During 2019, The Checkered Flag is rounding up the news and results from the various TCR Series around the world on a weekly basis.
This weeks review includes The TCR Japan Touring Car Series, The VLN Endurance Championship, The Super Taikyu Endurance Series, The Creventic 24H TCE Series, The TCR Italy Touring Car Championship, The ADAC TCR Germany Series, The TCR Europe Touring Car 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.
Mathilda Racing starts the season with a win
Mathilda Racing confirmed itself as the team to beat on the Nürburgring Nordschleife and won the TCR class in the opening round of the VLN Endurance Championship.
The race was originally scheduled on a four-hour distance, but foggy weather delayed all procedures by four hours, which forced the organisers to shorten the race distance to two hours and forty-five minutes.
For most of the race, the two Hyundai Motorsport cars were in the lead and one hour before the end the Veloster N of Manuel Lauck and Marc Basseng was keeping the first position in the class ahead of their teammates Peter Terting and Harald Proczyk in a i30 N car.
The Mathilda Racing Cupra shared by Matthias Wesel, Frédéric Yerly and Heiko Hammel followed in third position before took command in the final hour. The Terting-Proczyk Hyundai i30 N and the Hyundai Veloster of Lauck-Basseng completed the podium one lap behind the winners.
Team Mars gives Audi its first TCR win in 2019
The Audi Team Phenomen Mars won the TCR class in the opening round of the Japanese Super Taikyu Endurance Series and scored the first victory of the season for the Audi RS 3 LMS.
Hideaki Okajima, Masanobu Kato, Masato Shimoyama and Daisuke Imamura shared driving duties during the 5-hour race and eventually won by the slim margin of six seconds ahead of the Modulo Racing DOME Honda Civic Type R driven by Tadao Uematsu, Shinji Nakano, Mitsuhiro Endo and Hiroki Otsu. However, the Honda was demoted to fourth by a penalty for overtaking under a yellow flag.
It was an exciting race that saw five teams running in the same lap until the end. The BRP Audi of ‘Hirobon’, Takeshi Matsumoto and Takuro Shinohara set pole position and was in the lead for the first three hours.
Then the Audi Team Phenomen Mars Audi that had started from seventh on the grid, moved into the first place thanks to a perfect pit-stop strategy, while there was a close fight for second between the BRP Audi, the Modulo Racing DOME Civic and the KCMG Honda Civic of Paul Ip, Jim Ka To and Matthew Howson.
Files returns to Target Competition for TCR Europe title assault
Triple TCR Champion Josh Files has announced that he will return to TCR Competition this year, taking part in the 2019 TCR Europe Touring Car Series at the wheel of a Target Competition Hyundai i30 N TCR.
Files, who took a sole victory at Zandvoort last season in the series driving for KCMG in the Honda Civic Type R, will reunite with the team that he scored both of his ADAC TCR Germany drivers titles with, securing back to back titles in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
This also marks a departure for the British driver, having previously raced and won his titles at the helm of the Honda Civic Type R built by JAS Motorsport.
With this announcement, Target Competition have marked themselves as favourites for both the Drivers Title and the Teams Title where Files will join the already announced lineup of Mat’o Homola, Dusan Borković, Andreas Bäckman and Jessica Bäckman.
Coronel announces TCR Europe campaign alongside WTCR commitment
WTCR ace Tom Coronel has revealed that he has added a TCR Europe assault to his very busy 2019 programme, where he will reunite with the Boutsen Ginion Racing team.
The Dutch driver will compete in the 2019 TCR Europe Touring Car Series for the Belgian team, where he will compete against a very competitive field. Coronel will drive the Honda Civic Type-R TCR that he drove in the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) last season.
Alongside his confirmed entry in this years WTCR season, where he will drive a Comtoyou Racing run Cupra TCR, Coronel also competing in the German VLN Endurance Championship, the Nürburgring 24 hours and the Spa-Francorchamps 24 hours.
As WTCR regulations state that a driver cannot compete in two TCR Series at the same circuit over the same weekend, 2016 TCR Benelux Champion Stéphane Lémeret will drive the car at the Hungaroring round.
First TCR Japan official test at Mount Fuji
Less than a couple of months before the first ever TCR Japan Touring Car Series goes underway, the teams took part in the series’ first official testing at Fuji International Speedway.
Eleven cars, representing three different brands – Audi, Honda, Volkswagen – have joined the test, but the provisional entry list issued by the championship promoter encompasses fifteen competitors including two Alfa Romeo Giulietta cars.
British driver Matt Howson has been signed by Hong Kong-based KCMG who will run a Honda Civic Type R FK8 in the all-new TCR Japan Touring Car Series.
Last year, KCMG fielded a Honda Civic Type R in TCR Europe, winning the teams’ title with a season-topping four wins. The squad also ran a Civic Type R in the 2019 Dubai 24 Hours and in the inaugural TCR Malaysia Series.
Mugelli to drive PRS Motorsport Alfa Romeo in TCR Italy
PRS Motorsport has signed Massimiliano Mugelli to drive the team’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta in the 2019 TCR Italy Touring Car Championship.
Team principal Oriano Agostini commented: “We are delighted to welcome Mugelli in the team; he is a top driver and together we are aiming for the TCR Italy title. We have just completed a fruitful test day at Mugello, working side by side with the Romeo Ferraris technical staff. We are confident that a brilliant season lays ahead, but we must stay focused because competition will be strong.”
Mugelli has successfully taken part in TCR Italy’s two previous seasons; he was classified fourth in 2017 driving an Audi RS 3 LMS and ninth last year in a Honda Civic Type R.
“I have been impressed by the Giulietta, especially by its torque. I am very confident because the team has always worked well and we can also count on the technical support from the Romeo Ferraris engineering. I am excited for racing with an Italian car, as this provides further motivation,” said Mugelli.
HP Racing switches to Hyundai to defend TCR Germany titles
Reigning ADAC TCR Germany champions Harald Proczyk and HP Racing International will defend their Drivers’ and Teams’ titles this year with a new car, the Hyundai i30 N, while the Austrian driver will have a new teammate in fellow countryman Lukas Niedertscheider
The Austrian outfit ran a pair of Opel Astra TCRs in the series last season for Proczyk and Luke Wankmüller, with Proczyk taking three wins as he beat Luca Engstler to the title.
Niedertscheider raced for the team in a one-off at Hockenheim back in 2016 before spending the last two seasons with his own Niedertscheider MSP team.
Having managed just a single top eight finish last year in a Peugeot, he now hopes to impress on his return to HP Racing International as the team becomes the latest to switch to the Hyundai i30 N TCR for 2019.
Salvatore Tavano returns to defend his TCR Italy title
Reigning TCR Italy champion Salvatore Tavano returns to defend his title for the 2019 TCR Italy Touring Car Championship season, which gets underway at the Cathedral of Speed known as Monza next weekend.
Tavano will race again at the wheel of a CUPRA TCR run by the Scuderia del Girasole squad. In a repeat of last years line up, Matteo Greco has also been retained by the team as they look to successfully defend their titles.
“We resume at Monza, where we finished last year. Our goal is clearly to repeat ourselves and retain the title,” said Tavano.
Greco, who was classified third in last year’s championship added: “I wish to help the team to win again. As for myself, I will do my best to fight for the top positions.”
Team principal Tarcisio Bernasconi concluded: “We know that we have to face a strong field of competitors, but we are here to fight hard.”
WSC publishes the initial BoP for the 2019 season
Following a succession of rigorous tests, the WSC governing body that is behind the TCR concept has published their latest Balance of Performance (BoP) figures. The performance adjustments for each TCR-homologated car listed in the BoP are to be adhered to in order to level the playing field between manufacturers as much as possible, across all TCR Series around the world.
Several factors make up the Balance of Performance. They are Engine Power Level, Target Racing Weight, Compensation Weight, BoP Ballast, Total Minimum Racing Weight and Ride Height.
One of the headlines from the latest edition of the BoP is that the brand new Hyundai Veloster N TCR and Lynk&Co 03 TCR will be the two heaviest cars in competition, being handed a 40kg and 30kg weight ballast respectively.
To give the cars a further handicap, both will also be limited to running on only 97.5% of their maximum engine power. Also being handed a 97.5% power limit is the Hyundai i30 N TCR. The South Korean hot hatch was the car to beat last year, and as such, it has paid for its success in the latest BoP guidelines. In addition to the power reduction, the i30N will also be given a 90mm ride height; the joint-highest alongside its Veloster counterpart.
Honda and Audi on top during WTCR Test in Barcelona
Esteban Guerrieri set the fastest lap in the first official test day at Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya. The Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic cars topped both sessions with laps of 1:54.738 by Nestor Girolami in the morning and 1:54.531 by Guerrieri in the afternoon.
Guerrieri had been second fastest in the morning as both he and Girolami took stints in the same car. Jean-Karl Vernay was third fastest over the day, clocking a lap of 1:55.231 in the afternoon, at the wheel of his Leopard Racing Audi RS 3 LMS. The Frenchman’s effort demoted Team Mulsanne’s Kevin Ceccon to fourth.
The second WTCR test day saw Gordon Shedden posting the fastest lap of 1:54.434 in the afternoon session, which also placed him on top of the two-day combined results.
The Scot and his Leopard Racing Audi RS 3 LMS were only seventy-four thousandths of a second faster than Girolami who clocked the time of 1:54.508 in one of the Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic cars. These results demoted Guerrieri to third in the combined results.
Only two other drivers were able to complete a lap under the 1:55 mark, both in Thursday afternoon’s session: Vernay and Ma Qing Hua in the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce.
Second consecutive victory for Autorama Motorsport
The Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG entered by Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing claimed a second consecutive victory in the 24H TCE Series.
After the success in the season’s opening 24H Dubai, the Swiss team encored in the 12H Mugello. Fabian Danz, who was part of the winning team in the Emirates, was joined in Italy by the Danish duo of Jan Sorensen and Kristian Jepsen.
The first part of the race, that was run Friday afternoon on a three-hour distance, was won by the Monlau Competición Cupra as the Autorama Golf took the chequered flag in second position, forty-three seconds behind. The AC Motorsport Audi RS 3 LMS DSG of Stéphane Perrin, Vincent Radermecker and James Kaye was classified third with a gap of three minutes.
The Cupra took the lead at the start of the nine-hour second leg on Saturday morning, but eventually, the Thai quartet retired with three hours left when Asiralertsiri crashed at turn nine.
Following the technical issue suffered by Monlau Competición, the Autorama Golf inherited the lead and kept a consistent pace as it was chased by the AC Motorsport Audi squad, who would eventually have to settle for second position, 26 seconds behind Sorensen.
Sweden’s Stefan Nilsson, Mats Olsson, Peter Fahlström and Emil Sällberg completed the podium in the Lestrup Racing car.