The 2019 TCR Europe Touring Car Series returns to familiar ground this weekend as the legendary Spa-Francorchamps plays host to rounds five and six of the series.
After four exciting rounds that have seen three different winners and two different pole position drivers, Josh Files leads the Drivers Championship with a five-point gap over Julien Briché as the series heads to a circuit that worked out well for non-Hyundai drivers in 2018.
Last year saw a dominant win for Jean-Karl Vernay in the Audi as the circuit worked out better to the likes of Audi, Volkswagen and CUPRA with the Balance of Performance set as it was. Race two was dominated by then Target Competition driver Kris Richard before a controversial penalty saw Briché handed the win.
The Form Guide
With the likes of Files, Luca Engstler and Jessica Bäckman doing well in Qualifying and the races, expect the Hyundai fleet to remain on the maximum compensation ballast of sixty kilos. With this in mind, the long and fast nature of the circuit will hurt the likes of Target Competition, M1RA Motorsport, M Racing and BRC Racing Team.
That being said, expect the Peugeot’s to once again steal the show. Last year Briché was able to take the fight to Audi, Volkswagen and Hyundai drivers and with their recent performances in both Hungary and Germany, there’s nothing stopping a repeat of that in Belgium.
Spa offers a chance for both Gilles Magnus and Santiago Urrutia to get to grips with their respective Comtyou Racing and WRT Audi RS3 LMS machines, which should go well during the event. The circuit will also offer hope to WestCoast Racing, who are looking for some much-needed pace for Qualifying to help them get further up the order in the races.
Both Gianni Morbidelli and Olli Kangas are capable men, with Morbidelli a race winner in various TCR series. If they can find a step in performance here, the Volkswagen Golf will be a threat in race conditions. Maxime Potty already has the pace required for podiums and will be in a good position to repeat his 2018 performance.
After his thrilling pace in both Free Practice and Qualifying, 2018 TCR UK Champion Daniel Lloyd will be back in action this weekend for Brutal Fish Racing Team. The Honda Driver will have shed his twenty-kilo late entry ballast and will be in a better position to challenge for both pole position and race wins.
Tom Coronel will also be racing on a familiar circuit and after his exciting drives through the field in Germany, expect the Boutsen Ginion Honda Driver to be up there with Lloyd. There are several drivers looking to regain their opening round form, including the likes of Dušan Borković, Mat’o Homola and Dániel Nagy, where Spa will offer a chance to get back into the game.
The Wildcard Entries
During the offseason, the TCR UK Touring Car Championship confirmed it would be running a joint round with TCR Europe at Spa-Francorchamps.
Despite a late change of organisation, the invite to TCR UK competitors is still open with Spa seen as a non-points scoring round and podium finisher Lewis Kent has answered the call. The Essex and Kent Motorsport pilot has made his ambitions clear since he made his debut in TCR last year: He wants to be in WTCR.
This weekend will give the young British driver his first chance of sampling the competition at European level. TCR Europe is already seen as the biggest and most competitive series in the TCR Global Family, giving Kent the chance he needs to see where he stands.
Klim Gavrilov will return to the series at Spa-Francorchamps, driving the same VRC Team Audi RS 3 LMS he’s currently using in the TCR Russia Touring Car Championship. The 19-year old from St. Petersburg took part in last year’s European finale at Barcelona.
Gavrilov has already expanded his racing by making a one-off appearance in TCR Italy at Monza this year, where he won the first race. The young Russian is lying fifth in the TCR Russia standings with one victory at Nizhniy Novgorod.
Finally, former TCR UK race winner Ashley Sutton has been confirmed to return to the series, signing a deal with WRT to race a second Volkswagen Golf GTi alongside regular driver Maxime Potty and Audi driver Santiago Urrutia.
Sutton is already familiar with the car and the series, having made his debut in Spain last year for the WestCoast Racing squad, where he took fourth place in race one and third place in race two. Whilst this will be his first time racing at Spa, expect the former BTCC Champion to get up to speed quickly.