TCR Series Roundup – 3rd 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 TCR UK, TCR Europe, TCR Malaysia and the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR).

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

M Racing make the switch to TCR Europe

M Racing. Credit: Jean Michel Le Meur / DPPI

M Racing have confirmed that they are switching to the 2019 TCR Europe Touring Car Series after competing in last season’s FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) running two Hyundai i30 N TCR’s for Yvan Muller Racing.

The team, led by Justine Monnier, have announced that they will run the two Hyundai’s in TCR Europe where the cars will be driven by Nelson Panciatici and Natan Bihel.

The team will join Target Competition, who are running Jessica and Andreas Backman in Hyundai’s and Comtoyou Racing, who will run Denis Dupont and Gilles Magnus as the current confirmed entries for this year.

TCR Malaysia: Rounds Three and Four

Luca Engstler dominated the opening races of the 2019 TCR Malaysia Touring Car Series. Credit: Match Chong

The 2019 TCR Malaysia Touring Car Series enjoyed its second weekend of action from the Sepang International Circuit over the weekend, where rounds three and four took place.

2018 TCR Asia Series and 2018 TCR Middle East Series Champion Luca Engstler dominated the first weekend of action, taking two wins in very different conditions to take the championship lead, ahead of Rob Huff who took pole position for race one in the Teamwork Motorsports Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR.

With Huff not returning for the last two races,  Engstler has already staked a serious claim on the inaugural TCR Malaysia title after two third of the season. The young German and his Liqui Moly Team Engstler Hyundai i30 N scored full points in the second event at the Sepang International Circuit.

After setting pole position, Engstler took victory in both races, meaning that he now holds a strong points lead over his teammate Kai Jordan, who is competing in his Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR. Paul Ip claimed third position in race one in the KCMG Honda Civic whilst Brendan Paul Anthony secured the final podium position in race two.

With fifty-five points still on offer in the third and final event that will take place on February 23-24, Engstler is looking odds on to secure the title.

TCR Europe Calendar completed with Hockenheim addition

The 2018 ADAC TCR Germany Series at Hockenheim. Credit: ADAC Motorsport-Gruppe C Photography

The calendar for The 2019 TCR Europe Touring Car Series has been completed, with the Hockenheimring in Germany confirmed to take the slot held provisionally by the Netherlands.

The series promoters have also confirmed that they will share the weekend with the International GT Open Series, an arrangement that will also take place in Spa-Francorchamps, Barcelona and Monza. This also means that there will be two German events on the calendar for this year.

The venue, which has been home to the German Grand Prix for decades, is a popular addition to the calendar. For the past three years, it has been the location of the finale for the ADAC TCR Germany Series where both Josh Files and Harald Procyzk have been crowned champions.

Girolami joins Guerrieri and Montiero in Honda WTCR lineup

Honda have announced three of the four drivers which they will be backing for the upcoming 2019 World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) season.

Esteban Guerrieri, who finished 2018 as the third best driver in the points standings, will remain with Munnich Motorsport for a second season in one of their Honda Civic FK8 TCRs. Guerrieri will again hope to lead Honda’s charge and take the fight to Hyundai for victory in the world cup.

He’ll be joined at the German team by Argentine compatriot, and close friend, Nestor ‘Bebu’ Girolami. Girolami was always keen to get back on the WTCR grid for 2019 after his last drive with Volvo in WTCC two years ago. With an opening at the Munnich Motorsport team with the departures of both Yann Ehrlacher and Timo Scheider, the Argentine driver has the chance he needs to compete at World Level again.

Portuguese ace, Tiago Monteiro, has continued his recovery from injuries sustained in 2017 and hopes to be able to complete the full season this time around. Monteiro’s team – and his team-mate – will be revealed in the coming weeks.

Leuchter completes Sébastien Loeb Racing lineup for 2019 WTCR Season

Leuchter joins a strong line at SLR, including Huff, Benanni and Kristoffersson for this years WTCR season. Credit: Volkswagen Motorsport

Volkswagen Motorsport have announced that former VLN Endurance TCR Champion Benjamin Leuchter will complete their 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) driver lineup.

Leuchter competed in the ADAC TCR Germany Series last year for Max Kruse Racing where he took several podium finishes and finished in eighth place overall, making him the highest-placed Volkswagen driver at the end of the year.

The German driver has also been involved in the development of the Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR from the beginning.  Leuchter will join Rob Huff and Mehdi Bennani at Sébastien Loeb Racing this year with double FIA World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristoffersson also confirmed to be part of the roster.

Team Mulsanne retain Ceccon for renewed WTCR assault

Kevin Ceccon returns to WTCR with Team Mulsanne. Credit: François Flamand / DPPI.

After an impressive debut in touring cars last year, Kevin Ceccon is back with Team Mulsanne for a full campaign in the 2019 World Touring Car Cup (WTCR).

The 25-year-old Italian made his mark on the WTCR last year, taking over from Gianni Morbidelli who parted ways with the Alfa Romeo squad midway through the 2018 season. Championed by Gabriele Tarquini, Ceccon was an instant hit upon his arrival to the series. During his first event with the car at the Slovakiaring, Ceccon showcased a spirited driving style that earned him championship points straight away.

Following that, Ceccon scored both his and the team’s first pole position and race victory at the Suzuka circuit in Japan, topping off a highly-successful end to the season in what can be considered as a tough campaign for the Italian outfit overall.

Now, Ceccon and the Team Mulsanne crew will look to capitalise on their progress from last year, with a new homologation of the Romeo Ferraris-built Giulietta TCR set to debut on track in 2019. The driver signed for the second Alfa Romeo seat will be announced in due course.

Entries open for 2019 TCR UK Series amidst further changes

After a positive first season, the future looks bright for TCR UK in 2019. Credit: BRSCC / TCR UK Series

Entries for the 2019 TCR UK Series have opened, with the series organisers announcing several interesting changes for the series’ second season.

Entry fees are significantly lower than in 2018, while there is the addition of a new TCR UK Cup class for Gentlemen drivers and drivers competing in the true ‘amateur spirit’ of motor racing and the return of the DSG Cup.

Qualifying and Race formats have also been changed to bring the series into line with other TCR series around the globe. Qualifying will now be the two-stage process seen in many other TCR series, while the duration of the races have been trimmed to twenty-three minutes plus one lap, the same format as used for TCR Europe.

The next TCR roundup from The Checkered Flag will be out in seven days time.

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