A cornerstone of the Super Touring era, Frank Biela’s success in the 1990s with the Audi A4 Quattro will be etched into the memories of many racing fans forever. During arguably the most successful period of the sport, the German marque played a big part in telling the story. Now, with the Audi RS3 LMS TCR, they’re back.
With six Audi Sport Customer Racing entries destined for the inaugural 2018 World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) season, the iconic four rings will be represented in a global FIA touring car event for the first time since their title-winning team lifted the 1995 WTC Cup.
However, as no official manufacturer-backed teams are permitted into the WTCR, the cars will not be raced in the traditional silver and red liveries of yesteryear. Instead, two different teams will be running the six cars. Belgian squad, Leopard-Lukoil Team WRT, are expected to be the most likely contenders for overall glory. Behind the wheel, reigning TCR International champion, Jean-Karl Vernay, will be joined by triple British Touring Car Champion, Gordon Shedden, to form a tin-top super-team.
Another Belgian outfit, Comtoyou Racing, will be in charge of running the remaining four cars. Ex-GT driver, Frederic Vervisch, will be hoping to build upon his first year with the team in 2017 which he used to learn the new machinery and style of racing. He’ll be joined by Denis Dupont; a potential future star who comes with the endorsement of the Royal Automobile Club Belgium (RACB). The other two seats have been taken by French duo, Nathanael Berthon and Aurelien Panis. Berthon arrives with plenty of endurance racing on his CV, while Panis took his first race win in an international TCR event last year.
Unfortunately though, that has meant that the charismatic maverick, Stefano Comini, has been left without a drive in the WTCR to the disappointment of many fans. His plans for 2018 have not yet been disclosed.
Despite early predictions, it was the Comtoyou Racing drivers who managed to lodge the fastest lap times at the recent Circuit de Catalunya pre-season test. Indeed, three of their four drivers ended the day amongst the top 5 fastest drivers overall. That said, whether or not this trend is representative of what we’ll see at the Marrakech season opener is another question entirely.
Speaking ahead of what is set to be a highly competitive World Touring Car season, Chris Reinke (Head of Audi Sport Customer Racing) said: “In terms of drivers and teams we’ve fulfilled all our wishes this way. We’re facing a thrilling racing season on four continents where we’ll be battling for World Cup titles in drivers’ and teams’ classifications. We’re delivering gripping and original touring car racing with wheel-to-wheel duels of the kind the fans love.”