Cupra claim maiden podium finish in WTCR debut

by James Bowers

Over the winter, there was a bit of a sporting revolution at the well-known Spanish car manufacturer, SEAT. Following in the footsteps of Fiat and Abarth, SEAT decided to split away from its sport brand, Cupra. As such, Cupra became its own independent company with the sole purpose of producing performance vehicles based upon standard SEAT cars. In order to represent this change, all SEAT Leon TCR racecars – old and new – have been re-branded as Cupra TCRs.

For the 2018 World Touring Car Cup, there are four full-time competitors using the ‘new’, or rather re-branded, Cupra. Campos Racing and Zengo Motorsport are the teams involved, running two cars each. The latter will be hoping to provide a platform for their two young Hungarian prodigees (Zsolt Szabo and Norbert Nagy) to develop themselves as drivers, while Campos Racing will undoubtedly be a more consistent threat over the course of the season.

Zengo Motorsport will compete with a pair of Cupra TCRs in 2018. Credit: CUPRA Racing

Indeed, this pattern was evident during the season-opening round at Morocco. Of the Cupra-equipped competitors, John Filippi was the stand-out performer on Saturday. After a fairly uninspiring past few seasons, the young Frenchman showed a welcome turn of pace on his first outing in the Spanish car. Out-qualifying his much-fancied team-mate, Pepe Oriola, Filippi continued to look on form during the first race of the season en route to a tenth place finish. While this transpired into only one championship point, the performance was certainly a promising signal of intent from Filippi.

The real good news for Cupra came on Sunday, however. During the second qualifying session of the weekend, Pepe Oriola managed to put together a lap time good enough for tenth place in the standings. As the qualifying order is partially reversed to form the starting grid for race two, this handed the Spaniard pole position. Although he was passed by Jean-Karl Vernay (who went on to win the race) and local Moroccan hero, Mehdi Bennani, Oriola held on to the final podium position and brought the car home in third place.

John Filippi showed good form on his first outing with the Spanish car. Credit: CUPRA Racing

Race three provided a further championship point for Oriola, but in a weekend that was dominated by Hyundai-equipped teams, Campos Racing will have been delighted to have claimed a podium position with Cupra on their WTCR debut.

As the series makes its way to the Hungaroring next, Zengo Motorsport will have their eye on similar success at their home circuit.

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