The 2015 TCR International Series moves on to its next date in the calendar with its first visit to the Sochi Circuit in Russia. Home of the inaugural Russian Grand Prix in 2014, the track and fans will witness top flight tin top action this weekend.
With the door to door, wheel to wheel spectacle of TCR inspiring many countries to sign up to the new championship’s regulations, the series will see a new but familiar face join the field alongside regular Russian competitors Mikhail Grachev at Engstler Motorsport and Sergey Afanasyev at Craft-Bamboo Racing respectively. Former FIA World Touring Car driver Alexsey Dudukalo joins the Lukoil sponsored Craft-Bamboo outfit after racing for two years in WTCC as a Lukoik backed SEAT driver with Gabriele Tarquini as his team-mate.
Grachev holds the home advantage before the series arrives at the Russian circuit, having raced there last year just before the first ever Russian Grand Prix took place, taking victory in the Russian Circuit Racing Series event. Returning back to the circuit is special to him, having driven two different TCR Chassis this year.
“It’s a nice and fast track, more technical than it looks, where slipstreaming will play a key role. To race in the middle of the Olympic Park is quite special. My pace has been good, but there have been mistakes and incidents preventing strong finishes. I take it as a learning season, trying to advance step by step.”
Grachev will be joined by Swedish Touring Car driver Tomas Engstrom, who will race in Sochi before embarking on a full TCR Asia campaign with Engstler Motorsport.
As far as Success Ballast is concerned, WestCoast Racing team-mates Kevin Gleason and Gianni Morbidelli will drive the two heaviest cars of the field at Sochi. Gleason took pole position and went on to win Race one receives the maximum Success Ballast of 30 kilos. His championship leading team-mate Morbidelli will carry 20 extra kilos, while the 10 kilos of extra weight for the third best scorer will be allocated to Pepe Oriola’s SEAT Leon as the Spaniard scored 28 points at the Salzburgring.
However with the long straights at Monza and the Salzburgring playing to the strengths of the JAS Motorsport built Honda Civic, expect all three Hondas to be strong down the pit straight and the back straight at Sochi. However, the SEAT’s will hold the advantage in the tight and twisty sections with all of this adding up to another two races of exciting touring car action in prospect.
Finally, the series has confirmed that the Argentine round of the series has been postponed and it will be replaced with an event to be held at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, as part of the support bill for the European Le Mans Series round on 12 July.
Series Boss Marcello Lotti explains:
“It was not an easy decision to take, but we had to be realistic and consider that the technical development of the new TCR cars is taking more time that expected and going overseas would have forced some brands to skip the event. On the contrary, re-scheduling the event in Europe will give them the opportunity to complete the development steps without further delaying their participation in the races. This is one of the issues you must be prepared to face during the maiden season of a brand new category. We are especially grateful to Gérard Neveu and the whole ELMS staff for giving us the opportunity to join in their event at the Red Bull Ring.”
Currently Morbidelli leads the Drivers’ Championship on 175 points ahead of Team Target Competition driver Stefano Comini on 157 points, with Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Pepe Oriola in third with 153 points. In the Teams Championship, Target Competition leads on 361 points with WestCoast Racing on 332 points and Craft-Bamboo Racing in third on 328 points.