The TCR format is known around the world for its exciting and close Touring Car action whilst attracting some of the best and talented tintop drivers and teams.
With the TCR UK Series getting underway at Silverstone over the Easter weekend, the series would see plenty of on track action and a variety of entrants during what can be described as a successful first year for one of the newest members of the TCR Family.
LLOYD: THE RIGHT MAN WITH THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB
It can be said that 2018 TCR UK Champion Daniel Lloyd was the class of the field, however Lloyd’s story has more to it than domination. The former TCR International Series competitor was racing on a tight budget, securing funds for the following race weekend based on his on-track performances. With a full season budget not achieved until late in the year, this proves that talent in Motorsport only gets you so far.
Lloyd took a total of eight wins and four pole positions on his way to the title victory. Some said that his style was boring, but getting a clean start and leading from the front with a large gap is the best way to win and Lloyd proved that well. Aside from the various points penalties awarded during the year, Lloyd used his ability and experience to stay in front.
He suffered one retirement all season at Croft, but this proved to be his biggest loss as it came at a time when Ollie Taylor was closing down Lloyd’s championship lead. Winning the first race in wet conditions at Donington Park was enough for Lloyd to secure the title and it capped off a year where the best driver with the most experience driving for the most experienced team did the best job.
TAYLOR: THE TITLE CHALLENGER WHO NEVER GAVE UP
Ollie Taylor would be Lloyds sole title challenger throughout the year and started off well by taking two podiums at the Silverstone opener in his Pyro Motorsport Honda Civic FK2. A move to the newer FK7 model at Brands Hatch would be the start of Taylor’s mission to clawback points and the benefits of this came at Castle Combe.
Castle Combe saw Taylor take his first and only pole position of the year and also his first win of the year after contact from Lloyd saw the WestCoast Racing pilot moved to second place after the race. His run of consistency with podium finishes helped Taylor close down the points gap, whilst a retirement from his rival at Croft which set up a showdown at the final two races on the Donington Park National circuit.
Despite a tall order of trying to finish ahead of Lloyd in difficult conditions, Taylor ultimately failed at the last hurdle and would settle for second place overall. Two wins from fourteen races seems little reward however Taylor ended the year on a very positive note.
ANDREAS BACKMAN: THE STUDENT LEARNS FAST
Entering his first season of Touring Car racing after several years of both Karting and Rallycross experience, Andreas Backman was lucky enough to race in both the TCR UK Series and TCR Scandinavia Series during 2018 and he learned how to get the best out of a car fast.
Some of the best Touring Car drivers have some off-road racing experience and Backman was well placed to put his to good use. Whilst he was a regular top ten competitor in TCR Scandinavia Series, the WestCoast Racing rookie was a podium contender several times in the UK. Learning and benefitting from the experience of team-mate and eventual champion Daniel Lloyd, he took to the podium five times in 2018 however Croft will be his best result of the year.
With WestCoast Racing having a clashing TCR Scandinavia Series meeting on the same weekend as Croft and only having three Volkswagen Golfs, the decision was taken to put Lloyd and Jessica Backman in two Golf’s whilst Fredrik Ekblom (The team’s regular driver in TCR Scandinavia Series) would use one on home ground. A deal was struck for Andreas to race the SWR Honda Civic which he duly put on pole position and then took his first win so far in his career by a large margin.
THE PODIUM VISITORS: THOSE WHO JUST MISSED OUT ON A WIN…
There was quite a competitive midfield in TCR UK during the year and several drivers were able to stand on the podium with the likes of Lloyd, Taylor and Andreas Backman. Jessica Backman was one of them, securing a podium in the second Brands Hatch race after a spirited defence against the CUPRA’s of Carl Swift and Stewart Lines.
In a learning year, Jessica seemed to be involved in quite a few incidents of contact however when she was on form, the other Backman sibling was fast and also benefitted from the tutelage of Lloyd in both the UK and Scandinavia. More time in the car and learning that passing doesn’t mean contact and she will soon be racking up more podiums.
Lewis Kent, competing in the family-run Essex and Kent Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR, was a building star in the series. Having moved up the BRSCC ladder during his career, Kent was always full of enthusiasm and energy but he can also be rewarded for his honesty as well. When things were bad, the former Fiesta Champion would be clear about what went wrong and how he would improve next time.
Whilst the bigger teams in WTCR and TCR Europe were taking wins almost every weekend, Kent struggled to adapt to the car. As he learned more about the car, the podiums soon happened. Third place at Brands Hatch was a great reward and third place at Oulton Park tells the story of how hard he pushed. There is more to come from this young talent.
Former BTCC driver Stewart Lines made his debut in TCR UK initially with the DSG version of the CUPRA TCR however, an upgrade of gearbox to the car meant his fortunes soon improved. With fellow CUPRA driver Carl Swift also teaming up with the Maximum Motorsport driver, the two drivers were soon chasing podiums and getting involved with the battles during the on-track action.
Whilst qualifying pace was seemingly a letdown, race pace for both drivers was always good and they were able to reduce any disadvantage in the races to make up ground and points. Contact seemed to be the story of the year with both of the CUPRA’s, often being on the receiving end of this from both of the Backman siblings. Lines would take his only podium finish at the final race of the year whilst Swift would secure his in Oulton Park race two. Both drivers deserved more during the year.
One man with plenty of experience in TCR machinery was Finlay Crocker. Having campaigned in both ADAC TCR Germany and TCR Italy in recent seasons, the Verizon Connect Racing pilot entered the year with a brand new FK7 Civic and was thick in the battle for places every weekend on the calendar. Contact in the races also blighted the Scotsman and he was left with five zero points finishes by the time the series reached Oulton Park.
Missing the weekend due to work commitments (I’ll cover his stand in later…), Crocker was back in the seat at Croft where he held off Andreas Backman for second in a race-long duel. A further podium came at Donington with third place in the year’s penultimate race. When things were going his way, Crocker was fast and a little luck would have seen more podiums come his way.
THE GUEST STARS: THOSE WHO SHONE IN THE LIMELIGHT
The biggest name to mention was Ashley Sutton, who stepped in for Finlay Crocker at Oulton Park. From the moment he turned up Sutton was fast and he soon made it clear how fast he was in TCR machinery. Pole Position for race one and two very dominant victories meant that Sutton clearly stamped his authority on the weekend.
Tim Docker also made his debut at Oulton Park, driving the same Volkswagen Golf TCR that he also raced in the Britcar Endurance Series. Struggling with the Balance of Performance which saw all four Golfs on maximum ballast that weekend, two points finishes was good work on his debut.
Josh Price was another driver who also showed his talent well during his few appearances. Driving an FK2 Civic in conjunction with BMR, Price took podium finishes at Knockhill and was able to tame the horrible conditions at Donington Park and take a dominant race win in the final race of the year.
Darelle Wilson couldn’t be missed in his bright green Vauxhall Astra during the season and was often in the thick of the battle for positions when the car was on form. Whilst the Astra was fast in the events it competed in, Wilson was another driver who suffered with contact during the races as well as losing time with getting the car repaired on a tight budget.
Howard Fuller and Sean Walkinshaw shared the driving duties in the previously mentioned Sean Walkinshaw Racing Honda. Running on a tight budget and racing at Silverstone and Brands Hatch only, Fuller rewarded the team with a podium in his last race. Walkinshaw took the car to its first podium at Knockhill and would return for the Donington finale.
Derek Palmer Junior was the longest serving Alfa Romeo driver, missing only Croft and Donington but unreliability blighted a season that, when the Giulietta was on form, it was capable challenging the Golf for pole positions and speed. Whilst Aiden Moffat showed this best with his two weekends of participation, sadly Robert Gilmour would suffer a difficult time with the cars. Plenty of talent that deserved more points.
The first season of TCR UK started off well with better than average grids for a TCR Series in its first year of action and there was plenty of action during each race weekend, as you would come to expect from a TCR Series.
Despite falling grid numbers during the middle of the season, due to damaged cars or drivers with budget issues, the organisers were happy with the product they produced after halfway into the season. By the end of the year, returning drivers and teams showed there was more interest in the UK’s newest Touring Car Series than many outside of the series were willing to admit to.
With a revised calendar in place for 2019 and talk of a growth in entries, the organisers are working hard from behind the scenes to improve the product further.
The offseason will be an important time to see how the second season of this series will fair, as the TCR regulations enter their fifth year of competition and further expansion on a global scale takes place.