TCR Series Roundup: 15 May – 21 May

by Phil Kinch

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 2019 ADAC TCR Germany Touring Car Championship, The 2019 TCR Australia Touring Car Series, The 2019 TCR Italy Touring Car Championship, The 2019 TCR Russia Touring Car Series, The 2019 TCR Eastern Europe Trophy powered by ESET, The 2019 TCR Japan Touring Car Series, and The 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR).

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

Further driver announcements for TCR Australia

The 2019 TCR Australia Touring Car Series. Credit: TCR Australia/Daniel Kalisz

The grid for the 2019 TCR Australia Touring Car Series took shape as the final drivers were announced ahead of the opening weekend at Sydney Motorsports Park.

Alexandra Whitley has inked a deal to drive for newly-named team Alliance Autosport. Whitley, born in Toowoomba and living in New Zealand, will drive the second Volkswagen Golf GTI that Jason Bright brought into Australia recently. Bright will lead the driving duties for the team and has struck a deal with Matt Stone Racing in a new preparation and logistics arrangement.

After Alexandra Whitley and Molly Taylor, Chelsea Angelo was the third lady driver to secure an entry in the series. Angelo, 22, will drive an Opel Astra amongst a four-car strong Kelly Racing outfit. Alex Rullo will drive the other KR-prepared Astra entry.

Kelly Racing also confirmed that André Heimgartner will fill the final seat of its four-car TCR Australia line up. The New Zealander will take to the helm of the second Subaru WRX STI.

GWR Australia has confirmed it will enter one of its two Hyundai i30 N TCR cars for the inaugural round at Sydney Motorsport Park. The Sydney-based team will enter Michael Almond who has raced in Porsche cars for the past eight years, including six seasons in the Carrera Cup Championship. He has also raced in Touring Car Masters and V8 Utes during his racing journey.

Aaron Cameron was the latest addition to the entry list and will join Melbourne Performance Centre in a Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR. The 19-year-old Victorian’s entry makes for a 17-strong field confirmed for the opening event of the new Touring Car series.

Cameron is one of the most experienced TCR drivers in Australia, after racing an Audi RS 3 LMS in the 2018 24H TCE Series at Barcelona and Dubai with the MARC Cars squad.

Igor Stefanovski joins TCR Italy from Misano

Igor Stefanovski. Credit: ACI Sport / TCR Italy

Macedonian driver Igor ‘Idze’ Stefanovski joins the 2019 TCR Italy Touring Car Championship for the rest of the season, starting with the second event at Misano’s Circuit Marco Simoncelli.

A former European Hill Climbing champion in 2014 and 2015, Stefanovski spent last year racing a Hyundai i30 N in the TCR Europe series and on top of this made a one-off appearance at the wheel of a CUPRA in TCR Italy’s finale at Monza. The 33-year old from Skopje returns in a CUPRA run by his own LPR Stefanovski Racing Team.

Guest appearance for Jessica Bäckman in TCR Germany

Jessica Bäckman. Credit: Credit: ADAC Motorsport/Gruppe C

TCR Europe regular Jessica Bäckman will make a one-off appearance in the 2019 ADAC TCR Germany Touring Car Championship, this weekend at Autodrome Most, in the Czech Republic.

The Swedish competitor, who is one of the drivers selected for the Hyundai Customer Racing Junior programme, has been invited to compete at the wheel of the Hyundai Team Engstler’s i30 N guest car.

“I’m very happy with this opportunity, because I did not expect that,” said Bäckman: “I was surprised when I got the offer, I do not know the track in Most yet, but my goal is to be at the front.”

Björk and Guerrieri dominate WTCR encounter at Zandvoort

The 2019 WTCR Race of The Netherlands. Credit: Clement Luck / DPPI

The 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) saw its fourth weekend take place on the legendary Zandvoort circuit in the Netherlands where Balance of Performance and Team Orders dominated the weekend.

A change of BoP for the Lynk & Co 03 TCR saw all four drivers dominate Qualifying for the races on Saturday and Sunday with Thed Björk taking pole position for race one and Yvan Muller taking pole position for race three respectively.

A technical infringement saw Muller demoted for race three after his time was disallowed, which elevated his nephew Yann Ehrlacher to pole position. After Qualifying, the BoP was reverted back to its pre-Slovakia settings. To see how the race went, you can find out the result of race one here.

Race Two saw Esteban Guerrieri on pole positions as part of the reversed grid and it was a race that saw Volkswagen find some much-needed form in what is a competitive season so far. To see how the race went, you can find out the result of race two here.

After being promoted to pole position for the final race of the day, Ehrlacher was eager for a first race victory of the year, however, Cyan Racing decided to employ team orders during the race and this led to some controversy between the Lynk & Co team-mates. To see how the race went, you can find out the result of race three here.

Bright and Brown lead the way in TCR Australia

Will Brown. Credit: TCR Australia/Daniel Kalisz

The 2019 TCR Australia Touring Car Series got underway at Sydney Motorsport Park where both Jason Bright and Will Brown took race wins over all three races over the opening weekend.

Bright, driving an Alliance Autosport Volkswagen Golf GTI, became the first-ever winner of a TCR Australia race when he won Race one. Starting from second on the grid, made a better getaway than pole-sitter Tony D’Alberto in a Honda Civic and was then able to control the race from the front. D’Alberto enjoyed a race-long battle for second place with the Hyundai i30 N of Brown, with Dylan O’Keefe’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta joining the fight in the closing stages of the race to make it a three-way scrap for the podium places.

Brown scored two wins at the wheel of the Hyundai i30 N run by HMO Customer Racing in races two and three at Sydney Motorsport Park. In the second race, D’Alberto made a great start from second on the grid, but O’Keeffe was even faster and took the lead from the Honda driver into turn two as Brown, Bright and John Martin followed, while André Heimgartner was the first of the pursuers.

On Lap 3, Brown overtook D’Alberto for second and began to close the gap from O’Keeffe. On lap 8 the safety car was deployed to recover Alexandra Whitley’s Volkswagen Golf that was stranded in the gravel.

The race resumed on lap 11, with Heimgartner’s Subaru climbing up in the order and finally overtaking Martin for fifth. The fight for the lead was thrilling, with O’Keeffe defending his first position from Brown, while D’Alberto and Bright were following closely. Eventually, Brown stole the lead from O’Keeffe on lap 13 and won from the Alfa Romeo driver, D’Alberto, Bright and Heimgartner.

Brown started from pole but was beaten to turn one by O’Keeffe, with the Subaru of Heimgartner then grabbing second place. An incident on the start line involving Jimmy Vernon’s Alfa Romeo and the Audi RS 3 LMS of Rik Breukers saw both cars forced to retire and brought out the safety car.

O’Keeffe then managed the restart well and opened up an advantage over Heimgartner, but the Subaru driver quickly closed the gap and began attacking for the lead. On Lap 5, Race 1 winner Bright ran wide at Turn 1 and dropped from sixth to tenth. One lap later, Heimgartner’s challenge for the lead was over, with the Subaru parked up on the outside of the final corner with a mechanical problem.

That was swiftly followed by a series of incidents involving the podium positions. Martin moved into third place behind Brown after contact between D’Alberto’s and Nathan Morcom. On Lap 8, Michael Almond inherited third place when Martin left the track following contact with Morcom and, on the following lap, Brown passed O’Keeffe for the lead.

Following the safety car intervention, the decision was taken to shorten the race duration and so the chequered flag came out after 14 of the planned 16 laps. Brown took the victory by a margin of 2.6 seconds over O’Keeffe with Almond rounding off the podium places. Morcom was fourth, Cameron fifth and Moffat sixth.

The 2019 TCR Australia Touring Car Series will return on June 8-9 at Phillip Island.

Howson holds the advantage in TCR Japan premiere at Autopolis

Matt Howson. Credit: TCR Japan

Matthew Howson became the latest driver to win a TCR race when he took a lights-to-flag victory in the first round of the brand new TCR Japan Touring Car Series at Autopolis.

With the race declared wet, the first two laps were run behind the safety car, with Howson’s KCMG Honda Civic leading the 14-car field across the start line when the safety car came in. The spray was then an issue for a number of laps, together with patches of standing water off the racing line.

The first five drivers finished in the positions in which they had started, with Takuro Shinohara’s Audi and the Honda of Yu Kanamaru completing the podium places. Behind the three, the two Volkswagen Golf GTI cars of Shogo Mitsuyama and Takeshi Matsumoto finished fourth and fifth, with Matsumoto having a battle with the Audi RS 3 of ‘Yoshiki’ over the first few laps.

Behind the top five, Yukinori Taniguchi finished sixth in a Honda after passing ‘Yoshiki’ on Lap 8. The Volkswagen Golf of ‘Hirobon’ was eighth after starting from tenth on the grid.

Yu Kanamaru took victory in race two, beating Howson and Matsumoto after an entertaining race on a damp track. Howson leads the overall standings after this inaugural event of the series.

The starts saw poleman Shinohara, driving a Hitotsuyama Motorsport Audi RS 3 LMS, struggling to keep the advantage from Kanamaru, Howson, Taniguchi, Resshu Shioya, Matsumoto and Matsuyama. The leader was soon in trouble, as his Audi slowed down and stopped in the pits.

Kanamuru inherited the lead ahead of Howson and Matsumoto, who had moved up to third with a couple of great overtaking manoeuvres. ‘Hirobon’ was climbing positions too, settling in P6 behind Shioya and Mitsuyama by lap 5. ‘Kenji’ made a slight mistake in lap 6 but rejoined, while Shuji Maejima with the Go&Fun Squadra Corse Alfa Romeo passed Jun Sato for eleventh place.

Kanamaru built some breathing space in the lead, while there was a big fight behind him with Matsumoto attacking Howson and Mitsuyama. Shioya and ‘Hirobon’ were also fighting for fifth in a lively battle; they made contact in lap 10, but positions did not change with the two finishing fifth and sixth as well as and first and second in the Gentlemen Class.

The next round of TCR Japan is scheduled at Sugo on June 22-23.

Halder extends his TCR Germany lead as Burns stars at Most

Mike Halder at Most. Credit: ADAC Motorsport/Gruppe C

Mike Halder and Antti Buri shared the spoils as The 2019 ADAC TCR Germany Touring Car Championship raced at the Most Autodrome in the Czech Republic as Bradley Burns stole the headlines.

Halder pipped pole sitter Harald Proczyk at the start of race one at Most and claimed a lights-to-flag victory. The bad start meant that Proczyk dropped to fourth during the opening lap, behind Max Hesse and Dominik Fugel, but the reigning champion eventually recovered the third place on the last lap.

The opening lap saw several incidents: Marcel Fugel and Lukas Niedertscheider made contact and cut straight through the first chicane, whilst Jessica Bäckman was pushed off. The safety car was deployed in order to recover her car from the gravel trap.

The four leaders pulled away, with Halder followed by Hesse, Fugel and Proczyk, whilst Antti Buri overtook Théo Coicaud for fifth and tried to catch up with the quartet. Another incident happened on lap seven when Marcel Fugel missed the braking point and collected Julien Apotéloz’s CUPRA that was running in eighth position, leaving both cars to retire.

During the final laps Fugel, Proczyk and Buri joined Hesse in the fight for the second position, but a few corners before the end Fugel went wide and Proczyk went through. Halder won from Hesse, Proczyk, Fugel, Buri, Coicaud, Mitchell Cheah and Michelle Halder. Cheah and Michelle were first and second in the Junior class.

Buri took his second win of the season at Most at the end of a thrilling fight with Bradley Burns in race two.

Burns started the reverse-grid race from pole position and led into turn one at the start from fellow Honda racer Fugel, however, Buri managed to pass the German for second position on lap 12.

It was a quiet start, with Burns keeping the advantage ahead of the battling duo of Hesse and Coicaud. The Frenchman then dropped a few positions behind Niedertscheider, Halder and Proczyk. In lap six, René Kircher rammed Cheah’s car, sending it off track.

The final laps were exciting as Buri began to attack Burns, with the cars often drifting sideways given the tyre degradation. They drove abreast through the ‘esses’ ahead of turn six, rubbing door-to-door. Buri had the inside line for turn six and secured victory. Equally intense was Halder’s attack on Fugel, but the latter managed to keep his podium finish. Hesse took fifth, ahead of Niedertscheider, Coicaud and Proczyk.

Halder retains the championship lead, fifteen points over Hesse, while Buri moved up to third, seventeen points behind the leader. The next rounds of the 2019 ADAC TCR Germany Touring Car Championship are scheduled at the Red Bull Ring on June 7-9.

Pellegrini and Greco share the TCR Italy spoils at Misano

The 2019 TCR Italy Touring car Championship at Misano. Credit: ACI Sport / TCR Italy

Marco Pellegrini and Scuderia del Girasole’s Matteo Greco won an incident-packed Races in at Misano in The 2019 TCR Italy Touring Car Championship.

The drama in race one began the moment the start lights went out, with the Audi of Jacopo Guidetti stopping with a broken driveshaft. Guidetti had been on the front row of the grid alongside pole-sitter Enrico Bettera, but the remainder of the sixteen-car field managed to avoid the stricken Audi with Eric Scalvini’s CUPRA up to second place behind Bettera going into turn one ahead of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta of Massimiliano Mugelli.

The safety car made a brief appearance, however, once the racing got underway there were several incidents. Mugelli suffered more than most, with the Giulietta spun around following contact with Greco. Greco later received a drive-through penalty for the incident, while Salvatore Tavano was elevated into third place and Pellegrini into fourth at the expense of the unfortunate Mugelli.

Tavano then passed Scalvini for second place on lap four, but the safety car was called into action for a second time after the Opel Astra of Andrea Argenti spun off into the gravel.

The restart signalled the most chaotic part of the race, with Pellegrini immediately attacking Scalvini for third place and Tavano threatening Bettera. Tavano soon snatched the lead, with Pellegrini passing Scalvini moments later and immediately pressuring Tavano. Mugelli’s challenge ended in the gravel before Pellegrini passed Bettera for second place on Lap eleven.

The lead changed hands again when Tavano slowed and then stopped, allowing the Target Competition Hyundai to move into the lead. Bettera refused to give up the fight and the Audi driver continued to pressure Pellegrini on the final lap. It was to no avail, however, and Pellegrini took the win by 1.248 seconds over Bettera, with Scalvini’s CUPRA making it three different brands on the podium.

Bettera moved on top of the standings, four points clear of Pellegrini, while Tavano slipped from first to third, eight points off the lead.

Greco and Scalvini finished first and second in race two. At the start, on a wet track, both Felix Wimmer and Matteo Bergonzini both bogged down at the start as Tavano took the lead from the Austrian, Greco and Mugelli.

During the opening lap Pellegrini and Bettera spun off, but re-joined whilst Igor Stefanovski was not as lucky and crashed, which prompted the safety car. At the restart, Tavano pitted and retired with a technical issue with Mugelli inheriting the lead.

Jacopo Guidetti was black-flagged after clashing twice with Bettera and sending him into a spin. In the final part of the race, Greco and Scalvini overtook Wimmer and closed in on Mugelli. Greco managed to take the lead from Mugelli during the penultimate lap and then the latter lost second to Scalvini at the last turn.

Wimmer finished fourth ahead of a recovering Pellegrini; Bettera salvaged a fifth place that helped him to retain the lead in the standings, two points over Pellegrini and five ahead of Greco. The next event of TCR Italy will be at Imola on June 22-23

Gavrilov and Dudukalo dominate TCR Russia encounter at NRing

Klim Gavrilov. Credit: TCR Russia-Grigory Golyshev

Klim Gavrilov and Aleksey Dudukalo both took their first wins of The 2019 TCR Russia Touring Car Series at the at Nizhniy Novgorod’s NRing.

Gavrilov took his VRC Team Audi RS 3 LMS to a lights-to-flag demonstration, with the young driver beating the Hyundai i30 N cars of Ivan Lukashevich and reigning champion Dmitry Bragin.

The race was influenced by an accident at the first corner, which put a number of top drives out of contention. Irek Minnakhmetov braked too late on the inside line going straight and collecting various cars. The confusion caused other incidents in turn two.

On top of Minnakhmetov’s Audi, the incident saw the cars of Mikhail Grachev, Pavel Yashin, Anton Badoev, Pavel Kalmanovich, Aleksey Dudukalo and Grigoriy Burlutskiy all stranded, with only the last two making it to the pits.

At the restart after the safety-car period, Gavrilov led ahead of Lukashevich, Kirill Ladygin, Andrej Maslennikov and Bragin, who climbed up to third place two laps later. With eight laps to go Gavrilov, Lukashevich and Bragin were running very close together. Bragin made a slight mistake on lap fourteen and dropped to fifth behind Ladygin and Maslennikov.

Dudukalo drove his Lukoil Racing Audi RS 3 LMS to victory in race two, taking a lights-to-flag victory ahead of Bragin.

Dudukalo made a great start and led from Lev Tolkachev going into turn one, but there was contact between the LADA of Ladygin and Ibragim Akhmadov that saw Akhmadov forced to retire despite limping back to the pits while Ladygin managed to recover and finish fifteenth after a pit stop for repairs.

Bragin, who had started from fifth on the grid, passed Tolkachev on the first lap and set off in pursuit of Dudukalo. Klim Gavrilov and Andrey Maslennikov made contact on lap two while the pair was batting for seventh position. Maslennikov dropped outside the top ten as a result of the incident but steadily worked his way back into tenth place by lap five, whilst Lukashevich passed Mityaev for fifth place on the same lap.

Timur Shigabutdinov and Chubarov made contact at the start of lap fifteen, following an ill-judged dive by Chubarov up the inside of Lukashevich. The incident brought out the safety car for two laps while Chubarov’s car was recovered, with Shigabutdinov managing to limp back to the pits where he retired.

Following the restart the action eased a little however on lap twenty, Maslennikov made contact with Grachev at turn two while the pair were fighting for sixth. Grachev’s LADA ended in the barriers and the safety car was called into action once again. With the race finishing behind the safety car, Dudukalo took the victory from Bragin, with Tolkachev completing the podium.

Bragin has re-taken the championship lead, four points over Dudukalo, while Ladygin dropped from first to third, nine points behind. The next round of TCR Russia will take place at the Smolensk Ring, 22/23 June.

Tomáš Pekař scores the first victory for the Renault Mégane RS

The Vuković Motorsport run Renault Megane. Credit: WSC Ltd / TCR Europe

The second event of The 2019 TCR Eastern Europe Trophy powered by ESET, at the Red Bull Ring, marked the first-ever victory for the Vuković Motorsport-built Renault Mégane RS. Czech driver Tomáš Pekař took the win in the second race.

In Race 1, Vesnič started from pole and took the lead from Jáchym Galáš, Pekař and Dušan Kouřil. Vesnič controlled the race, while Pekař followed two seconds behind until he was given a drive-through penalty for track limit infringements that he served during the penultimate lap.

On his first appearance in the championship, Kouřil was running third behind Vesnič and Pekař, but he also was given a drive through for a grid infringement and was disqualified after the race for not taking the penalty

After stalling at the start from second on the grid, Galáš elbowed his way through the field and eventually recovered to second, benefiting from the penalties imposed to Pekař and Kouřil. Jakub Vyszomirski completed the podium in third position, one second ahead of Pekař.

Race two saw the whole field choose wet tyres to start on a drying track. Once again Vesnič made good use of pole position and was chased by Galáš, Pekař and Kouřil.

In the second half of the race, Vesnič’s pace faded and he was passed by his three chasers. Kouřil moved into the lead on lap 7, but Galáš overtook him in the following lap, just before being stopped by a puncture. Kouřil inherited the lead, but he was passed by Pekař who pulled away and won from Kouřil and Rudi Pešovič.

By winning the first race in his CUPRA, Serbia’s Milovan Vesnič has strengthened his lead in the series’ standings. The next event of the series will be at Grobnik on July 27-28.

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