Aurelien Panis swaps Audi for Cupra at Comtoyou Racing

by James Bowers

Aurelien Panis is set to return to the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) grid in 2019, with Comtoyou Racing having retained the young Frenchman for a second season.

Although Panis remains in the same team environment from last year, he will however have to get used to the characteristics of a new car in the coming season.  As a result of the updated four-cars-per-brand entry restrictions, Panis will swap his Audi RS3 for a Cupra TCR in 2019.

This comes after Audi confirmed their four entries earlier in the month, with the quartet of RS3 TCRs set to be driven by Jean-Karl Vernay, Gordon Shedden, Frederic Vervisch and Niels Langeveld.

So, with no vacancies available at the German marque, Panis has made the switch to Audi’s Volkswagen Group partner, Cupra. The transition therefore shouldn’t be too large, as the Audi and the Cupra share a multitude of components.

The announcement also means that Comtoyou Racing will have to split their resources between two separate teams, with one team leading the new project with Cupra, and the other running the Audis for Vervisch and Langeveld.

After a difficult start to the 2018 campaign, Aurelien Panis developed his skills well throughout the year and became a challenger for top five results by the end of the season. The youngster will undoubtedly want to continue this positive trend, however he’ll face even sterner competition in this year’s edition of the WTCR.

However, looking back at the performances of Pepe Oriola in 2018, Panis is confident that he has the car for the job: “We saw last year with Pepe Oriola and the other drivers that the car is really fast in every track. I feel really confident with that and I’m really happy to work with Cupra and to continue with Comtoyou Racing.”

“Last season was not easy from scratch, but I take a lot of experience and, in the end, the pace was good, we were fighting in the top 10 and even in the top five. For the second year my goal is to fight with the best drivers and to try to jump onto the podium.”

“I am very happy to carry on in WTCR for the second year in a row. Continuity is very important and from that I am in position to reap the benefits of months of work and progress.”

Jean-Michel Baert was delighted to have retained Panis for another season, and voiced his optimism about his Comtoyou Racing team’s chances this year: “I am very happy to be able to renew Aurélien’s contract. He shares the same values as Comtoyou Racing. He’s a very talented boy who wins every year in experience. He won a TCR race in Buriram in 2017 and will take both factors into account on the #WTCR2019SUPERGRID.”

“This announcement also confirms the partnership we have set up with Cupra. Jaime Puig wanted us to work together for a long time and hopefully we’ll be very successful. One thing is certain, we expect a lot of success in this new collaboration.”

Francois Ribeiro, the promoter of WTCR at Eurosport Events, also had his say on the latest addition to the 2019 entry list: “We saw good progression from Aurélien in 2018 and we expect the same in 2019 when he will benefit from the continuity of being part of the Comtoyou family for another year. He gained self-confidence and will have a great level of competition on the #WTCR2019SUPERGRID to benchmark his progresses.”

Comtoyou Racing will announce the second of their Cupra-equipped drivers in the coming weeks.

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