WTCR in 2018. Suddenly being a highly skilled mathematician will be part of the CV of a skilled and experienced commentator…).

Straight away this makes for a busy weekend of action and with the move from two races to three, it means that a lot more resources will be consumed by the series. This will be covered later in post where I explain the increase in entry fees. This move also means that every point scored by drivers and teams will count in all thirty races as they race to the final round in Macau to see who will be the first ever WTCR Champion.

As always, we’ll find out how this will work out as the season progresses and I’m sure any issues will be revealed.

The Potential Entry List…

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

From the start, its been made very clear that there will be a maximum grid of 26 cars only for FIA WTCR and that first priority will go to teams from the 2017 versions of both the FIA World Touring Car Championship and the TCR International Series. However this doesn’t stop other teams applying who are interested in racing in a World Cup under TCR Regulations.

As per the above earlier:

“A maximum of 26 entries will be accepted with priority given to existing TCR International and WTCC teams. Two further wildcard entries will be permitted at each event at the discretion of EEL and the FIA. Teams have to field a minimum of two cars, with an entry fee of 150,000 EUR for a two-car team.”

WTCR Series Principle Francois Ribeiro explained the reasons behind both the grid limit and the entry fee increase to TouringCarTimes here. To localise things a bit, here’s what he said about the Grid Limit…

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“We are after quality not volume, we’ve seen some TCR races with big grids, but a lot of red flags and race incidents and a big discrepancy in driving standards.

“We did not feel it was necessary for WTCR, and I was after quality, to select strong teams and strong drivers and work with them on a two-year basis, and not go opening the door to any possible team.

“If we have a grid of 26 full season cars next year, that’s already a very big grid.”

So lets look at this in a bit more detail…

Here are the teams that ran two car entries during the 2017 TCR International Series:

M1RA
Leopard Racing Team / WRT
Comtoyou Racing
Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing
WestCoast Racing
GE-Force
DG Sport Competition

Here are the Independent teams that ran entries during the 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship:

Sebastien Loeb Racing
ROAL Motorsport
Munnich Motorsport
RC Motorsport
Campos Racing
Zengo Motorsport

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

Now, take the assumption that all teams enter for the 2018 season and you have your 26 car grid straight away. However I’ll make it clear that this is not a list of actual entrants and I am purely making a point here. The period for entries to be lodged with the FIA for the 2018 WTCR runs from 15 December 2017 until 30 January 2018, after which we’ll know who has entered.

What you do have here though is the Quality that Ribeiro referred to. These teams are at the top of their games in International Touring Car Racing and any driver who signed with them is already a highly skilled and qualified talent behind the wheel of either a TCR car or formally a TC1 car.

Budget will also play a big part in entries for next year…which leads to the next subject:

The Entry Fees…

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This has been a subject much debated amongst the members of the Social Media Groups I’m in and its pretty clear to see why. Let me present you with a few figures to bear in mind.

Here are the entry fee amounts for the various Touring Car Series that are involved in the making of the WTCR:

2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) Entry: €150,000 Euros for Two Car Team.
2018 TCR Europe Series Entry: €19,500 per car.
2017 TCR International Series Entry: €40,000 Euros per car.
2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship Manufacturer Entry: €315,000 Euros.
2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship Independent Entry: €39,000 Euros per car.
2018 TCR UK Series full season Entry: £15,000 per car.

Now keep in mind here that with WTCR not being recognised as an official World Championship (We’ll get to that later) due to no Manufacturer involvement, this is why the entry fee for 2018 has increased.

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When you consider that WTCC had four Manufacturers involved in 2016 with at least two cars each (Citroen and Volvo had two, Honda and Lada had three) that’s over a whopping €3,000,000 at least that was paid into the running costs and resources of the championship from Manufacturer entries.

Now with WTCR running with no direct official Manufacturer involvement as per the TCR Sporting regs (TCR has been successful because of the competition between Customer Teams who purchase cars from Manufacturers who have built and tested the cars for them), this means that there has been an increase in the entry fee for former TCR International Series entrants by up to 70k for a two car team whilst a former WTCC Independent team sees a decrease of up to a 72k for a two car team.

Now I realise that costs have to be met to make sure there are adequate resources and transport and there are reasons behind this, but again I can’t help but notice that this seems to be another concession made by TCR entrants… make of that what you will. It also means that TCR entrants will need to step up to meet a larger budget to compete on the same level next year and we are all aware of how difficult that can be for any team that requires sponsors and support to compete.

WTCR Series Principle Francois Ribeiro explained the reasons behind both the grid limit and the entry fee increase to TouringCarTimes here. However here’s what he said about the increase in fees:

TCR International Series Bahrain, Sakhir 14 -16 April 2017

“We took the decision to announce (WTCR) to our teams on the same day. In the 24 hours afterwards, I was in contact with nearly all the TCR International teams and all the TCR manufacturers behind the TCR regulation. The response has been very positive.

“To all of the TCR International teams and manufacturers, I told them WTCR is going to be a bit more expensive than the running costs of TCR International, with no doubt. (The reason for this is) we want to do three races…and the FIA entry fees will be higher as the level of staff we have to manage the sporting and technical equity and fairness of the championship will be higher; so it’ll be more expensive, but you are going to gain a level of professionalism which will bring you to a different level of recognition and sponsor visibility.

“While the TCR teams will be hit with an increase, the running cost for the WTCC teams is set to reduce, as although the entry fee is higher than the 39,000 EUR set for the 2017 season, the running cost of a TCR car is substantially lower, with the engine lease alone for a TC1-specification engine running past 300,000 EUR, while a TCR car with engine was price capped at 130,000 EUR in 2017.

“To all of the WTCC teams I told them it’ll cost them less than WTCC, and you are going to protect your level of exposure throughout the next two years,” added Ribeiro. “So in the end I didn’t have any bad comments about next year. I told to both of them you will have priority before we speak to any teams from outside.”

Ribeiro has made it very clear here that he’s spoken with both sets of teams in regards to the reasons and decisions made here and it seems that all parties are happy. So as I’ve pointed out before, we’ll see what happens at the start of the first season of WTCR competition next year and how many cars we see lining up on the grid at Marrakech.

The Commercial Package…

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We know that there will be little change in the setup of the televised coverage for the WTCR from what was the coverage for WTCC.

Eurosport will be showing races live as part of being the promoter of the Championship, meaning that we should have live coverage of both the Saturday Quali and Race action and that there should be live coverage of the Sunday Quali and Race action.

But, consider for a moment what worked for the TCR International Series and indeed other domestic and regional TCR Series: Free, un-embargoed live coverage on YouTube. I’ve referred to this in another post related to the TCR UK Series here and the same concern should be raised again.

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Previously, not every country has received Live coverage of both Qualifying and the WTCC Race coverage. From a UK perspective, Qualifying has rarely been live and the WTCC races have often been scheduled later in the day so that prime air time can be given to other sports.

I’m fully aware that there is the option of Eurosport Player out there for fans to sign up and use, but remember that TCR fans have had free access to YouTube and in this day in age Online Streaming is becoming ever more popular. If WTCR uses YouTube as well as Live TV coverage for all of the action then this will grow the audience further in what will be a heavily scrutinised first year of competition.

The Alternative Option…

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Should there be the case that some teams decide that WTCR doesn’t fit the profile they want to be racing with next year, there is another alternative for them to race Internationally and still receive the same levels of competition and coverage as they did with the TCR International Series.

The 2018 TCR Europe Series.

Being run by WSC and maintaining the same live coverage on Motorsport TV and YouTube as well as offering much reduced entry fees, this presents a fallback option for those that cannot commit to a full season of WTCR with a two car team.

Already though, some teams are looking at the option of running simultaneous programmes in both WTCR and TCR Europe (Comtoyou Racing being one of the interested parties in running dual programmes). So this is a simple win-win situation for all teams involved with TCR machinery that wish to race on a larger stage, outside of Domestic TCR Series.

The Guru’s Thoughts on FIA WTCR…

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So, I’ve outlined in this very long post (apologies for that, there’s a lot of detail around WTCR) what we know so far about what will be the 2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR). I would normally throw in a section that explains what we don’t know…but there’s not a lot that’s been left out here for me to point out.

Now before we go further please let me make something clear: This is not a post that’s bashing or demeaning WTCR for 2018. I’m not here to do that. I’m merely presenting the facts to the interested parties and fans out there in tintop land who want to know whats happening. WSC, Eurosport Events and the FIA have been very clear on how things will proceed.

But I’m going to make one point clear that is repeated in the facts presented by all three parties when explaining about what WTCR will look like:

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

There has been a lot sacrificed by WSC. Events have not been retained from the TCR International Series Calendar and you could also argue that to make up for the lack of Manufacturer entries, the entry fee has seen an increase that former TCR entrants will need to locate extra budget for. To add further, the argument could be made that to keep a World Series in place for Touring Cars, TCR regulations were the only way forward and the only bargaining chip that Lotti held during talks that led to the creation of WTCR.

However, consider that we now have a World Cup that’s focused for the next two seasons on TCR regulated cars being driven by the best Touring Car drivers in the world. With Live Television coverage around the world (fingers crossed).

That sounds bloody awesome to me!

I see a win-win situation here for one man: Marcello Lotti, the father of TCR Regulations, the former Championship Principal of the FIA World Touring Car Championship who was in charge at a time when WTCC rivalled the likes of BTCC, DTM and V8 Supercars. This is the biggest advert yet that Lotti’s formula for Touring Cars works and this will only encourage other countries to look towards TCR as a possible national series in the future.

TCR International Series Buriram, Thailand 01 - 03 September 201

Lets also not forget that whilst WTCR is in place for 2018 and 2019, this gives Eurosport Events Ltd and the FIA two years to produce a new set of regulations that work to encourage back Manufacturer teams for a potential resurrection of WTCC in 2020…

But consider another option, one that’s already been raised which could happen. What if in 2020, the WTCC returns to accommodate Manufacturer teams that run TCR cars in a World Championship? A scary thought but one that could happen and a thought that should be kept in mind as we witness the success of what could be WTCR over the next two years… We’ll all be watching the racing with as much interest an excitement as we’ll be waiting for the details of the next set of regulations for the 2020 WTCC season.

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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 FIA WTCR, The TCR Europe Series, Domestic TCR Series and any news on the TCR UK Series that starts in 2018.

Please note that all images in this blog post are used courtesy of WSC/TCR International Series and Eurosport Events/FIA WTCC/FIA.

All excerpts/comments from Francois Ribeiro and Marcello Lotti have been used from material published by both the FIA/Eurosport Events and TouringCarTimes.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

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TCR in 2018: Pick a Calendar! Any Calendar!!

Its said that Christmas is the season of Goodwill and Giving…

Well, as a TCR Fan, I can happily say that over the last few days there has been a lot of giving with three TCR related calendars being confirmed for 2018!!

We finally had the announcement just before Christmas of a provisional 2018 Calendar for the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR). The day before saw the revision of the 2018 TCR Middle East Series Calendar as it dropped from four events to three. Finally two days before saw the revision of the 2018 TCR Europe Series Calendar as it joins forces with the TCR BeNeLux Series.

So this post will put all of these dates for your diary in one place for easy reading and understanding!

The 2018 TCR Middle East Series Calendar…

2017-2017 Bahrain Race 2---Start_1

The TCR promoter WSC has finalized the calendar for the 2018 TCR Middle East series that will now be contested over three racing weekends instead of the four included in the previously released schedule.

The original opening event on January 5th and 6th has been dropped due to logistics reasons and so the season will now begin on January 18th and 19th at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.

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The Dubai Autodrome will host the second event one week later, while the series will end at the Bahrain International Circuit at the end of February.

TCR competitors will race on the 3.1Km North Track in Abu Dhabi, the 4.3Km Dubai International Circuit and the 2.6Km Oasis Track in Bahrain. British driver Josh Files is the reigning TCR Middle East Champion.

2018 TCR Middle East calendar

18 – 19 January: Abu Dhabi
25 – 26 January: Dubai
23 – 24 February: Bahrain

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The 2018 TCR Europe / TCR BeNeLux Joint Series Calendar…

2017-2017 Adria Race 1---Race 1 grid

The new TCR Europe Series and TCR Benelux will share the bill in five race meetings during the 2018 season.

This also enables the TCR Europe Series to add a seventh event to its previously announced calendar, which will be at Circuit Zandvoort in the Netherlands on Whitsun Monday 21st May. The competitors of TCR Europe and Benelux series will race together at Zandvoort, Spa, Hungaroring, Assen and Barcelona

As a result, the full season entry fee for TCR Europe has been raised by 2000 euros from 17,500 to 19,500.

2017-2017 Adria Race 1---Race 1 start_02

Paulo Ferreira, the promoter of the TCR Europe Series, commented: “We are delighted to welcome the competitors of TCR Benelux. Together we will be able to make both series grow up quicker and better. The Belgian and Dutch drivers have already proved how good they are in Touring Cars and the confrontation between them and their colleagues in TCR Europe will produce some fantastic races.”

Xavier Schene, General Director of RACB Sport added: “To race together with TCR Europe in our five events will provide the TCR Benelux competitors with the opportunity of being part of an impressive grid, while racing for their own classification at the same time. The teams and drivers are all enthusiastic about this significant evolution.”

Hans Hugenholtz, Vice President of KNAF echoed: “The great benefit for the TCR Benelux competitors is that they will also score points for TCR Europe. As a result, why not compete for both titles? We are also delighted to see that the calendar includes two of the best Dutch racing events. This is important for our teams and drivers who have invested in TCR in the last two years.”

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French driver Aurelien Comte is the reigning TCR Europe Drivers Champion whilst Target Competition are the reigning TCR Europe Teams Champions. Belgian driver Benjamin Lessennes is the reigning TCR BeNeLux Drivers Champion whilst Boutsen Ginion Racing are the reigning TCR BeNeLux Teams Champions.

2018 TCR Europe Series / TCR Benelux Series Calendar

6th May: Le Castellet, France
21st May: Zandvoort, Netherlands
10th June: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
8th July: Hungaroring, Hungary
19th August: TT Assen, Netherlands
23rd September: Monza, Italy
21st October: Barcelona, Spain

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The 2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) Calendar…

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

The all-new FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) is set to visit 10 race tracks across four continents in 2018 following publication of the provisional schedule.

Subject to FIA World Motor Sport Council and national motorsport federation (ASN) approval, the inaugural WTCR calendar will open at the semi-permanent Circuit Moulay El Hassan in Marrakech, Morocco (7-8 April) and close at the Circuito da Guia in Macau (15-18 November), ranked as the world’s most challenging street course and a touring car venue for more than half a century.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Other highlights include races at the Hungaroring near Budapest, the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany and on the streets of Vila Real in Portugal. Termas de Río Hondo will become Argentina’s home of WTCR in early August, while the series heads to the Ningbo International Speedpark in China (29-30 September).

Zandvoort in The Netherlands hosts its first FIA world touring car event since 2007. Suzuka has been chosen as the venue of Japan’s round of the WTCR together with the Super Formula finale.

TCR International Series Spa - Francorchamps 04 - 06 May 2017

An extra event is due to be added to bring the 2018 WTCR schedule to 10 weekends, subject to FIA World Motor Sport Council and ASN approval. It will take place on either 21-22 July or 6-7 October depending on the outcome of ongoing discussions with two parties.

Each WTCR event will feature three races and the provisional calendar for 2018, which remains subject to FIA World Motor Sport Council and ASN ratification, appears below:

2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) Calendar

7-8 April: Marrakech (Morocco)
28-29 April: Hungaroring (Hungary)
10-12 May: Nürburgring Nordschleife (Germany) 
19-21 May: Zandvoort (Netherlands)
23-24 June: Vila Real (Portugal)
4-5 August: Termas de Río Hondo (Argentina) 
29-30 September: Ningbo (China)
27-28 October: Suzuka (Japan)
15-18 November: Macau (Macau)

An additional event will be added on either 21-22 July or 6-7 October subject to approval

François Ribeiro (Head of Eurosport Events, WTCR promoter):

“Publication of the provisional schedule marks another important step ahead of the inaugural FIA WTCR season in 2018. The nine selected events will not only offer a great variety of circuits to drivers and teams, but will also mean that WTCR races take place in front of big crowds.”

“We are in discussions with two potential locations, which Eurosport Events has not worked with before, to select one additional event for FIA WTCR
schedule, and we hope to conclude these as soon as possible.”

The Guru’s Thoughts on the Calendars…

TCR International Series Georgia, Rustavi 30 March - 2 April 201

So, now that we have some calendars announced (but not all of them confirmed yet…) there are several things that I wanted to point out.

1. I love the fact that Zandvoort is included in all three WTCR/TCR Europe/TCR BeNeLux calendars. Personally I think that this particular weekend should be billed as some sort of “TCR Super Weekend” with TCR Europe & TCR Benelux on the same weekend.

Motorsports / TCR, 6. Event 2016, Zandvoort, NL

This will be a great weekend that will showcase the success of the TCR regulations with three different series in action. This means that Zandvoort will effectively house almost all of the best talent we have seen behind the wheel of TCR machinery since its creation in 2015. Its a fantastic time to be a TCR fan isn’t it?

2. Both of the legendary circuits Macau & Nurburgring have been retained in the WTCR Calendar. Well I’m sold. I am a massive fan of both of these circuits and I feel that these will present some of the biggest challenges to the 26 car field in 2018. Seeing the likes of (hopefully) Comini, Oriola, Huff, Homola etc racing around the Nurburgring as the headline TCR act during a weekend that will also see TCR action in the Nurburgring VLN 24 Hours event is brilliant. Looking forward to that one!

AUTO - WTCC NURBURGING 2017

Now we’ve already had the TCR International Series compete at Macau in both 2015 and 2016. However after two years of action there was a disagreement between WSC and the Macau GP committee due to the organisers having opened up the rules to allow in 2 litre turbocharged Touring Cars that weren’t restricted to TCR regs.

This means that anyone could enter a car from the British Touring Car Championship, Chinese Touring Car Championship, FIA European Touring Car Cup or other series that used regs that included 2 litre turbocharged tintops. However it seems that this dispute has been resolved and thanks to whatever has been agreed, we are at least guaranteed the sight of TCR cars racing at Macau for the next two years.

WTCC Macau

3. Personally I get the feeling that during negotiations for Eurosport Events to use TCR regulations in a World Series, that using the WTCC Calendar was part of the agreement. If you take a look at the 2017 TCR International Series calendar, there are not many venues that have made the transition onto the WTCR calendar here from 2017.

For example, the following 2017 TCR International Series circuits are missing from the 2018 Calendar:

Rustavi, Georgia
Sahkir, Bahrain
Spa, Belgium
Monza, Italy
Salzburgring, Austria
Oschersleben, Germany
Buriram, Thailand,
Zhejiang, China
Dubai, UAE.

The following 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship circuits are missing from the 2018 Calendar:

Monza, Italy
Losail, Qatar

It makes you wonder doesn’t it…

Its almost as if to keep an FIA World Series event for Touring cars active in 2018 the only thing needed were some stable regulations loaned from WSC, whilst Eurosport Events Ltd would carry on with everything regardless. All this and there is the confirmation that the TCR International Series will be suspended until 2020.

Interesting…

TCR International Series Salzburgring, Austria 9 - 11 June 2017

Despite these decisions having been made, the one thing that everyone wanted for WTCR was a calendar and we now have a provisional one. Since the news was released, there has already been updates from the likes of Comtoyou Racing and Craft-Bamboo Racing that they are looking to get programmes ready for 2018.

There is also the promise of a tenth location being added to the calendar that Eurosport Events Ltd has not worked with before. This could be a number of tracks that has seen TCR action and not WTCC action but I look forward to seeing what the tenth one will be, remaining hopeful that this will be a former TCR International Series location.

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 FIA WTCR, The TCR Europe Series, Domestic TCR Series and any news on the TCR UK Series that starts in 2018.

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Please note that all images in this blog post are used courtesy of WSC/TCR International Series/TCR Benelux/TCR Europe/TCR Middle East and Eurosport Events/FIA WTCC

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

 

TCR in 2018: What we know about The TCR UK Series so far…

With recent announcements adding more details to how the 2018 TCR UK Series will look, I thought it was time to put together something that will round up what we know so far.

The Calendar…

As many of you may have noticed, I was quite excited when this was announced, as were many others. Despite the announcement of the calendar, it has been stressed by the series organiser that it is provisional at this time.

TCR UK 2018 Calendar
Credit: BRSCC / TCR UK

The beauty of this calendar is that it doesn’t clash with next years BTCC Calendar. This means that should a driver wish to contest both series they can. This decision also means that should any teams wish to run a dual program next year, the opportunity is there.

With the calendar being announced in September, this also gives any interested teams and drivers a full six months to prepare a package or program to take part in the first season of the championship.

The Support Series…

With the TCR UK Series being the headline act in 2018, this gives other British Motorsport series the opportunity to become a part of the first years activities. The following series will be on the Support Package at almost every TCR UK event:

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Credit: Jon Elsey

The Britcover National Formula Ford 1600 Championship with Avon Tyres
The Mazda MX-5 SuperCup
The Milltek Sport Volkswagen Racing Cup
The Civic Cup Championship sponsored by Tegiwa. (Two rounds only)

What is clear with the championships involved is that they are all one make Championships where either a class structure is in place to balance performance and keep things fair or driver talent is a key factor as the cars are all the same apart from setup data or experience.

With the variety of Tintop action involved from the likes of Volkswagen, Honda and Mazda to addition of the exceptional single seater excitement of Formula Ford 1600, fans that will be watching the action track side will have plenty to keep them enthralled over a race weekend or race day.

The TCR UK Taster/Test Day…

As TCR machinery has raced mostly in Europe or Internationally since the inception of the regulations in 2015, there hasn’t been much of a chance for drivers and teams to have a go at testing out the latest cars unless they compete in a race weekend as part of a one off experience.

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Credit: Motorbase Performance

So the chance to test cars that are available for hire or on sale was setup by the BRSCC to take place on the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit on 29th November. What a fantastic idea!

The likes of 2017 TCR International Champion Jean-Karl Vernay, former World, European and British champion Gabriele Tarquini, TCR International driver Frédéric Vervisch, Jordi Gené, Thomas Jäger, triple TCR champion Josh Files and Mario Ferraris were on hand to assist potential buyers of cars for 2018.

With up to as many as thirty four drivers sampling cars, this led to what was a very busy and successful day.

As well as taking the chance to sample this new machinery (there were cars present from SEAT, Volkswagen, Audi, Honda, Opel, Alfa Romeo and Hyundai, with Peugeot Sport personnel also in attendance despite not yet having a car available) there were several UK teams in attendance as well.

Pyro Motorsport, SWR, Carl Swift, Motorbase and Brisky Racing were testing their cars and this offered a chance for these outfits to further prepare for next season.

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Kissling Motorsport at the TCR UK Taster Day. Credit: TCR UK

Jonathan Ashman, the TCR UK Promoter, commented on how successful the Taster Day was:

“We were delighted with how well the day went, the pit lane was busy all day and the meeting room upstairs saw just as much activity.  The feedback we’ve had from drivers and the manufacturers has been very positive and that can only be good news for next year.”

“The day gave everyone a chance to meet my team and find out more about TCR UK, but with an emphasis on allowing potential teams and drivers the chance to experience TCR cars.”

The teams interested so far…

2017-2017 Buriram Race 1---Start Race1_7 (1)

With registrations for next season officially opened at the start of December, there has been plenty of news about teams who have purchased TCR machinery with the intention of competing next year.

Now, let me make this next point perfectly clear: This is not a list of entrants confirmed for 2018.

This is a list of teams who have announced on Social Media/Press outlets that they have TCR cars with the intention of competing in the TCR UK Series next year.

When BRSCC/TCR UK see fit to announce an official entry list, you can be sure that the Guru will happily publish this!

Teams:

Sean Walkinshaw Racing: Honda Civic TCR

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The former Boutsen-Ginion Honda now run by SWR. Credit: Sean Walkinshaw Racing

SWR already have a top flight GT effort underway in Asia and announced earlier in 2017 the intention to run a two car squad using Honda Civic TCR ‘s. The team have already take delivery of a Honda Civic run by the Boutsen-Ginion squad in the TCR Benelux series.

With several drivers having driven the car and a lot of testing mileage already undertaken in 2017, the team already has a striking colour scheme on the Honda that will see them stand out next season.

Pyro Motorsport: Honda Civic TCR

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Finlay Crocker in the TCR Italy Series. Credit: Pyro Motorsport

This well known BTCC Support squad have already been in action in TCR machinery, having run a Honda Civic for Finlay Crocker in the TCR Italy Series as well as running their own programmes in the TOCA Package.

2017 BTCC Champion Ash Sutton has tested the car quite a lot recently and with TCR being seen as stepping stone in the ladder between the likes of Renault Clio’s/Mini’s etc and the BTCC, the squad already has plenty of knowledge of this type of Touring Car to be just as competitive as the other outfits who are also testing.

Carl Swift/Area Motorsport: SEAT Leon TCR

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Carl Swift at Brands Hatch. Credit: Marl Paulson Social Media

Already known for his racing exploits with Honda’s and in the 24H Endurance Series, Mortgage & Financial Advisor Swift has plans to run a SEAT Leon TCR for 2018. The Sheffield driver was on hand at the TCR UK Test/Taster Day to show off the merits of the well developed Leon Racer.

Swift is currently looking for Sponsors/Partners to help fund his TCR UK effort in 2018 and is likely to be an interesting thorn in the side to the bigger teams that plan to be out in action next year.

Motorbase Performance: Volkswagen Golf TCR

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Michael Caine at Brands Hatch. Credit: Motorbase Performance

Dave Bartrum’s well known BTCC outfit has already confirmed the purchase of three VW’s for 2018 and explained that TCR fits in well with the squad’s lineup of touring cars now that they have closed down their GT program.

However what is interesting is that it is possible we could see Motorbase taking on the best in European TCR events in 2018 and not just a TCR UK programme. Thanks to their recent GT effort which saw action in the UK and Europe, Batrum’s squad is well placed to spring a surprise should they concentrate on a European entry.

Lewis Kent: Hyundai i30 N TCR

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017
The Hyundai i30 N TCR in the 2017 TCR International Series. Credit: TCR Series

2017 BRSCC Ford Fiesta runner up Lewis Kent announced recently that he will be steeping up from the Ford ranks to make the move into TCR UK having purchased one of the Hyundai i30 N TCR cars. Kent will delivery of the car in January.

With this news, Kent becomes the first driver to confirm he will be participating in the series next year.

As well as finishing runner up in the BRSCC Ford Fiesta Championship for 2017, Kent has also been nominated for the Downforce Racing Henry Surtees Teen Racer of the Year award. With the Hyundai already a race winner in TCR ranks, it will be good to see one of these cars on the grid next year.

Maximum Motorsport: SEAT Leon TCR

TCR International Series Hungaroring, Hungary 16 - 18 June 2017

 

Stewart Lines BTCC squad is also looking to be involved in the TCR UK Series in 2018 with plans to run a SEAT Leon TCR well underway. However there seems to be more involved already.

Line’s squad is also heavily involved in the VW Cup which will support the TCR UK Series on several occasions during 2018 and there is also the prize of a test drive in the teams TCR car as well. Drivers for the car have not yet been announced.

Spencer Sport: Hyundai i30 N TCR

 

2017-2017 Adria Friday---30_Gabriele_Tarquini_049

Rally outfit Spencer Sport have purchased a Hyundai i30 N TCR car and are planning to enter the inaugural TCR UK Series in 2018, with the South Wales based outfit seeking a driver for the campaign.

The South Wales squad took part in the 2017 Toyo Tires MSA British Rallycross Championship with James Grint piloting their Mitsubishi Supercar, however they are now branching out into Touring Car racing with the very successful Hyundai package.

The package on offer from Spencer Sport involves entry into the TCR UK series, full preparation and on-event running by a dedicated team of mechanics, a test and race programme, all logistics, tyres and fuel.

MellioSport: Audi RS3 LMS TCR

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MellioSport announced over Christmas 2017 that they would be running an Audi RS3 LMS TCR in the TCR UK Series with VW Cup racer Darelle Wilson rumoured to be piloting the Audi in 2018.

MellioSport themselves are a company that offer Driver Coaching services for those who wish to progress in their Motorsport career in very aspect including PR, Nutrition and driving style as well as operating a successful karting track near Grantham in the East Midlands.

Darelle Wilson himself has competed in various series including the likes of Milltek Sport Volkswagen Racing Cup, Britcar Endurance Championship and what was formerly known as the MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain.

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Jake Hill in the Brisky Racing VW Golf at Silverstone. Credit: Brisky Racing

Brisky Racing had announced plans to run VW Golf TCR’s in the series, however they announced recently that they would be concentrating in their BTCC programme with Team HARD instead. The team will be monitoring activity in the TCR UK Series with an eye to have an entry in future seasons.

What we don’t know yet…

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017
Credit: TCR Series

Whilst keeping track of the progress that TCR UK has made since the announcement over 12 months ago that the series would take place, there has been one query that I have repeatedly come across that, as yet, doesn’t seem clear:

The Commercial Package

This has been a concern raised by many drivers and teams who have commented on showing an interest in TCR UK after trying out the cars for themselves. Michael Epps, Mike Bushell and 2017 BTCC Champion Ashley Sutton have been a few to try out the cars and have mentioned that this one issue is possibly what could be stopping them from signing up partners/sponsors for a 2018 campaign.

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As yet the BRSCC and TCR UK have yet to confirm what this package will be, however there is the fact that other TCR Series around the world utilise one common channel to allow fans to watch their races live and uninterrupted by adverts: YouTube.

Whilst some championships embargo countries that have the racing live on a specific TV channel for the entire season, TCR uses YouTube to great affect. When you consider that viewing is going the way of Netflix/Amazon etc with online streaming becoming more popular its not difficult to see why this works.

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However, as an example of a solid commercial package, the BTCC has between 6-8 hours live coverage on ITV4 for each of its ten racedays every season. Whilst that is an established deal with TOCA, TCR UK will also need to have a solid TV presence as well to help get it off the ground.

Whilst BTCC fans can boast that they can say to interested parties, “Hey, there’s this great Racing series on TV that’s worth watching cos its way better than F1” (And it is…you know its true), TCR UK does not yet have that option, but time will tell.

With there being no calendar clashes next year with the BTCC, there is a great opportunity for the series to have live coverage without domestic competition on TV (potentially…other series may well clash). This is ideal for a channel looking to pick up a new series that exciting and interesting to watch. Just watch a TCR International Race to see that!

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

So this is everything we know officially so far about the TCR UK Series. There may well be more details to be finalised and also more information to be shared out to the Teams, Drivers and Fans involved, but lets keep some realism on the subject.

TCR UK will start out small to begin with and the exact size of the grid/entries will be revealed on 6th March, however lets give it a chance to see how the series grows. Sometimes progression can be rapid and as for evidence of this, take the example of TCR Germany.

They had a large entry of 23 drivers for the first season in 2016. In 2017 that number leapt up to 44! There is always time for the UK championship to build and progress over the year and following seasons.

Motorsports / TCR, 7. Event 2016, Hockenheim, GER
The 2016 TCR Germany Finale. Credit: Gruppe C

One thing is certain: we Brits love out Touring Car racing. TCR UK will simply offer another type of tintop racing to follow on the weekends when BTCC is not racing and it also offers a chance to any European drivers and teams out there to make a wildcard appearance in a new series that will attract a lot of attention.

So, thats two posts I’ve shared with you all regarding what we know about the 2018 TCR Europe Series and the 2018 TCR UK Series. That leaves only one more post to be written up sharing what we know about the 2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup or WTCR…

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Whoops! My Bad…wrong picture… (Paul Ricard 1995 for those of you who remember…)

Try this one…

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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 FIA WTCR, The TCR Europe Series, Domestic TCR Series and any news on the TCR UK Series that starts in 2018.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

 

 

 

TCR in 2018: What we know about The TCR Europe Series so far…

With the recent news about the new FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) created for next season, I’ve put together a post regarding one of the other International series that’s in action next year: The 2018 TCR Europe Series…

The last two weeks have been full of confirmation and news as we witness the end of both the FIA World Touring Car Championship with its Super 2000 TC1 Regulations and also the end of the TCR International Series.

The landscape is changing for International Touring Car Racing in 2018 and its something that’s needed to happen for a while now… However let me also make it clear that the decisions made recently are not the most popular, even though it may seem that way to many.

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That’s something I’m witnessing in the Facebook Groups I run and also in other areas of Social Media…WTCR is a hotly contested subject right now and I’m sure that will continue to be the case during the winter and well into the new season.

So what will be in place instead of the FIA World Touring Car Championship and the TCR International Series for 2018?

There are two series in place. Firstly, there is the FIA World Touring Car Cup, which will run to TCR regulations leased from WSC Ltd for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The series will be run by WTCC series boss Francois Ribeiro and promoted by Eurosport Events Ltd. The FIA and members of WSC will administer the BoP on all entries.

I’ll be putting together a post about this series in due course…

2017-2017 Adria Race 1---Race 1 start_02

The second series is the TCR Europe Series. This will also be open to TCR regulation cars as the FIA European Touring Car Cup has now also been closed down for the foreseeable future. Here are the facts…

The TCR Europe Trophy will be upgraded to a proper international series from next year.
The 2018 TCR Europe Series will be run over six race meetings on some of the most glamorous racetracks in Europe and will be promoted by the TCR Euro Series Ltd., a subsidiary of WSC Ltd.

The TCR Europe Trophy was first held in 2016, using events of the existing TCR national series in Benelux, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Russia and was won by Pierre-Yves Corthals at the wheel of an Opel Astra entered by DG Sport Compétition.

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This year the Trophy was held at a one-off event at the Adria International Raceway, where DG Sport retained the title with a Peugeot 308 driven by Aurélien Comte.

Next year’s change will mark a further step forward, establishing a third regional series for TCR cars that adds to the existing the TCR Asia Series and the TCR Middle East Series.

Promoter Paulo Ferreira explained: “We thought the time had come to launch a proper European series. It is a logical evolution for those teams that are already racing in the TCR national championships and aim for stepping up into international competition.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

The event format will feature the Qualifying session split into Q1 and Q2, and two 25-minute races with standing starts and a top-ten reverse grid for Race 2.

Two titles will be awarded, for Drivers and Teams.
The entry fees will be 17,500 euros for the full season and 4,000 euros ‘race-by-race’.
All races will be streamed live on Motorsport TV and http://www.europe.tcr-series.com.

2018 TCR Europe Series Calendar:

6th May: Le Castellet, France
10th June: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
8th July: Hungaroring, Hungary
19th August: TT Assen, The Netherlands
23rd September: Monza, Italy
21st October: Barcelona, Spain

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

This series represents a cheaper option for teams that have TCR machinery to compete in Europe outside of their domestic TCR series. The recent announcement of the entry fee for WTCR confirms a two car entry at the amount of 150,000 euros for the season.

With an entry fee thats 132,500 euros cheaper to enter (for one car), the TCR Europe Series could indeed be a series that attracts a bigger entry. However time will tell as teams and drivers prepare their programmes during the winter.

The true test will be the amount of drivers and cars that line up in the grid for the first race at Paul Ricard in May. Be assured though that the racing will still be just as close as it was in previous versions of the TCR Europe Trophy and in the TCR International Series itself.

Note: Since the writing of this post originally, there has been an update on the calendar of the 2018 TCR Europe Series. Please see the additional information here:

The new TCR Europe Series and TCR Benelux will share the bill in five race meetings during the 2018 season.

This also enables the TCR Europe Series to add a seventh event to its previously announced calendar, which will be at Circuit Zandvoort in the Netherlands on Whitsun Monday 21st May. The competitors of TCR Europe and Benelux series will race together at Zandvoort, Spa, Hungaroring, Assen and Barcelona

As a result, the full season entry fee for TCR Europe has been raised by 2000 euros from 17,500 to 19,500.

2018 TCR Europe Series / TCR Benelux Series Calendar

6th May: Le Castellet, France
21st May: Zandvoort, Netherlands
10th June: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
8th July: Hungaroring, Hungary
19th August: TT Assen, Netherlands
23rd September: Monza, Italy
21st October: Barcelona, Spain

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

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 FIA WTCR, The TCR Europe Series, Domestic TCR 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 FIA WTCR, TCR Europe 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 in this post are courtesy of WSC/TCR International Series/TCR Europe Series.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

 

2017 TCR International Series: The Finale in Dubai

At the time of writing this blog, there were no confirmed plans of what would happen for 2018. So please, enjoy my round up of what turned out to be the last ever (so far…) TCR International Series event which took place in Dubai…

The ultimate title fight to be staged in the Emirates

The Dubai Autodrome played host to the final event of the 2017 TCR International Series that decided the battles for the Drivers’, Teams’ and Model of the Year titles.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

This was the first time that the International Series has visited the Emirates’ circuit that was inaugurated in 2004 and which hosted the first event of the TCR Middle East Series last January. Those two races were won by Luca Engstler and Brendan Gdovic at the wheel of Volkswagen Golf GTI cars run by the Liqui Moly Team Engstler.

Three titles are still on offer in the final event

The season finale in Dubai was the decider for all three titles on offer in the 2017 TCR International Series.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

In the fight for the Drivers’ championship, Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay took the most out of the previous event in China and regained the lead in the standings with a 29-point margin ahead of M1RA Racing’s Attila Tassi.

Two other drivers were still in contention: the 2015 and 2016 champion Stefano Comini (Comtoyou Racing) and Tassi’s teammate Roberto Colciago; however, with gaps of 42 and 46 points respectively – when 55 are still at stake – they were hoping for a miracle to happen.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

With a leading margin of 71 points, M1RA was just one step away from the Teams’ title. Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing lies in second position, but because there are only 95 points to be awarded over the last race weekend, the Hong Kong-based outfit’s chances were more theoretical than real.

The battle for the Model of the Year award was much closer, with the Honda Civic currently followed by the Volkswagen Golf GTI with a gap of only 30 points (and 95 at stake).

Success ballast for Morbidelli, Vernay and Tarquini

None of the drivers would carry the maximum Success Ballast of 30 kilos in the final event of the season at Dubai. In fact, Rob Huff who scored the greatest amount of points at Zhejiang, would not be racing in the Emirates.

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The second-best scorer in China, Gianni Morbidelli, carried 20 extra kilos on board his WestCoast Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI, while the 10 kilos for the third best scorer was imposed on the championship leader Jean-Karl Vernay.

Although he was not allowed to score points, because the Hyundai i30 N cars are running under a temporary homologation form, Gabriele Tarquini also had 10 kilos of success ballast on board. This is because he would have been the Chinese event’s third best scorer had he not been ‘transparent’.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

In terms of running weights, this means that Morbidelli’s Volkswagen weighed 1285kg (1285kg minimum weight + 20kg Success Ballast – 20kg Balance of Performance adjustment), Vernay’s Volkswagen 1275kg (1285kg + 10kg SB – 20kg BoP) and Tarquini’s Hyundai 1335 kg (1285kg + 10kg SB + 40kg BoP).

Gordon Shedden joins Leopard Racing in Dubai

Triple British Touring Car champion Gordon Shedden joined the Leopard Racing WRT Team for the final event of the TCR International Series at Dubai, where he drove one of the team’s Volkswagen Golf GTI cars alongside Jean-Karl Vernay.

2017-2017 Dubai Friday---73 Gordon Shedden_79

Shedden replaced Rob Huff, who was unavailable due to a clashing commitment, and his mission was to help Vernay in his attempt to secure the Drivers’ title.

The 38-year-old from Edinburgh has established himself as one of the most successful BTCC drivers ever, with 48 race wins in twelve seasons and three titles in 2012, 2015 and 2016, becoming the third Scotsman to win the championship after Jim Clark and John Cleland. Shedden also finished second twice (2011 and 2013) and third three times (2007, 2010 and 2014) in the championship.

He said: “I’m excited to join Leopard Racing and WRT where I will use all my experience to help Jean-Karl secure the Championship. The TCR International Series looks really competitive but I am looking forward to the challenge!”

M1RA calls up Josh Files for the season finale

Josh Files was called up by M1RA to race in a third Honda Civic car at the Dubai Autodrome, for the final race meeting of the TCR International Series.

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The Briton joined team regulars Attila Tassi and Roberto Colciago, with the task of supporting them in the fight for the Drivers’ and Teams’ titles.

During the last two seasons, Files has emerged as one of the most successful drivers in TCR cars, having twice won the ADAC TCR Germany title (2016 and 2017) and the inaugural TCR Middle East title (2017). Most recently, he was classified third in the TCR Europe Trophy at Adria after winning the first race.

Files said: “This will be my third straight year contesting the final round of the TCR International Series. I’m thrilled to be doing it and am aiming to challenge for victories and to help M1RA and Honda achieve their title ambitions, despite the circuit being new to me. M1RA have done a superb job in their first year, have an incredible record for such a young team and always field fast and well-presented cars. I can’t wait to get going.”

TCR Europe Trophy winner, Comte joins DG Sport in Dubai

The winner of the TCR Europe Trophy, Aurélien Comte, made his TCR International Series debut at Dubai.

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The young Frenchman was Mat’o Homola’s teammate at the wheel of an Opel Astra TCR for DG Sport Compétition. Comte has driven for the Belgian team throughout the season in a Peugeot 308, finishing third in the TCR Benelux series (with three race wins) and clinching the TCR Europe Trophy at the Adria International Raceway two weeks ago.

Team manager Christian Jupsin commented: “I wish to thank Monsieur Demoustier and his company Eurodatacar for supporting this initiative. I am delighted to offer Aurélien the opportunity to make his debut in the TCR International Series. He has completed a fantastic season at the wheel of our Peugeot 308.

We are aware that it won’t be possible to judge his performance at Dubai in a car he doesn’t know and against drivers who are used to the races of the International Series. But we are confident that he will approach this event with the right spirit, to fully benefit from this end-of-season bonus.”

Benjamin Leuchter to drive for WestCoast Racing

WestCoast Racing named Benjamin Leuchter as Gianni Morbidelli’s teammate for the final event of the TCR International Series at Dubai.

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Leuchter is one of the most experienced Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR drivers and this year, as well as his role as an instructor with the brand, he celebrated five class victories in the VLN endurance series at the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife. Last year he competed in the ADAC TCR Germany series and finished fifth in the championship.

“I’m really happy to join WestCoast Racing for the final round of the TCR International Series,” said Leuchter. “After winning the TCR class in the VLN and in the Nürburgring 24h, it will be another highlight for me to come back to sprint racing in the Golf TCR. I’m really looking forward to work with such a professional team like WestCoast Racing. I don’t know the Dubai track, so this will be an extra motivation for me.”

Tarquini and Menu return with the Hyundai i30 N cars

After a successful debut in the previous event at Zhejiang, the BRC Racing Team returned racing the new Hyundai i30 N TCR cars for Gabriele Tarquini and Alain Menu.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

The Korean car made a strong impression on its maiden appearance in the TCR International Series, as Tarquini claimed an authoritative win in the first of the Chinese races, despite his 13th position on the starting grid.

After observing a drive-through penalty for causing a collision in Race 1, his teammate Menu confirmed the potential of the Hyundai i30 N by recovering from 14th at the start to fourth position at the end of the race. His performance was no less impressive, considering that both his and Tarquini’s cars were laden by 40 kg of success ballast after the first race.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Three weeks after that resounding debut, Tarquini encored in the TCR Europe Trophy at Adria, where he finished second in Race 1 and won Race 2, for an impressive 50% winning score of the new car.

At Dubai, just as in Zhejiang and Adria, the two Hyundai cars were not be eligible to score points as they are still accepted with a temporary homologation document. This also means that they will not be eligible to qualify for Q2.

Shedden and Vernay lock out the front row for Leopard Racing

For the second consecutive event, Leopard Racing locked out the front row for Race 1. After Rob Huff and Jean-Karl Vernay qualified first and second in Zhejiang, TCR newcomer Gordon Shedden and Vernay claimed the same result at Dubai in the TCR International Series finale.

2017-2017 Dubai Friday---73 Gordon Shedden_58

Once again it was an extremely close session, with 17 cars in the same second.
The result also meant that Vernay moved even closer to securing the Drivers’ title. The four points for second place in Qualifying helped the Frenchman to stretch his lead in the standing to 25 points ahead of Attila Tassi, who will start the second race from pole position thanks to the reverse top-ten grid.

Now Vernay has a great opportunity to wrap up the title fight in Race 1, especially since the Honda cars struggled to be on the pace with both Josh Files and Roberto Colciago failing to go through to Q2.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

On his first TCR appearance, Shedden was able to claim pole position. Using his vast experience in touring car racing, the triple BTCC champion completed a perfect lap in Q2. Which was also something of a surprise, considering that he had been the last driver to make the cut in Q1, only 26 thousandths of a second faster than Files.

Benjamin Leuchter provided the icing on the cake for Volkswagen Motorsport, placing his WestCoast Racing Golf GTI in third position. It was a great result for the young German driver, winner of the TCR class in the VLN endurance series.

The two Hyundai i30 N cars of Gabriele Tarquini and Alain Menu will start both races from 13th and 14th as they are still running with a temporary homologation form and therefore were not eligible to qualify for Q2. They posted the second (Tarquini) and fourth (Menu) fastest laps in Q1 and the whole paddock is curious to see if they will be able to elbow their way through the field, just like Tarquini did in China where he won Race 1.

Qualifying 1: Dupont beats Tarquini

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Denis Dupont continued to impress and set the fastest lap in the first part of Qualifying, stopping the clock at 1:28.154 under the chequered flag, beating Gabriele Tarquini’s 1:28.403. Benjamin Leuchter set the third fastest lap (1:28.425) ahead of the second Hyundai car of Alain Menu (1:28.431).

Championship leader Jean-Karl Vernay was fifth fastest (1:28.457), while his competitors in the title fight, Comini and Tassi, ranked sixth and eighth respectively.
Several drivers had lap times disallowed for not respecting track limits, including Tarquini, Nash (twice), Morbidelli (twice), Comte, Kajaia, Borković and Files.

With the two Hyundai i30 N cars of Menu and Tarquini not eligible to qualify for Q2, Comte and Shedden (13th and 14th fastest respectively), took the last two places for the second part.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

The following drivers went through to Q2: Dupont, Leuchter, Vernay, Comini, Lloyd, Tassi, Morbidelli, Oriola, Vervisch, Nash, Comte, Shedden.

Among those who did not make the cut were Josh Files (with gearbox problems), Borković, Homola (with engine problems) and Colciago,

Qualifying 2: Shedden claims his first TCR pole

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

After qualifying for Q2 by the skin of his teeth in 14th place, Gordon Shedden claimed the pole position on his first appearance in a TCR car. His first lap out of 1:28.055 had already placed him on top of the time sheet, but the Scotsman was able to improve further to 1:27.848; the only driver to break the 1:28 barrier.

Eventually his teammate Vernay climbed to second with a lap of 1:28.045, with Leuchter third (1:28.119) and Pepe Oriola fourth (1:28.179).
Dupont was not able to repeat his Q1 performance and qualified in fifth position; he also stopped on the track on his last attempt due to driveshaft failure.

Tassi and Comini posted the 10th and 9th fastest laps respectively so that they will fill the front row on the reverse grid for Race 2.

Quotes after the Qualifying Session

 

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Gordon Shedden (pole position): “It took a lot of time this morning to understand the car, we struggled quite a bit with the set-up, so I wasn’t expecting at all to be on pole. My first very good lap was at the end of Q1 and I went out quite early in Q2 to set up a time that was not beaten. Everything was new for me: the series, the car, the tyres and the team. Everything is quite different from what I am used to, but I am enjoying a lot this first TCR experience. The quality and the level of the series is very high, and the car is fun to drive. I am here to help the team and Jean-Karl, although he is very capable himself. I’m here to do the best job I can for them.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay (2nd): “It’s again a great result for Leopard Racing, and I congratulate Gordon for clinching the pole in his first TCR appearance. Not a real surprise, we know what he is worth… Starting from the first row tomorrow will be very good, I just hope we’ll pass first corner unscathed. A strategy is never easy to do, but the key will be to stay patient and be smart. I am confident in our car, in the team and in my ability, so I will approach things avoiding useless pressure.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Benjamin Leuchter (3rd): “I am very happy to be here and grateful to WestCoast Racing. It’s nice to be back to sprint racing, after a season in VLN. Of course, I know the Golf well but everything in today’s qualifying exercise was completely different from what I have done this year on the Nordschleife. It’s a great result for the Golf cars and after struggling a bit with the set-ups this morning, we found a good compromise, thanks to the excellent work of the team. Tomorrow? I’ll just go flat-out!”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Attila Tassi (10th): “We had a difficult morning, but things went better in Qualifying. I had a good pace in Q1 and could have done better but when I was told on the radio that P10 was secure, I lift off. It will be crucial to start from pole in Race 2 and I hope we can keep the title battle alive until the very end!”

Vernay is crowned Drivers’ champion as Oriola and Comini share race victories

The 2017 TCR International Series’ final event at the Dubai Autodrome was a thrilling decider for all three titles on offer.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay was crowned the new Drivers’ champion, while M1RA and the Volkswagen Golf GTI claimed the Teams’ and Model of the Year awards respectively.
Vernay settled the matter in the first race and in his way: a display of clean and faultless driving, in full control of his only real competitor Attila Tassi and patiently waiting for the opportunity to strike the winning blow.

That opportunity came on the penultimate lap when the Frenchman overtook James Nash for third, crushing Tassi’s last remaining hopes. Vernay’s success also meant that the alliance between Leopard Racing and WRT successfully took one of their drivers to the title for the second consecutive year.

Pepe Oriola and Stefano Comini ended the season on a high note, winning one race apiece. Oriola proved that the SEAT León – the first ever TCR car – is still very competitive on its third racing season. Comini – who wanted to abdicate in style while handing the title to his former teammate – was tantalisingly close to securing the second place in the standings, but he eventually lost it to Tassi by a single point.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

The young Hungarian had high hopes before Dubai, but he failed to keep the title fight alive until the last race. He was also denied victory in the second race from pole position as he was punished for a jump-start. However, finishing as the vice-champion in such a competitive series at the tender age of 18, means he already owns the skills to become one of the leading Touring Car drivers in the years to come.

In Race 2, the WestCoast Racing duo of Gianni Morbidelli and Benjamin Leuchter scored the points that helped the Volkswagen Golf to beat the Honda Civic in the Model of the Year Trophy by just five points. Consolation for the Japanese brand came from the Teams’ title that was won by M1RA, which was a great result for the Hungarian team founded by Norbert Michelisz in its maiden season.

Race 1 – Oriola wins, Vernay secures the title

Jean-Karl Vernay of Leopard Racing claimed the 2017 TCR International Series Drivers’ title by finishing third in a race that was dominated by Pepe Oriola.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

The Spaniard’s winning move was a perfect start that propelled him from fourth on the grid to first at Turn 1, ahead of the pole sitter Gordon Shedden and his teammate Vernay.
For the rest of the race, Oriola was very focused and managed to never offer Shedden the hint of a gap to try an overtaking manoeuvre.

Behind them, Gabriele Tarquini elbowed his way through the field, from 21st on the grid up to third, only to retire on the penultimate lap with a puncture.

The title fight drew the most attention as Vernay was lying fourth, closely chased by Attila Tassi. The Frenchman kept his cool, driving without mistakes and eventually settled the matter by moving up to third and placing James Nash between himself and Tassi.

Race 2 – Comini abdicates with victory

Double TCR champion Stefano Comini abdicated in style, as he won the International Series’ final race in his Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

The Swiss driver inherited the lead when Attila Tassi observed a drive-through penalty for a jump-start, and then crossed the line ahead of Gianni Morbidelli. Josh Files completed the podium after a brilliant fight with Denis Dupont who eventually failed to finish due to a flat tyre.

Tassi managed to recover from 17th to 12th – that was actually 10th because of the ‘transparency’ of the two Hyundai cars – scoring a single point that salvaged his second place in the Drivers’ championship ahead of Comini.

Morbidelli’s second place, combined with the sixth position achieved by his WestCoast Racing teammate Benjamin Leuchter earned the ‘Model of the Year’ trophy for the Volkswagen Golf by five points ahead of the Honda Civic.

Quotes from the podium finishers in the two races

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay (third in Race 1 – 2017 Drivers’ champion): “I don’t know yet how I feel… but obviously, it is great to be champion! I am very happy for Leopard Racing, WRT and Volkswagen. My start today was poor, so the race wasn’t easy. Strategy did not work, as there was another car between Shedden and me, so I had to do things on my own… I fought with Nash and had Tassi pushing behind, but I remained calm. Towards the end, Nash was slower because his tyres were gone, so I knew I could pass him, but waited until the last lap not to create a new fight. Personally, this title means a lot to me, as it comes after titles in LMP, GT and single-seaters, proving that I can will with all sorts of cars.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Pepe Oriola (winner of Race 1): “I am really happy with this win, it was about time. I won at first event and now at last, it’s a pity we had such bad luck in-between… My start was really great, I was at the edge of stalling, but luckily it didn’t happen. I saw enough space close to the wall and just kept going, as I had nothing to lose. All this put me in P1 at first corner, but it was a very tough race as gaps were always very close, given also the safety-car period. Shedden was faster than me in some points, especially in turn 7, but I knew I could control the situation. Nothing bad happened this time and it is really nice to finish the season on a high.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Stefano Comini (winner of Race 2): “It’s nice to finish the season on a high and to hand over the crown to Jean-Karl Vernay with a win. It has been a very tough year for us, but it was great to be part of the Comtoyou project, which only took off two weeks before the start of the season. Race 2 was pretty good; it generally is when you start at the front and have no extra weight! Missing the runner-up position in the final standings by only one point is not a problem: second is always the worst place to be, but to be on top of the final podium is a good reward for everybody in the team and at Audi.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Gordon Shedden (second in Race 1): “Being my first race in TCR, with this car and these tyres, I am happy with the result. My start wasn’t terrible but not very good either, clearly I lack some experience with TCR cars, but after, I could keep a good pace, trying not to do anything stupid. The car performed well, although I lost an aero part at some point, and I am very happy the team secured the title already in Race 1. Now we can have fun in Race2.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Gianni Morbidelli (second in Race 2): “I am happy to finish the season with a second place. It’s a very good result, considering the 20 kilos of Success Ballast we had; on a circuit like this you can really feel the difference. It’s also nice to finish the season like that, after a very difficult first part, when we had to learn the car and come to grips with it. We really did a very good work with Volkswagen and WestCoast Racing, and I am really proud of what we achieved together. I’m also proud to have scored the points that earned the Volkswagen Golf the Model of the Year award.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Josh Files (third in Race 2): “It’s the end of a very busy and intense TCR season for me, which started here by winning the Middle East series, an excellent way to prepare the season. Then came a second title in the TCR Germany, the toughest TCR series, after a long and closely-fought season. I was in contention also for the Europe Trophy in Adria, finishing on the podium, and here I am again on the podium in the closing round of the TCR International. I thank M1RA for inviting me. Of course, the objective was to help Attila Tassi in his title quest, but it turned out it was not to be for him. In Race2, I had fun battling with Dupont, I knew he had a puncture and I would pass him, but it was intense and fun the entire race.”

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

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.

TCR International Series Dubai, UAE 16 - 18 November 2017

Please note that all images are used courtesy of WSC/TCR International Series.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!