TCR International 2015 Update… No.2

So, as the season builds to it anticipated start at the Malaysian Grand Prix, there has been a few more announcements regarding TCR…

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The new TCR International Series will kick off in style, serving as a juicy curtain-raiser to the Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

The TCR standard timetable has been adapted to the format of the Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix. As a result, two twenty-minute free practice sessions will be held on Friday, March 27, at 12.40 and 16.00 local time.

The two-part qualifying session will take place on Saturday, 28 March at 12.30, followed by the first race at 15.30, just before the Formula 1 qualifying.
The second TCR race will start at 12.35 on Sunday, 29 March, immediately before the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Both races will be held over a distance of 9 laps or 20 minutes. 

Marcello Lotti, CEO of WSC Ltd commented:“All the work and effort we have put in over the last few months are now getting ever closer to becoming reality with this inaugural event. I am personally grateful to Bernie Ecclestone for trusting our project and I am sure that this will hugely boost the motivation of all our teams and drivers, pushing them to properly entertain the spectators as they wait for the Formula 1 race.”

TCR Benelux is set to restore a common Touring Car series over the three countries – Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg – for the first time since the Seventies.

The promoter company, Kronos Events, plans to run a single TCR Benelux event in 2015. From 2016 the new series is then expected to visit all the region’s racetracks: Spa-Francorchamps, Zolder and Mettet in Belgium, Assen and Zandvoort in the Netherlands and Colmar-Berg in Luxembourg.

Léon Rijnbeek, responsible for circuit racing at KNAF, the Dutch National Sporting Authority said: “We believe that TCR is set to boost automobile racing at a national level. Close fights between Touring Cars of different manufacturers will definitely ensure a good show! The top Touring Car categories have become too expensive for the national championships; in the Netherlands we have enough teams and drivers to take part in a new and strong series, and with TCR we are confident we have the opportunity to offer spectacular races with full grids.

Marc Van Dalen of Kronos Events echoed: “We have a number of interesting ideas for tailoring the sporting regulations to the wishes of local drivers and we are confident we can put together a field of 25/30 cars.”

The former Belgian driving ace Marc Duez has been appointed as the Race Director for the TCR International Series.

Duez, 58 years old from Verviers, was one of Belgium’s most successful and eclectic drivers in the Eighties and Nineties. He claimed three national Rally titles (1982/1989/1990), won the C2 class in the 1986 World Sportscar Championship, was three times a winner in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring (1995/1998/1999) and in the 24 Hours of Spa (1997/1998/2001), finished on the class podium four times in the Le Mans 24 Hours (C2 in 1987, GTP in 1988 and 1989, GTS in 1999) and achieved a number of race victories in the Belgian Procar Championship. During his long career, Duez drove for the factory teams of BMW, Mazda and Chrysler.

After he retired from driving, Duez became a Race Director. Among other events, over the last eight years he has been Assistant Race Director in the Monaco and Belgian F1 Grands Prix and Race Director for GP2, GP3 and Porsche Supercup at Monaco and Spa. He has also acted as Race Director in the Race of Champions (for the last ten years), the 2011 24 Hours of Spa, the 2013 Baku World Challenge and the 2013 World Endurance Championship round at Spa.

Marcello Lotti, CEO of WSC, commented: “I am especially pleased to have Marc Duez as the Race Director of the TCR International Series. Not only he is an experienced Race Director, but he also knows very well all the tricks of Touring Car drivers, as he was one of them. And we also have a long standing friendship, as I was his team manager for many races.” 

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Former Formula 1 driver Gianni Morbidelli has spent two days testing the JAS-built Civic TCR at Barcelona’s Catalunya Circuit. This was the first outing for the Italian driver at the wheel of a TCR car, and also the first proper test for the Civic TCR after a brief shakedown in Italy last week. 

James Rogers, the team manager of West Coast Racing – the team that will run three Civic cars in the TCR International Series – commented: “We are delighted that Gianni accepted our invitation to test the car, as we believe that he will be able to offer an invaluable contribution in setting up the car thanks to his vast experience in Touring Car racing. We are also very grateful to JAS for the effort they have put into building three cars in such a short time, so that they will be ready to be sent to Malaysia for the inaugural event.”

Meanwhile, the first drivers signed for the TCR International Series have been announced…

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Spain’s Jordi Oriola has confirmed his 2015 racing programme will include two ‘wild card’ appearances in the TCR International Series. Pepe Oriola’s younger brother will drive for Team Target Competition in all seven rounds of the SEAT Leon Eurocup and has secured an entry for the TCR International Series at his ‘home’ race in Valencia on May 3rd and another at Monza in Italy three weeks later.

Jordi commented: “I am very happy to contest these two rounds of the TCR International Series because I aspire to be in this championship in 2016. It is on another level for me, as I will be going up against some of the best Touring Car drivers in the world, so I will have a good initial contact with the series in Valencia and Monza. A very full season is ahead of me and I want to make the most of it.”

Mikhail Grachev will join the Liqui Moly Team Engstler for the inaugural season of the TCR International Series.
The 27-year old-Russian will team up with Franz Engstler, while the German squad has still to name its third driver.

“I am looking forward to this new challenge. A series of races in three continents it is something very special. I feel at ease in Touring Car competitions and I am confident that Franz and I form a strong pair.” Said Grachev.

In the latest seasons, Grachev asserted himself in his home country, clinching five national titles; after back-to-back victories in the Russian Autocross Championship (2011 and 2012), he moved to the Russian Circuit Series and was crowned champion in the 2012 Touring Light class at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta. The year after he claimed the Touring Car title in a BMW 320si.
Last year he retained the Russian Touring Car title, won a couple of races in the German ADAC Procar series and made the occasional appearance in the FIA European Touring Car Cup, winning the TC2T class at Slovakia Ring in a BMW 320 TC.

So things are beginning to fall in place for the season opening weekend on 28-29 March in Malaysia. Keep an eye for further updates as they are announced.

All the best!

Phil!

All the best from the Guru!!

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