TCR-Talk Preview: 2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup heads to Vila Real

Well its been a while!!!

Did you miss me??? I’m glad you did!

TCR Talk previews this weekends action from the 2018 FIA WTCR Race of Portugal that’s due to take place with the first race on Saturday and the second and third races taking place on Sunday afternoon.

AUTO - WTCR  ZANDVOORT  2018
Credit: Francois Flamand / DPPI

This weekend we are treated to the return of The 2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) after the massive four day UBER TCR FESTIVAL that took place at Zandvoort in the Netherlands.

The many crowds at the national holiday event also witnessed the TCR Europe Series, TCR Benelux Series and some guy called Max Verstappen who seemed quite popular for some strange reason, in action last month

00118008_271
Credit: FIA

Apparently this Max bloke drives a single seater for a living. Sounds quite boring if you ask me…

Zandvoort also saw the WTCR Drivers Championship turned upside down thanks to some Balance of Performance changes that took place after the epic Nurburgring Nordschleife that saw Audi join Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen at the front of the field

The Drivers Championship…

AUTO - WTCR  ZANDVOORT  2018
Credit: Francois Flamand / DPPI

The historic street circuit of Vila Real plays host to rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the season and also marks the halfway point for this highly competitive series. Yann Ehrlacher in the Munnich Motorsport Honda Civic TCR leads the standings after a good points haul last time out.

Ehrlacher took the first race victory of the weekedn as the Hyundai’s suffered on the beach side circuit. Yvan Muller and Norbert Michelisz made contact (again!!) and the Audi’s and Peugeot’s proved to be absolute weapons in race trim.

Aurelien Comte gave the Peugeot 308 TCR its first win whilst Jean Karl Vernay took his secomd of the year. So what does this mean???

Well, the Championship looks a little like this:

Yann Ehrlacher 146 points
Yvan Muller 137 points
Rob Huff 130 points
Jean-Karl Vernay 121 points
Gabriele Tarquini 118 points
Thed Björk 112 points
Esteban Guerrieri 107 points
Norbert Michelisz 102 points
Frédéric Vervisch 65 points
Mehdi Bennani 65 points

Who will be on top after Race 3 on Sunday? We’ll know after Race 3 on Sunday!!!

The Balance Of Performance Returns…

AUTO - WTCR  ZANDVOORT  2018
Credit: Jean Michel Le Meur / DPPI

Ah yes, this one never gets old or boring. The mere mention of these three words this year always sparks lively debate and it will do once again this weekend.

Last time out at Zandvoort, the Hyundai’s were lucky to qualify inside the top twenty after the BoP adjustment that came into place seeing the ride height increased and the engine power reduced from 100% to 97.5%. This led to cries from both Yvan Muller Racing and BRC Racing that they felt this wasn’t being applied properly.

However when you take into consideration that the Hyundai i30 N TCR has taken five wins out of twelve so far against three for Honda, two for Audi and one each both for Peugeot and Volkswagen, its clear to see why this happened.

For the recent TCR Europe Series weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, BoP saw a reduction in ride height for the Hyundai’s but leaving them at the same maximum power setting. The Portuguese venue will be another intriguing weekend if you’re a Hyundai driver. Expect more lively debate about this subject.

 

The Magnificent Eleven

AUTO - WTCR  ZANDVOORT  2018
Credit: Francois Flamand / DPPI

Amazingly, eleven drivers out of the twenty seven entries have not raced on this circuit before so this weekend will be a steep learning curve for them.

When you look at the list of debutantes for the Vila Real event though, some of these drivers have a lot of experience in car setup which will come in handy on the tight, fast and dusty Portuguese layout:

Nathanaël Berthon, Aurélien Comte, Denis Dupont, Fabrizio Giovanardi, Mato Homola, Benjamin Lessennes, Gianni Morbidelli, Pepe Oriola, Gordon Shedden, Jean-Karl Vernay and Frédéric Vervisch will all be looking to tame the circuit whilst also getting their collective heads around the new concept of the Joker Lap.

The Safety Car is on standby!

AUTO - WTCR  ZANDVOORT  2018
Credit: Francois Flamand / DPPI

So, you have one of the fastest, tightest street circuits in Europe, a hot and dusty track that attracts Motorsport fans by the thousands and a massive field of TCR Regulation cars ready to go hell for leather to get those vital points…

But its a street circuit…with a lot of cars being steered by some hot headed drivers with scores to settle or points to make. I expect three safety car appearances myself…

Also take into consideration that last year there were sixteen FIA WTCC TC1 entries competing, which is a lot less than this year might I add. This year sees twenty seven cars on track at the same time for three races, so don’t be surprised if the Safety car makes an appearance or two which could potentially wreck a vital Joker Lap strategy.

 

The Joker Lap Returns

dppi_03717009_217
Credit: Francois Flamand / DPPI

Last year the FIA World Touring Car Championship made the move to improve its racing spectacle by introducing a Joker Lap at some of its events in the same fashion as the FIA World Rallycross Championship puts it to good use.

The Joker Lap has been confirmed to return for the three WTCR races and will surely shake up the field of twenty seven cars entered on the tight and fast street circuit. Whilst overtaking is possible, this option to make up places or lose places in each race offers a new aspect for the majority of the field.

The Wildcards…

Continuing the tradition that started out in Hungary earlier this year, the 2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) has announced its two local wildcard drivers in the shape of Edgar Florindo and José Rodrigues.

Florindo is also experienced with TCR as he has driven in the TCR Portugal Series, having claimed eight consecutive podiums and two victories last season. The local driver will be out in a Veloso Motorsport run CUPRA TCR as he tackles the event on the World Stage for the first time.

TCR Portugal runner Edgar Florindo will compete in his first WTCR weekend at Vila Real. Credit: FIA WTCR

 

Rodrigues is already familiar with TCR machinery having raced a 2017 Honda Civic TCR in both Germany and Portugal. This year he is a full time entry in the TCR Italy Series with Target Competition who will be running his entry this weekend.

Meanwhile Rodrigues is taking this opportunity with both hands as he is already a part of Tiago Monteiro’s Skywalker Management company and is excited to race with the best in the business.

Jose Rodrigues returns to the Vila Real circuit after racing in last year’s ETCC rounds. Credit: FIA WTCR

 

 

SCHEDULE

*All times are given in Glorious British Summer Time!!!

SATURDAY 23RD JUNE:

Free Practice 1: 09:00-09:30
Free Practice 2: 11:00-11:30
Qualifying 1: 12:30-13:10
Race 1: 16:30

All on the FIA WTCR / Oscaro Facebook page or if your in Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland or the USA, then these streams can be found on OSCARO.com

SUNDAY 24TH JUNE:

Qualifying 2: 09:30-10:30
Race 2: 15:45
Race 3: 17:10

All Sunday Sessions shown on Eurosport 2 HD/Eurosport 2/Eurosport Player (In the UK!)

The Circuit itself…

The Vila Real circuit, host to the fifth weekend of WTCR in 2018. Credit: FIA

 

As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of the The Official TCR Talk 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 & Regional TCR Series and any news on the TCR UK Series which started this year.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

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