Preview: 2018 TCR UK Series – Donington Park

by James Bowers
Lloyd-vs-Taylor-2018-TCRUK

When it was announced that the TCR concept would gain its own UK-based championship this year, nobody really knew what to expect. Undoubtedly, the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) was always going to remain as the UK’s premier tin-top series, however the premise of a much lower-cost alternative was certainly an intriguing idea.

The competition has had it’s highs and lows over the course of 2018, there can be no question of that. On one hand, the close-quarters racing that the TCR concept provides has produced some entertaining battles over the past few months, however there’s also been a few moments that would’ve had championship promoters worrying.

For instance, when Aiden Moffat and Laser Tools Racing (one of the championship’s star competitors) pulled out after just two meetings, they cited disappointment in the state of governing conduct as the reason why. Indeed, it was hardly a vote of confidence in the championship’s future from one of the top outfits involved, and I imagine would’ve caused a few P.R. shockwaves behind the scenes.

There were also much-maligned slumps in grid numbers midway through the year. Of course, nobody is too keen on watching a race with only a handful of cars taking part, but in this first ever season it was always likely to be an issue that would have to be faced at some stage. The exact same thing happened in 2001 when the BTCC was rebooted with new technical regulations, however it’s plain to see that that championship has grown rather exponentially since.

In a market like the U.K. where BTCC had a stranglehold on touring car racing, this first season for TCR was always going to be tough. Nonetheless, as we head into the final round at Donington Park, the future certainly seems brighter than some motorsport pundits/fans might have you believe. For the TCR UK Series promotion team, it’s been a job well done and a hugely important first hurdle conquered, with prospects for the 2019 championship rumoured to be positive.

But, turning attention back towards the on-track action this weekend, spectators should be set for a fantastically entertaining finale to the 2018 season:

The Setting:

In the early stages of the season, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it would be a one-horse race for the title. Behind the wheel of a WestCoast Racing Volkswagen, Daniel Lloyd won the opening six races of the season without much in the way of competition. However, Ollie Taylor never gave up hope of being in contention come the end of the season, and his consistency has paid of.

The final showdown between the pair will be at the high speed Donington Park circuit; a course with plenty of pedigree for creating entertaining races. Heading into the weekend, a 31-point deficit separates the pair, with Lloyd ahead of Taylor. On the face of it, this may seem substantial, but with 91 points left up for grabs it’s still all to play for.

The Contenders – Dan Lloyd

In the eyes of many, Dan Lloyd is the favourite going into the weekend. A BTCC race winner, and former TCR International competitor, the WestCoast racing driver has significantly more top level racing experience than his Pyro Motorsport rival.

In the past, West Coast Racing team manager James Nixon said it would be unjust if his driver didn’t become champion at the end of the year. Truth be told, he has been the class of the field for much of the season, but in recent months the likes of Ashley Sutton (who appeared as a one-off guest) and Ollie Taylor have knocked Lloyd off the top of his perch.

Whether or not Lloyd can return to his earlier all-dominant form at Donington Park remains to be seen, however it’s certainly not beyond the realms of possibility for him to score maximum points this time out. With a 31-point deficit, it’ll take a big performance for Taylor to overhaul a driver of Lloyd’s quality.

The Contenders – Ollie Taylor

The one man who can come between Dan Lloyd and the inaugural TCR UK Championship honours is Ollie Taylor. The former club racer has improved gradually over the season, particularly since switching from the older FK2-spec Honda Civic to the new FK8 model.

In fact, Ollie Taylor is now a serious challenger to Lloyd in terms of outright pace, and recently documented his good form with a strong performance at Monza against the TCR Europe regulars.

Although factors such as qualifying (and luck) will be important on the day, the gap to Lloyd in the points standings is not insurmountable. Very few people would’ve predicted that the championship would remain up for grabs by this stage, which if anything is a testament to Ollie Taylor’s ability to achieve the unlikely.

Who else is taking part?

There is a 13-car entry list for the final TCR UK event of the year. Alongside Dan Lloyd, Swedish siblings Andreas & Jessica Backman return with the WestCoast Racing team, while Pyro Motorsport will support the Honda Civic of Finlay Crocker alongside that of Taylor.

Championship regulars Maximum Motorsport shall also return, this time with their full complement of two cars after Carl Swift‘s Cupra received necessary repairs following its big shunt at Oulton Park. Swift will be joined as per usual by team owner/driver, Stewart Lines.

Teenager, Lewis Kent, has had a promising yet somewhat turbulent season at times. He and the Essex & Kent Motorsport squad will be hoping for a strong end to their campaign with the Hyundai i30N TCR.

Sean Walkinshaw will make his second appearance in TCR UK after previously competing at the Knockhill event. He’ll get behind the wheel of his own team’s Honda Civic; the car which has also been driven by Howard Fuller and more recently by Andreas Backman during this season.

Darelle Wilson will be hoping that his continued struggles for pace and reliability with the DW Racing Vauxhall Astra TCR will come to a timely end this weekend. However, another team who has had an up-and-down campaign, DPE Motorsport, have been unable to get either of their Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCRs prepared in time for this event.

Luckily, the numbers will be boosted by two other returnees and a new arrival to the championship:

BTCC regular, Josh Price, will make a comeback to TCR action in a venerable FK2-spec Honda Civic. The youngster showed good pace in this field when he competed earlier in the season, so should be a quality addition to the grid again this time out.

Finally, Vukovic Motorsport will be bringing a pair of Renault Megane TCRs as they continue with their year-long development programme. Team regular, Alex Morgan will pilot one Megane, though the other driver has yet to be confirmed. It is thought that the car has made significant progress since it last appeared in TCR UK at Brands Hatch. Morgan is no slouch either, so this could be the most competitive performance we’ve seen from the new Renault across all TCR series.

How can I watch the action?

Both races will be broadcast live, free of charge on YouTube as per usual. Race One will take place at around 1 o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday, with the second race scheduled for around 4 o’clock. So, keep an eye out on the TCR UK social media pages for links to the livestream and don’t miss a second of the action. Of course, we’ll keep you up to date with Qualifying and both races right here on TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk.

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