WTCR 2019 SuperGrid: Who didn’t make the cut?

by James Bowers
Zengo-Boutsen-Campos-WTCR

Following the earlier announcement that Daniel Haglof and Mikel Azcona will compete for PWR Racing this year, the 2019 World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) full-season entry list has been finalised, with twenty-six drivers set to battle for victory over the course of the season.

While the series has seen some new faces arrive to the paddock, as well as some heroic ones return to the competition, there a number of notable absences on the 2019 grid from the class of 2018. Although there is the possibility of them returning as one-off wildcards, plenty of drivers and teams from last season will not be back for a full campaign this year.

Arguably the most notable absence is that of Pepe Oriola. The Cupra prodigy who finished sixth in the drivers’ championship standings in 2018 appears to have been a victim of Campos Racing‘s withdrawal from the series. A potential world championship contender, Oriola will instead compete in the TCR Asia Series this year, behind the wheel of a Hyundai i30N TCR. Other appearances elsewhere are not yet out of the question though.

Oriola’s 2018 team-mate, John Filippi, also leaves the World Cup. After enduring a far less successful campaign than the Spaniard, Filippi will move on to the TCR Europe Series. There, the Corsican driver will race a brand new Renault Megane RS TCR for Vukovic Motorsport.

Also joining Filippi as part of the Vukovic-Renault project is team manger, Eric Neve. The man who famously led the dominant RML Chevrolet World Touring Car team between 2005-2012 also leaves the world stage behind.

Last year, Neve had overseen the DG Sport Competition operation, which entered a pair of Peugeot 308 TCRs. However, with the French marque reducing their TCR support, DG Sport have had to withdraw from the World Cup in 2019, meaning that there won’t be any Peugeots in the WTCR this year.

It also means that plucky underdogs Aurelien Comte and Mat’o Homola won’t return either. The popular duo battled against the odds to take race victories in their Peugeot 308 TCRs last year, but won’t be given the chance to consistently perform again in the World Cup during 2019.

As well as DG Sport Competition, another Belgian team will also seek pastures new this season. Boutsen Ginion Racing will no longer represent Honda, with Hong Kong outfit KCMG being tasked with that responsibility instead this year, alongside Munnich Motorsport. As such, promising rookie, Benjamin Lessennes, doesn’t return either.

Sticking with the Honda theme, Munnich Motorsport gave appearances to a host of different drivers throughout last season. But, with only Esteban Guerrieri and series returnee Nestor Girolami signed up for 2019, James Thompson and Timo Scheider won’t be back on the WTCR grid for a full campaign this year. Scheider does stay with the team, however, albeit behind the wheel of a SEAT Ibiza in the World Rallycross Championship.

With the arrival of Niels Langeveled at Comtoyou Racing, and new marque quota rules being enforced this year, there’s been a shake-up at Audi too. French ace, Nathanael Berthon, will instead concentrate on his Prototype racing ventures while Belgian prodigy, Denis Dupont, will make the transition to the TCR Europe Series (albeit remaining with his RACB-backed Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 TCR).

Fabrizio Giovanardi and Gianni Morbidelli both jumped ship from the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo project last year, which consequently achieved success with Kevin Ceccon behind the wheel. Neither of the Italian veterans will return to the WTCR in 2019 though. Giovanardi is yet to reveal his plans for the season, while Morbidelli is set to compete in the TCR Europe Series where he will reunite with WestCoast Racing.

Last but by no means least is the departure of Zengo Motorsport. Zoltan Zengo‘s Hungarian squad has been a mainstay of World Touring Car racing since 2010 when they gave Norbert Michelisz his big break. However, that is sadly no longer the case. The team endured a tough campaign last year with Norbert Nagy and Zsolt Szabo not quite up to challenging for points on a regular basis. As with many of the drivers and teams on this list, Zengo Motorsport are yet to announce which series around the world they’ll be participating in instead during 2019.

However, as alluded to earlier, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that some of these drivers could make an appearance in the WTCR this year as a wildcard. The chances are particularly strong if their nationality coincides with one of the venues on this year’s calendar, with wildcard entries being primarily for drivers that are local to each circuit.

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