Here is the TCR Talk roundup of all the action that took place at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit, from Qualifying all the way though to Race One on Saturday and Race Two on Sunday…
With the historic Belgian track holding TCR International Series races last year, a lot was expected from the TCR Europe Series and TCR BeNeLux Series competitors and we weren’t disappointed!
The 2018 TCR Europe Series Entry List For Zandvoort:
Vernay sets the pole position ahead of Potty
Jean-Karl Vernay and Maxime Potty topped the Qualifying session in the morning. The French driver set the pace in both Q1 and Q2 and secured pole position for Race 1.
On his home racetrack, Potty claimed his best result so far, qualifying second; it was a similar story for Julien Briché, who was third fastest.
Championship co-leaders Mikel Azcona and Dušan Borković qualified in fourth and sixth respectively, with Stian Paulsen splitting them in fifth.
The best two Honda cars were Josh Files’ and Stefano Comini’s in seventh and eighth, meaning that cars from six different brands – Audi, Volkswagen, Peugeot, Cupra, Hyundai and Honda – filled the first seven positions.
Target Competition teammates Reece Barr and Kris Richard secured the front row on the reverse grid for Race 2.
Danny Kroes and Attila Tassi were the most disappointed. Kroes had several lap times disallowed for repeatedly infringing track limits in Q2, including a 2:29.978 that would have placed him fifth, while Tassi blamed himself for not going through to Q2, saying that he couldn’t quite get his braking points right.
The Q1 part of the session was disrupted by the red flag after only four minutes, when Viktor Davidovski went off at Raidillon and crashed heavily into the tyre wall.
Vernay claims his first victory as Potty and Azcona complete the podium
Jean-Karl Vernay has taken his maiden win in the TCR Europe. In a warm afternoon at Spa, the Frenchman of Leopard Lukoil Racing drove his Audi RS3 LMS to a lights-to-flag victory from pole position.
The only one who could resist his pace was local hero Maxime Potty (Comtoyou Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI), who took a first podium finish in the series.
With a solid race, Mikel Azcona (PCR Sport Cupra) took third and most importantly, became the new leader in the overall standings, 5 points clear of Dušan Borković who was classified fourth with a Target Competition Hyundai i30 N.
In the final laps, the Serbian had to defend fiercely his positions from the attacks of Julien Briché (JSB Compétition Peugeot 308), one of the drivers that put the show on the Belgian track.
Others, like Stefano Comini, Josh Files or Jens Reno Møller were less lucky and had to retire as a consequence of the tough battles. The Dane had a scary moment at the Raidillon after a contact with Attila Tassi, but luckily he managed to stop before crashing into the barriers.
Paulsen and Tassi receive penalties after Race 1
Stien Paulsen and Attila Tassi were both given a 30-second time penalty after today’s Race 1 in Spa-Francorchamps.
Paulsen was dropped from sixth to 14th as he was considered guilty for having caused the incident in second lap of the race that forced Reece Barr to retire.
As for Tassi, he was punished for sending Jens-Reno Møller into a dangerous high-speed spin at the Raidillon while they were fighting for the 11th position on lap 9; this meant that Tassi was demoted from 11th to 17th.
Briché inherits win as Richard gets penalty whilst Azcona increases his Championship lead
Julien Briché has joined the club of 2018 TCR Europe race winners thanks to a decision of the Stewards that imposed a time penalty to Kris Richard who had been the first under the chequered flag in a closely-fought Race 2 at Spa-Francorchamps.
Investigating on the contact Richard and Briché had had while they were fighting for the lead, the Steward inflicted a penalty of one second to the Swiss that was enough to swap the positions, demoting Richard to second, three tenth behind Briché.
The incident happened at Les Combes during the penultimate lap; Briché tried to overtake Richard at the braking, using the outside line, but as the two cars collided he was forced to cut straight through the chicane, which helped the Swiss to maintain the lead and win with a margin of 0.7 seconds.
The penalty granted Briché, JSB Compétition and the Peugeot 308 their first victory in TCR Europe.
Richard had taken the lead during the first lap, but then had to work hard to defend the position, first from Josh Files (who was later stopped by an electrical problem) and then from Briché, who attacked relentlessly.
Local hero Maxime Potty visited the podium for a second time this weekend, taking third ahead of a very clever Mikel Azcona who further extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings, as Duśan Borković could finish no higher than 7th.
Jean-Karl Vernay was a victim of some fierce battling in the closing laps when he was fighting for a podium position, while the Honda cars endured a difficult Sunday; both Stefano Comini (before the start) and Josh Files (after the safety car period) were halted by electronic bugs and Attila Tassi was sidelined by a puncture.
Giovanni Altoè encored his yesterday’s win in the DSG Challenge, while Briché collected the TCR Benelux Trophy.
In the championship standings, Azcona has increased his tally to 95 points, 11 clear of Borković; Vernay lies third with a gap of 39 points, while Dániel Nagy is fourth a further two points adrift.
The series will resume at the Hungaroring in the first weekend of July.
The Guru’s Thoughts…
The TCR Europe Series weekend at Spa saw two great races take part for their own reasons, however Balance of Performance and driving standard were once again the talk of the town in a season that has provided close racing and several different winners so far.
When he is on point and the car is running faultessly, Jean-Karl Vernay is unstoppable, his performances in the TCR International Series over the last two years being evidence of that. Despite the fact that he is running a dual campaign in both TCR Europe and the FIA World Touring Car Cup, Vernay is getting to grips with the Audi fast.
As I pointed out earlier, BoP was a big talking point over the weekend as was the result of race two with Richards being moved back a place after what were seen as questionable defence standards.
So trust me when I say that a lot of this discussion took place in The Official TCR Talk Group where drivers and fans alike held constructive debates about the various examples of contact in both races and the situation regarding how BoP is applied.
Should it be series specific, or track specific instead of one overall governing balance that affects all models around the world? This is a subject that will go on and on…
Hungary is next up in July and with both Daniel Nagy and Attila Tassi having already raced there in the WTCR weekend, expect a lot from the Hungarians on home turf…
As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of The Official TCR Talk Group & The TCR UK Fans Group who share 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.
All images are used courtesy of WSC / TCR Europe Touring Car Series
Until next time, all the best!