Abu Dhabi hosts TCR Middle East’s second race meeting
The TCR Middle East Series resumed at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, one month after the inaugural event took place at the Dubai Autodrome.
Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR cars won both races in the Dubai opener, with teammates Luca Engstler and Brandon Gdovic sharing the victories.
Team-mates Gdovic and Engstler to fight for the title
Liqui Moly Team Engstler teammates Brandon Gdovic and Luca Engstler will be fight for the TCR Middle East title when series resumes at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.
Gdovic and Engstler shared race victories in the series’ opener at Dubai Autodrome in January, with the former taking the lead in the standings with a five-point margin. In fact, the American was classified third in Race 1, before winning the second race, while the German teenager won the first race and finished sixth in the second.
The Liqui Moly Team Engstler will run three Volkswagen Golf GTi cars at Abu Dhabi, with Stefan Goede completing the driver line-up. On his first Touring Car appearance, Goede claimed a fifth and a fourth in the Dubai races.
Point-leader Gdovic stated: “I’m looking forward to getting on track at Yas Marina for the first time and hopping back into the TCR VW Golf with Liqui Moly and Team Engstler. Hopefully I can have two more good races in Abu Dhabi and maintain my points lead and maybe end up with another win or two.”
His rival Engstler said: “After Dubai I focused on school once again, but it’s only a few days and then we can race again! My expectations are the same as three weeks ago: I want to learn as much as possible. Abu Dhabi is again a new track for me so we will see how it goes. Brandon did a great job in Dubai and he’s a worthy championship leader. To drive against him is an honour for me, because he has so much experience and I can only learn from him.”
Two Honda cars for the Lap57 team in Abu Dhabi
2016 TCR Germany champion Josh Files and United Arab Emirates Touring Car top runner Mohammed Al Owais will take part in the TCR Middle East Series’s second round at Abu Dhabi. They will be driving two Honda Civic TCR cars for the Dubai-based Lap57 team.
Files, 26 years old from Norwich, England, returns at the wheel of the Japanese car with which he dominated last year ADAC TCR Germany’s inaugural season.
“I am very happy and excited to have the opportunity to compete in the TCR Middle East Series with team Lap57 in the next round at Yas Marina Circuit. It’s a new team, new track and new competition for me, yet I bring with me a great deal of confidence as I will be back behind the wheel of a JAS-prepared Honda Civic TCR car once again. As a result, I will be pushing very hard to try to continue my winning ways,” Files said.
Mohammed Al Owais and Lap57 have built themselves a reputation winning races and titles in the United Arab Emirates Touring Car and the Middle East Supercars championships, but also claiming brilliant results in long distance races such as the Nürburgring and Dubai 24 Hours.
Al Owais’ commented: “I am very happy to join the TCR Middle East Series. It will be a pleasure to drive with professionals in the sport.”
Davit Kajaia in a Mulsanne Racing Alfa Romeo
Georgia’s Davit Kajaia will join the TCR Middle East for the series’ second event at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi.
Kajaia, who was among the top runners in last year’s TCR International Series, will drive a Mulsanne Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR. This is the very same car that Michela Cerruti drove to second place in the TCR Middle East opening round, three weeks ago in Dubai.
And it was in Dubai, during the private test before the event that Kajaia sat behind the wheel of the Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa for the first time.
“I was very impressed by both, the car and the team. I liked the Giulietta very much. It is easy to drive and provides a good feeling. I felt very comfortable at its wheel and it was like I had driven it before. On top of this, the team proved very friendly and professional. The car has a great potential as it was proved by Michela Cerruti’s second place in Dubai. I am confident I can fight for podium positions in Abu Dhabi,”said the Georgian driver.
Giacomo Altoè in The Top-Run Subaru
Italian teenager Giacomo Altoè will make his TCR debut at Abu Dhabi, in the Top Run Motorsport Subaru WRX TCR.
Altoè, who is only 16 years old, completed his maiden automobile sport season last year in the Italian Formula 4 championship.
“I’m happy and motivated to take part in the second event of the TCR Middle East Series at Abu Dhabi. This will be my first race of the year, but more than that my very debut in Touring Car competition!” a delighted Altoè said.
The Subaru was driven by Luigi Ferrara in Dubai; after a promising qualifying the Japanese car retired with a broken bevel gear.
Success ballast for the championship top scorers
The second event of the TCR Middle East Series at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit will see the allocation of success ballast to the top two drivers in the standings.
Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Brandon Gdovic and Luca Engstler – the race winners in the series’ opener at Dubai – will carry 30 and 20 kilos of success ballast on board their Volkswagen Golf GTi cars respectively.
Gdovic is the current leader of the Middle East Series, with 43 points, while Engstler is second with 38.
The 10-kilo success ballast for the third best scorer will not be allocated as Mat’o Homola, who is currently placed third in the standings with 30 points, will not compete in Abu Dhabi.
The 2017 TCR European Trophy
The TCR promoter has unveiled the bullet points of the 2017 TCR European Trophy that will take place in a one-off event at Adria International Raceway, Italy, on October 29th.
Eligibility through Qualifying Events
Although the 2017 TCR European Trophy will consist of just one event, only competitors who have taken part in the Qualifying Events will be eligible for entering the Adria race meeting.
Competitors may qualify for the 2017 TCR European Trophy by either:
Entering the full season in one of the following TCR National/Regional Series or Championships in Europe:
TCR Baltic, TCR Benelux, TCR Germany, TCR Ibérico, TCR Italy, TCR Portugal, TCR Russia, TCR Scandinavia, TCR Spain, 24h Series, 24H TCE Series, VLN Series
Entering a minimum of four European events of the 2017 TCR International Series from the following: Spa-Francorchamps (6th May), TBA (28th May), Salzburgring (11th June), Hungaroring (2nd July), Oschersleben (9th July).
Qualifying points will be allocated to the competitors who will enter the Adria event.
Five points will be allocated to those who have entered for the full season in one of the aforesaid National/Regional Series or Championships.
One point per event will be allocated to those who have taken part in the aforesaid European events of the 2017 TCR International Series.
Format of the final event and entry fees
The Sporting Regulations of the 2017 TCR European Trophy will be published by 15th February.
However, the format of the event will be similar to the TCR International Series’, but with the possible introduction of Qualifying Races depending on the number of cars entered.
Entries will open on 1st March and the entry fee for the final event in Adria is set at €4,000 per car.
A special total entry fee for taking part in all the five European events of the 2017 TCR International Series has also been set at € 10,000; this fee is reserved for the Competitors entering the 2017 TCR European Trophy.
Three cars to be awarded as final prizes
The first three drivers classified in the 2017 TCR European Trophy will be awarded one road car each, of the same brand they have represented in the final event.
TCR Middle East: Josh Files wins all on day one at Abu Dhabi
Josh Files confirmed his strong form at the wheel of the JAS Motorsport-built Honda Civic TCR by emerging as the dominant driver of the first day’s proceedings at Abu Dhabi.
The Briton, who was crowned champion in last year’s ADAC TCR Germany Series, claimed pole position and then won the first race on his maiden appearance in the TCR Middle East Series for Dubai-based Lap57 Motorsport.
However, Files’ victory only ripened in the final laps, after a close fight with Davit Kajaia’s Mulsanne Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR. Kajaia, who was also sitting for the first time in the Italian car, matched the second place claimed by Michela Cerruti at Dubai four weeks ago.
Italian teenager Giacomo Altoè came home a brilliant third in the Top Run Motorsport Subaru WRX TCR, while the fight for fourth position ended in drama when Luca Engstler and Brandon Gdovic were involved in a collision during the last lap.
Gdovic finished fourth from Mohammed Al Owais and Engstler, which helped the American to stretch his leadership in the standings to nine points ahead of his German teammate.
Josh Files joins Gdovic and Engstler in the title fight
The first appearance of Josh Files in the TCR Middle East Series resulted in a clean sweep for the British driver. Files and his Honda Civic TCR run by Dubai-based Lap57 Motorsport pocketed the maximum possible points haul during the second race meeting of the series : 5 for the pole position and 25 for each of the two races.
As a result, Files climbed to third place in the championship classification, only twelve points behind the leader Brandon Gdovic and six behind Luca Engstler, standing as a serious pretender in the title fight.
If Files had to work hard to beat Davit Kajaia’s Alfa Romeo and claim victory in yesterday’s Race 1, today he outshone his competitors with the greatest ease, pulling away at the rate of one second per lap. However, this supremacy has prompted an investigation: data have been downloaded from the ECU of Files’ car and results remain provisional, pending checks by the TCR technical department.
Behind Files, Kajaia proved the excellent progress of the Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta in both, speed and reliability. Speed was also shown by the Top Run Subaru that Italian teenager Giacomo Altoè drove to a brilliant third place in Race 1. However, the Japanese car failed once again to be reliable, as an engine problem prevented Altoè from taking part in Race 2.
The Liqui Moly Team Engstler duo of Gdovic and Engstler who had dominated the series opener at Dubai, struggled to be on the pace with their Volkswagen Golf cars laden by the success ballast. Eventually they fought each other for the points – even making contact at the end of the first race. Gdovic’s score of 24 was better than Engstler’s by one, which helped the American to stretch his leading margin to six points.
Qualifying: Josh Files on pole position
The Lap57 Honda Civic of Josh Files set pole position after the 26 year old was the only driver to break the 2 minute 22 second barrier during the 35-minute Qualifying session.
Just as in the morning’s Practice, Files was again the fastest driver on track in the early stages of Qualifying, topping the timing screens with a fastest lap of 2:22.182. He bettered that performance by over a second with around 11 minutes remaining, with his improved time of 2:21.138 the new benchmark.
Despite clipping a bollard in the first half of the session, Davit Kajaia’s Alfa Romeo suffered no lasting damage and the Georgian driver set the session’s second quickest time of 2:22.904, with the Subaru of Italian teenager Giacomo Altoè third fastest, lapping the Yas Marina circuit in 2:23.392
Luca Engstler, carrying 20kg of Success Ballast after the first TCR Middle East round in Dubai, was only fourth fastest (2:24.031) and again caught the attention of the Race Director for infringing track limits. As a consequence, the Stewards decided to demote him to the back of the grid for Race 1 and to deprive him of the two points scored thanks to the fourth position in the Qualifying session.
Files said: “It went pretty well, we had a couple of tyre runs because I wasn’t completely happy with things on the first run and we made a slight adjustment and it worked well. The car from JAS has been fantastic and the team from Lap57 is making sure everything is working and reliable. It’s great being on an F1 track because you know which parts of the track you can use and which bits you can’t and finding the correct lines so that everything flows from one corner to the next really excites me – I really think about technical circuits and this is definitely a technical circuit.”
Race 1: Kajaia makes Files work for the win
Josh Files, driving for the UAE-based Lap57 team, took his first victory in the TCR Middle East series after earlier setting the fastest time in both the Practice and Qualifying sessions. The Honda Civic driver didn’t have an easy run to the chequered flag, however, as the Mulsanne Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta of Davit Kajaia led for eight of the race’s eleven laps. Files eventually took the lead on Lap 9.
Behind the race-long battle for the lead, Italian teenager Giacomo Altoè drove a solid race to give the Top Run racing team their first international podium result by finishing third in the Subaru WRX STi TCR. Brandon Gdovic finished fourth for Liqui Moly Team Engstler, while Mohammed Al Owais was classified fifth in a Honda after stopping on track on the final lap. Similarly, Luca Engstler and Stefan Goede failed to finish the race but were classified sixth and seventh respectively.
RACE ONE KEY FACTS:
Start: Mohammed Al Owais stalls on the start line and drops to the back of the field
Lap 1: Files makes a poor start and Kajaia passes him for the lead; Engstler is up to 5th after starting from the back of the grid; Goede is up to 4th
Lap 3: The battle for the lead continues, with Files and Kajaia now 0.5 seconds apart; Goede spins at Turn 17 but rejoins.
Lap 4: Engstler and Gdovic are fighting for 4th while Goede enters the pits
Lap 5: Gdovic now 0.4 seconds behind Engstler
Lap 6: The gap between the leaders is now 0.27 seconds
Lap 7: Files attacks Kajaia, but Kajaia holds on to the lead; Al Owais passes Gdovic for 5th place
Lap 8: Files runs wide at Turn 14; him and Kajaia make contact at Turn 18
Lap 9: There is a three-way battle for 4th place between Engstler, Al Owais and Gdovic; Files attacks Kajaia at Turn 18, but Kajaia holds onto the lead; Files manages to pass Kajaia for the lead at Turn 20
Lap 10: Gdovic attacks Engstler for 5th place, but Engstler holds the position
Lap 11: There’s contact between Gdovic and Engstler; Gdovic resumes, but Engstler stops at Turn 14; Al Owais stops at Turn 11; Files holds on to win from Kajaia by just 1.3 seconds; Altoè is a further 21 seconds behind
Quotes from the podium finishers in Race 1
Josh Files (winner): “That was very hard – we knew we had a lot of speed over one lap, but we hadn’t done an eleven lap race run so we didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t make a great start; I didn’t use enough clutch, which was my fault, and so it was a bit of post-season rust, I guess! Davit was very fast, the Alfa in a straight line is on another level and even when I was in his slipstream he was pulling away. Getting past was the difficulty, as I knew the only places to get past were in the slow corners in the last sector because down the straights he could pull away. It was a case of ‘I’m coming through, with or without your permission’ but I saw he seemed to make a mistake in one corner and that gave me the chance to come through. Tomorrow will certainly be interesting!”
Davit Kajaia (second): “I made a very good start and I was in the lead for eight laps, but I was very aggressive in the beginning to be fast and my front tyres slowly lost grip so I knew I couldn’t hold on to first place. I let Josh past, but I have to say I’m happy with the result. The car is in really good shape and I hope I can fight for more podiums. I’m very confident with the car, it’s very driveable and I have a very good feeling with it. I must say a big thank you to the team – they did a really, really good job and they improved the car step by step after every session.”
Giacomo Altoè (third): “I’m very happy with third place. This was my debut in a Touring Car race so it’s not a bad result! I was slower than the two leading cars and I had some small problems with my car’s gearbox, but finishing the race was important not just for me but for the car and the team. It’s the first race for me in the Subaru and I think the car is still improving and so I’m very happy for the entire team. With a good start tomorrow, maybe we can be on the podium in Race 2, we will see.”
Race 2: Files completes clean sweep of results
After setting the fastest times in Practice and Qualifying and then winning Race 1, Josh Files rounded off a near-perfect event in Abu Dhabi with another victory in Race 2. A brilliant start by Files saw the Lap57 Honda Civic storm through the field to take the lead by Turn 6 and he then never looked back.
In a repeat of the 1-2 result from Race 1, Davit Kajaia finished second in the Mulsanne Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta while Luca Engstler salvaged third place after a disappointing opening race, in which he started from the back of the grid and was then involved in a collision with his teammate Brandon Gdovic.
Any thoughts of another podium finish by Giacomo Altoè were dashed when the Top Run Racing Subaru suffered a technical problem on the grid and the car had to be pushed back into the pit lane before the green flag lap. Files’ teammate Mohammed Al Owais then stalled at the start after apparently failing to engage the Honda’s launch control system. Five cars then finished the race, with the Liqui Moly Team Engstler duo of Gdovic and Stefan Goede bringing their Volkswagen Golf GTi cars home in fourth and fifth places respectively.
RACE TWO KEY FACTS:
Grid: Altoè’s Subaru has a technical problem and is pushed back into the pit lane
Start: Files makes a great start, Al Owais stalls
Lap 1: Files takes the lead by passing Engstler in Turn 6; Kajaia runs wide at Turn 17, but holds onto third place; Al Owais comes into the pits
Lap 2: Kajaia runs wide in both Turns 3 and 20, but holds onto third place
Lap 3: Kajaia passes Engstler in Turn 8 for second place; several cars run wide at Turn 18
Lap 4: Goede receives a warning for infringing track limits
Lap 5: Files’ lead is now 7 seconds
Lap 6: Goede runs wide at Turn 7
Lap 8: Engstler runs wide at Turn 8
Lap 10: Files’ lead is now 12 seconds
Lap 11: Files takes the victory from Kajaia and Engstler
Quotes from the podium finishers in Race 2
Josh Files (winner): “It all comes down to the start; yesterday I got it wrong and today it was back to normal. I was actually in a position to go into the first corner four abreast with the Golf cars, but I thought ‘this will end in a crash’. I got past two of them in Turns 3 and 4 and I then just had Luca in front of me and he pretty much let me past in the first chicane. Thanks to him for that – he probably thought he didn’t have quite the same speed and let me go. It’s quite difficult to maintain concentration when you have a big lead and with the heat here as well you can easily lose concentration if you back off. I made sure I was picking up every apex and looking after the car because cars can break. I made sure I was quite consistent. The car Lap57 and JAS produced this weekend was just awesome and I can’t thank them enough.”
Davit Kajaia (second): “I’m very proud of the team and the car. I didn’t have a very good start because I had too much wheelspin and Josh overtook the other cars very quickly. It was a little bit difficult for me to overtake the others and I lost too much time, but finally I took second place. It wasn’t difficult, as I was in Engstler’s slipstream and overtook him quite easily. Then I saw Josh was a long way in front of me, so I just kept my pace and so I could control Luca behind me. Now I have to concentrate on Bahrain and try to get on the podium again there. Finally, I want to thank the team and the organization of TCR Middle East.”
Luca Engstler (third): “It was a crazy few days for us. I had a crash in the first race thanks to a stupid mistake from me; it wasn’t Brandon’s fault, it was definitely mine and I said sorry to him. The team worked all night to repair the cars and I said to myself that I had to achieve a good result to give them something back. I don’t think we had a chance against the Honda so P3 is a good result for us. It was important not just for the team for me to finish on the podium, it was also important for my confidence. Now we have to focus on Bahrain, but I don’t want to think about the title. I just want to do the best I can because I’m still only sixteen and I want to learn as much as I can. I have to learn from things like my mistake in Qualifying when I went over the track limits, not on my fast laps but on my slower ones. We’ll have to focus in Bahrain and not make this kind of mistake again.”
The TCR Middle East Series will hit the track again for its final event at Bahrain International Circuit on March 9 and 10.
As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as the members of the TCR Talk Facebook Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from the series.
Until next time, all the best!