TCR Series Roundup – 10th February 2019

by Phil Kinch

During 2019, The Checkered Flag will be rounding up the news and results from the various TCR Series around the world on a weekly basis. This weeks review includes the TCR Middle East Series, the ADAC TCR Germany, the TCR Europe Series, the TCR Italy Series and the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR).

Here’s a look at all of the action and announcements from the last seven days.

René Münnich secures 2019 TCR Middle East Series title in Dubai

Rene Munnich has dominated the TCR Middle East Series so far. Credit: Creventic

René Münnich clinched the 2019 TCR Middle East title last week with a perfect score of six victories out of the six sprint races. With the final races of the season taking place at the series finale at Dubai Autodrome, the German driver and his Honda Civic Type R claimed two comfortable wins ahead of the CUPRA of Luc Breukers.

After Münnich continued his domination from the two races at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit previously, he looked on impressive form for the final day of the season and duly delivered the performance required to seal the title.

With the Münnich Motorsport driver winning the title, Breukers ended the series in second place, forty-five points off the lead. Zengő Motorsport team principal Zoltán Zengő finished in third place.

Münnich becomes the third driver to win the TCR Middle East Series Drivers title after Josh Files in 2017 and Luca Engstler last year. Engstler has elected to focus on the TCR Malaysia Series this season, where he is odds on to win the title.

Kirsch returns to ADAC TCR Germany running Opel Astra’s

Steve Kirsch will drive an Opel Astra on his return to ADAC TCR Germany this year. Credit: GM/Opel Media

IMC Motorsport have announced that they will join the 2019 ADAC TCR Germany Series, running two Opel Astra TCR cars with experienced racer Steve Kirsch confirmed for one of the cars.

Kirsch has taken part in the ADAC TCR Germany Series since it got underway back in 2016, although the 39-year-old only entered into three events last season in a Renault Mégane TCR, starting just one race at the Sachsenring.

The German driver was previously a two-time race winner in the tin-top series, where he finished third overall in the drivers’ standings.

IMC Motorsport are making their debut in the series and have confirmed that the driver for the second Opel Astra TCR will be revealed at a later date.

Unchanged lineup at Team Honda ADAC Sachsen for 2019 ADAC TCR Germany Series

Mike Halder returns to the ADAC TCR Germany series this year with Team Honda ADAC Sachsen. Credit: JAS Motorsport Media

Mike Halder and Dominik Fugel will continue to race with Team Honda ADAC Sachsen in the 2019 ADAC TCR Germany Series, entering their second season as team-mates.

The Fugel Sport-run team brought in Halder to partner Fugel last season in a pair of FK8 Honda Civic Type R TCRs, with Halder ending the season fourth in the championship standings after taking three wins.

Fugel made a return to racing last year after missing the 2017 season through injury. He added to his maiden ADAC TCR Germany Series win in 2016 with a second victory at the Nürburgring and hopes that Halder can help the team secure both the drivers and teams titles in 2019.

Ma joins Ceccon in Team Mulsanne WTCR lineup

Ma Qing Hua joins Kevin Ceccon at Team Mulsanne for their 2019 WTCR campaign. Credit: FIA WTCR Media

Team Mulsanne have confirmed that former F1 test driver Ma Qing Hua will join Kevin Ceccon in the second Alfa Romeo Giulietta for the team’s assault on the 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR).

The timing of the announcement for the former WTCC driver couldn’t be better as this confirmation comes at the same time as the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Ma becomes the first Chinese driver to embark on a full season of WTCR, having started eight races in a Boutsen-Ginion Racing Honda Civic Type R TCR last year as he stepped in for the recovering Tiago Monteiro.

Having driven the Alfa Romeo Giulietta in the TCR China Series finale last year, where he took the car to a race win, Ma is already acquainted with the car and team.

Langeveld completes Audi Sport Customer Racing WTCR lineup

Niels Langeveld steps up to the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) for 2019. Credit: ADAC Motorsport-Gruppe C Photography

Audi Sport Customer Racing confirmed their driver and team lineups for the 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) with rookie Niels Langeveld joining the effort.

Langeveld has been a frontrunner in the ADAC TCR Germany Series for the past two seasons where he drove an Audi RS3 LMS TCR for Racing One, keeping himself in the fight for the championship despite BoP changes to the car during each campaign.

The Dutch driver will make his debut in WTCR this year, driving for Comtoyou Team Audi Sport alongside Frédéric Vervisch, who took his first win at the Macau Finale last year along with several podium finishes during the season.

WRT will also return for a second season in the series, retaining both Gordon Shedden and Jean-Karl Vernay for a second campaign running under the Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport banner.

Two Opel Astra’s confirmed for 2019 TCR Italy Series

Andrea Argenti will return for a second season of TCR Italy in his Opel Astra this year. Credit: ACI Sport / TCR Italy

The 2019 TCR Italy Series will see two Opel Astra TCR cars this year, with two sperate teams running one car each.

Andrea Argenti will return for a second season in his Opel Astra after competing in the car last year for South Italy Racing where he took a best finish of eighth place in the second race at Mugello.

Nello Nataloni will take part in the entire season this year after competing on only three weekends in 2018. After driving for South Italy Racing last year, Nataloni moves across to N Motors.

Both teams have stated that they are currently in preparations for the coming season where one of the Opels being used this year was driven by 2018 TCR Germany champion Harald Proczyk last year.

M Racing begin testing programme ahead of 2019 TCR Europe Series debut

M Racing recently tested in Spain as Nelson Panciatici and Natan Bihel tried out the Hyundai i30 N TCR cars for the first time Credit: Paulo Maria / DPPI

Only a few days after announcing participation in the 2019 TCR Europe Series, M Racing went testing at Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya in Spain, joining WTCR team Lynk & Co Cyan Racing on track.

This was the first time that the teams two drivers, Nelson Panciatici and Natan Bihel, were able to get behind the wheel of the Hyundai i30 N cars they will drive during the season.

“It was a good first approach with the car and also the opportunity for making contact with the M Racing crew. Everything went well and I was quite surprised to feel soon at ease in this car and I appreciated its level of performance. Now we need mileage to try to find the final tenths. But all in all it was a nice discovery, promising for the future,” said Panciatici.

“It was my very first time in a TCR car but eventually I was able to get my bearings quicker than expected. Now we have to continue testing and improve the performance, but it was a good first experience. I’m eager to continue discovering the car in the next tests.” said Bihel.

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