Following the most recent changes to the TCR Balance of Performance (BoP), the early practice sessions at this weekend’s World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) event would provide a good deal of insight into how relative car performance had been adjusted. After dominating in the early rounds, the Hyundai i30N TCR was hit with a harsh BoP update at Zandvoort, making it impossible for its drivers to score any points. However, I’m glad to report that as the Hyundai is now running lighter and lower, the relative performance of all cars on the WTCR grid is arguably the fairest that it has ever been up to now.
In the first session, Thed Bjork led Gabriele Tarquini and Yvan Muller in a 1-2-3 result for Hyundai, but the second practice session of the morning would indicate that the South Korean marque won’t be able to stroll to success anymore. Although Bjork went fastest once again, the rest of the top ten standings were far more varied. Rob Huff followed up a strong fifth place in Practice One by going second fastest in Practice Two. Along with Mehdi Bennani, who was an ever-present in the top ten in both sessions, the Volkswagen team-mates appear to be in good form heading into qualifying.
There were mixed results for the other VAG Group cars. Audi seem to be struggling for pace somewhat at the Portuguese street circuit, with none of their drivers able to break into the top ten in the first practice session. However, the German marque appeared to make a stride forward in the second session after Jean-Karl Vernay posted the fifth fastest lap time. The other five Audi RS3 LMS TCRs remained in strife however, with Denis Dupont and Nathanael Berthon finishing as the slowest cars on circuit. As for Cupra, the third VAG Group brand represented in the WTCR, practice proved to be a far more positive experience.
Aside from driveshaft woes for Zsolt Szabo, the Spanish cars appeared to be at home on the Iberian circuit. John Filippi impressed by ending both sessions in the top ten, while Pepe Oriola‘s fourth place in Practice Two showed that the Cupra is a strong package this weekend. There was also reason to be happy for Team Mulsanne, whose Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR duo looked quicker than ever before. Gianni Morbidelli was the faster of their two drivers, and narrowly missed out on a place in the top ten standings in Practice Two.
The car that has been most disadvantaged by the latest BoP update, however, is the Honda Civic FK8 TCR. Despite this, the Munnich Motorsport pairing of Yann Ehrlacher and Esteban Guerrieri still managed to be competitive, finishing in sixth place in the first and second practice sessions respectively. This is a promising sign, as it shows that the Honda has not been hit as hard as the Hyundai was at Zandvoort. All things considered, it would seem that the BoP is finally working as it should.