Preview – 2019 TCR Europe Touring Car Series: The Race for Four

by Phil Kinch

The 2019 TCR Europe Touring Car Series has confirmed a second season that will see thirty-one entries compete over fourteen rounds in six different countries.

Last year was the debut for the series where it revealed a season regular entry list of twenty-four drivers before seeing a season-best entry in the finale that took place in Barcelona of thirty-one.

Quite simply, the chance to be Europe’s top TCR Champion has gathered many of Europe’s best and also seen many drivers change teams and model in the effort to give them a better chance of securing the number one spot.

The 2018 TCR Europe Touring Car Series at Hungary. Credit: WSC Ltd / TCR Europe

With 2018 Champion Mikel Azcona now competing in the 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) with PWR Racing (in only his second season of TCR competition), a new champion is needed.

For two drivers, there is the chance for either of them to take their fourth title. Josh Files has returned to Target Competition this year and will pilot one of the five Hyundai i30 N TCR models being run by the team. Files is a TCR Germany double champion and a former TCR Middle East Champion and armed with a Hyundai, is a clear title favourite.

The other driver that’s capable of this feat is Luca Engstler. Also armed with a Hyundai, but racing for the M1RA squad this year, the young German has already clinched the 2018 TCR Asia title and the TCR Middle East title and followed this up with victory in the new TCR Malaysia Series earlier this year.

There are seven different brands competing in the series this year with ten Hyundai’s, six Peugeot’s, five CUPRA’s, three Volkswagens, three Honda Civics, two Audis, and two brand new Renault Mégane RS machines.

The WTCR Brigade

Stéphane Lémeret will fill in for Coronel in the opening round of TCR Europe. Credit: Clement Marin / DPPI

After competing in WTCR last season, there are entries from the likes of Aurélien Comte in the DG Sport Compétition Peugeot whilst Tom Coronel will drive the same Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda he used last year. Coronel will miss Hungary as he dovetails his season with a full year in WTCR with Stéphane Lémeret stepping in for the Dutchman.

Former CUPRA driver John Filippi will drive the brand new Vuković Motorsport Renault with race winner Mat’o Homola competing in the five-car strong Target Competition lineup, finally getting his hands on a Hyundai alongside Files.

Gianni Morbidelli looks forward to a new season where he can be considered a title contender as he rejoins WestCoast Racing after driving for Romeo Ferraris last year. Returning to the team that took him to race wins in the TCR International Series, the Italian is expected to return to winning ways.

They came back for more!!

Borković returns to TCR Europe with Target Competition. Credit: WSC Ltd / TCR Europe

Returning to TCR Europe from last year are Viktor Davidovski in the PSS Racing Team Honda, Martin Ryba, who moves to a Honda Civic run by Brutal Fish Racing Team and both Julien Briché and Marie Baus-Coppens who will race a Peugeot and CUPRA respectively for JSB Compétition.

Dušan Borković is back with Target Competition to mount a new challenge for the title whilst Maxime Potty remains in a Volkswagen, having moved across to Team WRT. Dániel Nagy remains on board with M1RA Motorsport alongside Engstler whilst Stian Paulsen returns with his CUPRA for another season of hard work.

Jessica Bäckman and Andreas Bäckman made a one-off debut with WestCoast Racing last year and are back for a full season in the expanded Target Competition lineup in only their second season of TCR Competition.

The Rookies

WRT-Urrutia-Potty-2019-TCREurope

Santiago Urrutia is one of a number of rookies in the series this year. Credit: Team WRT/TCR Europe Touring Car Series

Whilst there are a lot of talented and experienced drivers on the grid, the rookies will also bring an unknown element to the series this year and there are quite a few of them.

Nelson Panciatici and Natan Bihel have signed up at M Racing, who ran the YMR Racing Hyundai’s that both drivers will use this year. Teddy Clairet and Jimmy Clairet will compete for the family-run Team Clairet Sport driving Peugeot’s whilst both Gilles Colombani and Stéphane Ventaja will share the second car.

Lilou Wadoux makes her debut in the series in the third JSB Compétition Peugeot as former single-seater expert Luca Filippi has joined WTCR squad BRC Racing Team for his first experience of TCR. Tamás Tenke will compete for the Zengő Motorsport squad whilst Gilles Magnus will drive an RACB backed Comtoyou Racing Audi.

PCR Sport will be busy as they have expanded to a two-car line up that is split between TCR returnee Davit Kajaia in the PCR Sport with Georgia CUPRA and Abdulla Ali Al-Khelaifi who will drive the QMMF Racing by PCR Sport entry.

Finally, Alex Morgan is the second British driver in the field, driving the Wolf-Power Racing run brand new Renault whilst Uruguayan Santiago Urrutia will drive the second Team WRT entry, using an Audi RS3 LMS TCR.

Qualifying and Race Format

The 2018 TCR Europe Touring Car Series at Hungary. Credit: WSC Ltd / TCR Europe

For those not familiar with TCR Europe, the series runs two races per weekend of a duration lasting twenty-three minutes plus one lap, with the top fifteen drivers scoring points. With thirty-one cars funnelling into turn one in each race, this makes Qualifying all the more important.

Qualifying is very similar to how other TCR Series follow it. All cars take part in Q1 which last for twenty minutes. The top twelve cars progress through to Q2 where they have ten minutes to settle the top ten places on the grid for race one. Tenth place for race one secures pole position for race two.

The two drivers who qualify in eleventh and twelfth places will start in those places for both races. The top five drivers in Q2 score points, starting with five points for pole and going down to fifth place with one point awarded.

The challenge of the Hungaroring

The 2019 TCR Europe Touring Car Series gets underway in Hungary this weekend. Credit: WSC Ltd / TCR Europe

The Hungaroring hosts the opening round of the series and for a number of years, this F1 circuit has often provided some exciting Touring car races. With TCR Europe competing on the same weekend as both the 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) and the brand new TCR Eastern Europe Series, the local fans are in for a good weekend of action.

Whilst the Hungarian Grand Prix often struggles to provide overtaking for the current crop of F1 cars, Touring cars have at least several spots they can overtake on.

Last year, the track conditions were very slippery. Whilst there was plenty of on-track action as the circuit dried out, both Dušan Borković and Dániel Nagy were able to score good points in their respective Hyundai teams, so expect to see the likes of Target Competition and M1RA Motorsport to be upfront and challenging for glory.

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