With the TCR Season now over, here’s a reminder of how the last weekend of the 2018 TCR Europe Series finished.
Here is the TCR Talk roundup of all the action that took place at the Catalunya circuit, from Qualifying all the way through to Race One on Saturday and Race Two on Sunday…
The 2018 TCR Europe Series Entry List For Catalunya:
The final shootout at Circuit Catalunya
The TCR Europe Series’ season came to an end at Barcelona’s Circuit Catalunya, where Mikel Azcona looked to clinch the European crown on home soil.
The young Spaniard and his PCR Sport Cupra held a 19-point leading margin in the standings over Leopard Lukoil Team’s Jean-Karl Vernay who was in great shape, having dominated the previous event in Monza and won Race One in the WTCR round at Wuhan at the wheel of his Audi RS3 LMS.
Dušan Borković (Target Competition Hyundai i30 N) was the third title contender, though he slipped down to third in the classification with a gap of 30 points.
With 55 points on offer at Barcelona, the Hungarian duo of Attila Tassi (Hell Energy Racing with KCMG Honda Civic FK7) and Dániel Nagy (M1RA Hyundai i30 N) were mathematically still in contention, but they are currently lying in fourth and fifth positions, 41 and 50 points off the leader respectively.
The event would also award the TCR Benelux Trophy which was led by Maxime Potty (Comtoyou Racing Volkswagen Gold GTI); the young Belgian was closely followed by Vernay and Danny Kroes (PCR Sport Cupra) with gaps of 4 and 6 points respectively.
Michelisz, Berthon and Halder lead a long list of guest stars
A long list of guest stars joined the TCR Europe field for the season finale at Barcelona.
The group was led by the WTCR regulars Norbert Michelisz (M1RA Hyundai i30 N) and his fellow WTCR competitor Nathanaël Berthon (Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS).
ADAC TCR Germany title contender Mike Halder joined Hell Energy Racing with KCMG in a third Honda Civic FK7 and the reigning FIA European Touring Car champion Petr Fulín completed his 2018 programme in the Fulín Race Academy Cupra.
Other newcomers were TCR Russia race winner Klim Gavrilov (LTA Rally Volkswagen Golf GTI) and the winner of the Campenato de España Resistencia’s latest round Enrique Hermando (Sports & You Peugeot 308).
Former BTCC champion and TCR UK double race winner Ashley Sutton joined the Swedish siblings Andreas and Jessica Bäckman who classified third and fourth in the TCR UK Series at WestCoast Racing and the 2017 European Hillclimbing champion Nikola Miljković (LEIN Racing Cupra) made his debut.
Tassi and Files secure a Honda front row for Race One in Qualifying
The Hell Energy Racing with KCMG duo of Attila Tassi and Josh Files monopolised the front row for Race One, the penultimate round of the TCR Europe Series at Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya.
Tassi set the fastest lap of 1:53.861 on his second attempt in Q2 and demoted to second his teammate Files who had clocked a provisional fastest lap of 1:53.902 in his first run. The gap between them was just 41 thousandths.
In the battle for the European crown, current points leader Mikel Azcona moved another small step closer to the title as he qualified in third position and scored three points against the two points awarded to Dušan Borković for the fourth place.
Azcona was not able to repeat his Q1 exploit and settled in third with a lap of 1:54.167, followed by Borković (1:54.186), while Norbert Michelisz (1:54.198) and Ashley Sutton (1:54.367) filled the third row of the grid for Race 1.
The third title contender, Jean-Karl Vernay failed to make the cut for Q2 and ranked 13th; the Frenchman was kicked out of the top-twelve by Mike Halder and dropped behind Reece Barr by just 45 thousandths.
The second Audi car of Berthon was eliminated as well after sitting in the pits for most of the time due to a broken turbo pipe.
Peter Terting and Halder qualified tenth and ninth respectively and will share the front row of the reverse grid for Race Two.
Tassi wins as the title fight sees Azcona, Borković, Vernay and Tassi in a four-way battle
It was to be a four-way fight for the TCR Europe Series Drivers’ title, as the battle would be decided in Race Two.
Mikel Azcona was still the leader of the pack, but Dušan Borković, Jean-Karl Vernay and Attila Tassi managed to keep themselves in contention with some remarkable exploits in Race One.
Tassi took an authoritative lights-to-flag victory, the second for him in the season, as he sprinted from pole position and bid farewell to the rest of the pack, while Files protected his back.
Borković knew he had to stay ahead of Azcona to keep his hopes alive and overtook him at the start; then put the pressure on Files until the Englishman’s pace faded because of a tyre issue, which promoted the Serbian to second.
Vernay was able to recover from 13th on the grid despite driving the heaviest car of the pack and finished sixth; he also won the TCR Benelux Trophy.
As for Azcona, he gave away a couple of places in the final laps in order to avoid the lesser risk; an eighth place in Race 2 will be enough for him to be crowned champion.
The battle for the Teams’ title was even hotter, with Hell Energy Racing with KCMG leading Target Competition by just three points and the title to be decided in the final race of the year.
Azcona is the champion, as Mike Halder claims maiden race victory
Mission accomplished! At the end of a nearly spotless season in which Mikel Azcona asserted himself as a fast and consistent driver, the young Spaniard grabbed the TCR Europe Series title.
An exploit that is even more impressive considering that both, the 22-year-old driver and the PCR Sport team were facing their maiden international season.
Azcona was entirely focused on the title and let the others fight for the positions. Eventually, he drove his Cupra safe to the end in eighth place, right behind Jean-Karl Vernay, the only title contender who survived and would finish runner-up in the standings.
The others – Dušan Borković and Attila Tassi – were eliminated during the first lap in a collision that was later investigated by the Stewards and considered as a normal racing incident.
With the title fight being decided by the placing, other drivers had an opportunity to shine.
Series newcomers Mike Halder and Ashley Sutton proved they have a place amongst the top-runners in TCR Europe. Halder, a title contender in TCR Germany, had been hired by the Hell Energy Racing with KCMG to help the team clinching the Teams’ title, and he successfully performed his duty driving his Honda Civic to a lights-to-flag victory that was worth the points needed to clinch the title.
Sutton, a former BTCC champion and TCR UK race winner, conquered a well-deserved podium by finishing third, sandwiched between M1RA teammates Dániel Nagy and Norbert Michelisz.
Driver quotes after the second race
Mike Halder (winner): “I am of course very happy with this first participation in TCR Europe. It was my first time with the team, with the Yokohama tyres and here at Barcelona, so I can only be very satisfied with the result in Race 2, where the package proved really competitive. Not bad, considering that after being bumped off by another car in Free Practice 2, our plan for the weekend was disrupted. Next year I really would like to be able to do a double programme, TCR Germany and TCR Europe.”
Dániel Nagy (second): “It was much harder than it would seem from the outside. I am happy with the performance and to finish the season like that. My tyres were gone quite early, because of the close fight with Sutton. When I eventually could pass him, I had to manage the tyres and still, I was able to reduce the gap from Halder. I think that with a couple more laps, I could have caught him.”
Ashley Sutton (third): “I’m obviously very satisfied with the experience. It was my first race out of the UK and in such a big circuit. It was a good weekend for me and I enjoyed TCR Europe a lot.”
Mikel Azcona (TCR Europe champion): “It’s great, I am so happy of this title! I can’t realize I have conquered a great continental championship such as TCR Europe, against such big names of Touring Car racing. And being crowned here, in Spain, in front of all my people, it is just a dream come true. I really want to thank everybody in the team and at Cupra for making this possible.”
2018 TCR Benelux Series Champion: Jean-Karl Vernay!
Jean-Karl Vernay clinched the TCR Benelux Trophy in the Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS.
The Frenchman had arrived in Barcelona with a two-point gap behind Comtoyou Racing’s Maxime Potty, but was able to overturn the situation with victories in both the Spanish races.
“A title is a title! We were unlucky this season, but we never gave up. I dedicate this crown to my team and all the partners that supported me like never before,” Vernay said.
Potty finished as runner-up in his Volkswagen Golf GTI, 17 points behind Vernay, and Julien Briché completed the Trophy’s podium in the JSB Compétition Peugeot 308.
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!