2017 TCR International Series: China

Here’s a TCR Guru roundup of all the action took place during the penultimate weekendof the 2017 TCR International Series at the Zhejiang Circuit in China…

I know I don’t normally add second titles to my blog posts but this time, I feel this is appropriate…

The Hyundai’s are coming!!!

The Hyundai’s are coming!!!

And now back to your normal TCR Guru Blogpost service…

Brand new Chinese racetrack hosts a TCR event

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Three TCR series will share the bill in the first international event ever hosted by the new Zhejiang Circuit.

The track is located in the Kenyan region, near the city of Shaoxing and is 50 km away from the Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport that serves Hangzhou, the capital of the Zhejiang Province and one of China’s fastest growing regions in terms of economy and technology.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

The Zhejiang Circuit, conceived by Apex Circuit Design, was inaugurated at the end of last year. With a total length of 3.2 kilometres, its main track has been granted Grade 2 status by the FIA; it includes 16 turns in different angles and direction and has a 22-metre elevation between its lowest and highest points.

The TCR event will feature the TCR International Series and joint races of the TCR Asia and TCR China series.

Tarquini and Menu to drive the new Hyundai i30 N TCR

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---33 Alain Menu_27

One of the main features of the TCR International Series event in Zhejiang will be the maiden appearance of the new Hyundai i30 N TCR; this will mark the latest step in the technical development of the Hyundai Motorsport-built car that has already undergone an extensive testing programme.

The two i30 N TCR cars will be run by the Italy-based BRC Racing Team and driven by two very experienced Touring Car aces – the former World, European and British champion Gabriele Tarquini and Alain Menu, twice British champion.

Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing Manager Andrea Adamo said: “The debut of the i30 N TCR in the TCR International Series is an important weekend for everyone involved in the project. We feel we have developed a competitive package for the category, but this will be the first time that we can directly compare to other cars in the series.”

“Both the i30 N TCR drivers will be ineligible for points. It is not our intention to get involved in the very close fight at the top of the points’ standings. Instead, at the Zhejiang Circuit we will concentrate on continuing our development work during the race weekend.”

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---30 Gabriele Tarquini_16

Tarquini commented: “The Zhejiang Circuit is very different from the tracks in Europe where we have tested. It is a relatively slow layout with lots of technical sections, so we will need to work on the set-up. This is all part of our development work with the car, but also an opportunity to show the competitiveness of our design.”

“These are our targets for the weekend. I expect a small gap to the regular teams and the fact that this is the first time the TCR International Series runs at Zhejiang should keep the action close.”

Alain Menu added: “From the testing I have completed, the i30 N TCR feels to be very strong. The TCR International Series is very competitive, so the weekend at the Zhejiang Circuit will be a real challenge. As a driver the event will be a very good chance to show the performance of our car against the others on the grid.”

“However, we have to consider that our focus during the weekend is to take advantage of the track time to continue to develop the i30 N TCR before the first chassis are delivered to customers.”

The Hyundai cars will run with a temporary homologation form and therefore, will not be eligible to score points.

The final sprint of a four-way battle for the title

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

The penultimate event of the season in China will launch the final sprint in the fight for the TCR International Series titles.

There are four major pretenders to the Drivers’ crown: the 18-year old Hungarian Attila Tassi (M1RA Honda Civic) tops the standings with 179 points, only two more compared to Jean-Karl Vernay (Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI).

The 2015 and 2016 champion Stefano Comini (Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS) is placed third, with a gap of 14 points from the leader, while Tassi’s teammate Roberto Colciago lies a further 20 points adrift having missed the previous event in Thailand because of medical reasons.

The Italian – who had broken three ribs in a pile up at Oschersleben – has been declared fit to rejoin and is eager to recover. After all, there are still 110 points at stake…
Mathematically speaking, this keeps several other drivers in contention. The best placed of them being Pepe Oriola (110 points) and Dušan Borković (108).

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---05 Roberto Colciago_23

Following the races in Buriram, M1RA has built a solid margin of 93 points in the Teams’ classification ahead of Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing (382 against 289), while Leopard Racing is currently third (247 points). However, with 190 points on offer in the two last events, anything is still possible.

The situation is similar in the ‘Model of the Year’ classification that is led by the Honda Civic with 451 points ahead of the Volkswagen Golf GTI (355) and the SEAT León (335).

Success ballast for Tassi, Borković and Altoè

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---09 Attila Tassi_6

The previous event in Buriram provided an unusual situation as far as the Success Ballast is concerned.

In fact, two pairs of drivers scored the same amount of points. M1RA teammates Norbert Michelisz and Attila Tassi were the event’s best scorers with 28 points, while Dušan Borković (GE-Force Alfa Romeo Giulietta) and Giacomo Altoè (M1RA) followed with 26 points.

As a result – and considering that Michelisz will hand the Honda Civic car back to Roberto Colciago – Tassi will carry the maximum Success Ballast of 30 kilos at Zhejiang.
The 20 kilos of Success Ballast for the second best scorer will not be allocated, while both Borković and Altoè will have their cars laden by the 10 extra kilos imposed on the third best scorer.

In terms of running weight, this means that Tassi’s Honda will weigh 1335kg (1285kg minimum weight + 30kg Success Ballast + 20kg Balance of Performance adjustment), Borković’s Alfa Romeo 1275kg (1285kg + 10kg SB – 20kg BoP) and Altoè’s Honda 1315 kg (1285kg + 10kg SB + 20kg

TCR Asia and TCR China to run together

2017-TCR Asia - Shanghai 0817---TCRAsia_Shanghai_270817_R2_start_HO_med (1)

The event in Zhejiang will also feature as the final rounds (11 and 12) of TCR Asia and rounds 5 and 6 of the TCR China’s inaugural season.

The two championships will run together in the Free Practice, Qualifying and the two Sprint Races of 30 minutes each. Than TCR China competitors will also take part in the 60-minute Race 3 on Sunday morning.

Just as in the TCR International Series, four drivers are in a close battle for the title. Kantadhee Kusiri from Thailand is the current leader, having scored 150 points in his Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTI; he is closely followed by his compatriot Tin Sritrai (Team Thailand Honda Civic) on 139.5 points and his own teammate Diego Moran from Ecuador on 139 points. Malaysia’s Lai Wee Sing (R Engineering Honda Civic) ranks fourth on 129 points, while his compatriot and colleague Abdul Kaathir is fifth with 108.

After the first two events of TCR China, the classification is led by the Hongkongers Sunny Wong and Alex Fung who share a Volkswagen Golf GTI run by TeamWork Motorsport; they have scored 101 points, two more than their compatriot Andy Yan (NewFaster Team Audi RS3 LMS). Yan’s teammate Huang Chu Han from China follows in third position with 93 points.

ZZZ Team enters two Audi cars in the Zhejiang event

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---81 Zhendong Zhang_24

The Zhejiang-based ZZZ Team will take part in the TCR International Series at their home circuit.

The Chinese outfit will field a couple of Audi RS3 LMS cars for Tengyi Jiang and Zhendong Zhang, two of the most experienced and successful local Touring Car drivers and teammates also in the China Touring Car Championship with the Shanghai VW 333 Racing.

32-year old Jiang has established himself as one of the top CTCC drivers, claiming several race wins at the wheel of Ford and Volkswagen cars and clinching the Super Production title in 2014. He has already made a one-off appearance in the TCR International Series, at the Shanghai International Circuit in 2015, when he drove a SEAT León for the Craft-Bamboo Team and was classified ninth in the second race.

Zhang, 25 years old, is the reigning CTCC Super Production champion having successfully defended the title won in 2015. Before joining the Volkswagen team in 2012 he had raced for Haima.

Jiang and Zhang are currently ranking third and fourth in the 2017 CTCC Super Cup.
“We are very excited to join the TCR international Series and race at Zhejiang Circuit. It is our very maiden appearance and we have some very competitive racers form China. I believe that the TCR international Series is the ideal platform to show what we can do,” said Dennis Zhang, the team manager of ZZZ.

Denis Dupont to make his debut with Comtoyou Racing

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Only a few days after having raced in the TCR Benelux event at Mettet, Denis Dupont has flown to China to make his maiden appearance in the TCR International Series at the wheel of a SEAT León entered by Comtoyou Racing and supported by the RACB National Team.

The 24-year old Belgian has established himself as one of the top competitors in TCR Benelux in which he shares the RACB National Team SEAT with Sam Dejonghe. They were classified third in the 2016 championship, with two race victories and are currently lying 7th this year, having won the 60-minute Qualifying race at Zolder.

“Racing in the International Series is a project I have worked on for a few months and I’m pleased that, with support from my partners and Comtoyou Racing, I have been given the opportunity to race in China,”
 said Dupont.

“I am very happy to drive a SEAT León, because I know it well. This will help me a lot, as I won’t have the opportunity to test the car I will drive in Zhejiang, and being familiar with the car will let me focus on getting to know the track.”

Rafaël Galiana returns with WestCoast Racing

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

TCR International Series in Asia has become an unmissable appointment for Rafaël Galiana. In fact, for the third consecutive year the French businessman and motorsport enthusiast will join the series for the Chinese round in Zhejiang.

After racing in 2015 and 2016 at the wheel of SEAT León and Honda Civic Cars, this time Galiana will drive a Volkswagen Golf GTI for WestCoast Racing, the same team that entered him last year in the Buriram event. His best result so far was an eighth place in last year’s Race 1 at Macau.

“I’m very happy to drive again in the TCR International Series, especially at Zhejiang, because it is an interesting new circuit. Every year I would like to do more races, but I’m always very busy. I have just delivered a new Grade 1 racetrack in Kuwait that should be inaugurated by the middle of 2018 and now I am working on a few karting circuits in China,”said Galiana who is known as ‘Mr Tecpro’ because of a safety barrier he launched in 2000 after several years of research and development.

The Tecpro barrier has proved to be much more effective than the tyre walls that were used in most of the circuits and now the company collaborates with FIA, FIM, and a number of National Sporting Authorities and works together with racetrack designers and architects.

Rob Huff claims pole ahead of teammate Vernay

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

On his last appearance in the TCR International Series during the current season, Rob Huff claimed his first pole position at the wheel of his Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI.

His teammate Jean-Karl Vernay then provided the icing on the cake by qualifying second, locking out the front row of the grid of Race 1 for the team and Volkswagen. The four points awarded to the second-best qualifier also meant that Vernay reclaimed the leadership in the championship standings with a two-point margin ahead of Attila Tassi.
Pepe Oriola put in a great effort and managed to qualify third in his Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT León.

In an unusual situation, the two fastest drivers in Qualifying will not be at the front of the grid. In fact, Alain Menu and Gabriele Tarquini set the fastest laps in Q1 at a pace that nobody was able to match, but they were not admitted to Q2 because their Hyundai i30 N cars have been accepted with a temporary homologation form, meaning that they are not eligible to score points. They will start both races from 13th and 14th and promise to fight for good results.

Among those who were disappointed by the Qualifying results were Stefano Comini and Mat’o Homola. The reigning champion couldn’t achieve any better than a 16th position that greatly jeopardised his hopes to win a third consecutive title. As for Homola, he couldn’t even try, as an engine failure sidelined him in both Practice 2 and Qualifying.
Frederic Vervisch qualified tenth and so won pole position on the reversed grid for Race 2 alongside Davit Kajaia.

Qualifying 1: Menu and Tarquini are fastest

2017-2017 Zhejiang Saturday---33 Alain Menu_102 (1)

The pairing of Hyundai i30 N cars of Menu and Tarquini set the fastest laps in the first part of the session, the only ones to go under the 1:33 mark. After posting a provisional fastest lap of 1:33.392, Menu improved to 1:32.811 that nobody was able to beat.

Tarquini tried twice and was clocked at 1:32.984 and then 1:32.935 to settle for second position. With the Hyundai cars not eligible to qualify for Q2, the Volkswagen drivers were fighting to be the fastest of the rest of the field. Eventually it was Gianni Morbidelli who set the third best lap (1:33.279) ahead of Vernay (1:33.476) and Huff (1:33.503).

After struggling in Practice, Tassi was able to complete his last lap in 1:33.786 that placed him sixth overall, but fourth among those admitted to Q2.

The following drivers went through to Q2: Morbidelli, Vernay, Huff, Tassi, Colciago, Lloyd, Nash, Oriola, Kajaia, Dupont, Panis, Vervisch.
Among those who failed to make the cut were Borković and Comini.

Qualifying 2: Huff and Vernay secure the front row

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---03 Rob Huff_48

Leopard Racing’s Huff and Vernay had a thrilling fight to secure pole position. The Frenchman topped the timesheet with a provisional fastest lap of 1:33.341 but was pipped by his English teammate who improved to 1:33.173 under the chequered flag.
Also on his last lap, Oriola was able to climb to third with a lap of 1:33.486, demoting Morbidelli to fourth (1:33.804). Daniel Lloyd claimed the last qualifying point by posting the fifth fastest lap (1:33.817).

Quotes after the Qualifying Session

Rob Huff (pole position): “It’s the first pole position of the year for the team and myself, so we are very pleased, of course, to take the front row with our two cars. It wouldn’t be so if the Hyundai cars would have been allowed into Q2 and I congratulate them for the impressive show on their debut. The car worked perfectly throughout the sessions and on a track that is tremendously demanding and slippery. It’s almost impossible to avoid any mistake. For tomorrow, we’ll see what strategy we need to apply. Clearly the main objective is to have Jean-Karl and Leopard Racing Team WRT securing the title. For me, it is just a pity that this will be my last TCR event this year.”

Jean-Karl Vernay: “The front row is a terrific result. I did a couple of very fast laps but eventually got beaten by Rob, which at least proved there are no team orders. I now have a 2-point advantage over Atila Tassi and we’ll see what will happen tomorrow, but I stress: we are very competitive and I am very happy.”

Pepe Oriola: “We struggled during all the sessions with the set-up, as the track is very slippery, and we made a lot of set-up changes which are starting to pay off. Tomorrow, I’ll definitely go for a win as I have nothing to lose.”

Alain Menu: “It’s a shame we couldn’t participate in Q2, but those are the rules, and it’s great to be back racing at this level in touring cars. I am still learning the car, as I am a late addition to the project, and frankly, all the credit for the development and testing should be for Hyundai, the team and Gabriele, who have done a terrific job.”

TCR Asia & China – Kusiri claims the TCR Asia title

2017-TCR Asia - Shanghai 0817---TCRAsia_Shanghai_UP3_250817_Kusiri_1_HO_med2

Thai driver Kantadhee Kusiri of Liqui Moly Team Engstler secured the 2017 TCR Asia Drivers’ championship with two cautious races at Zhejiang at the wheel of his Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Kusiri greatly benefited from an engine failure that slowed down his countryman Tin Sritrai during the first race and focused on staying out of troubles to score the points he needed. Race 1 was won by guest drivers Jean-Karl Vernay in a TeamWork Motorsport Volkswagen, with Kusiri fourth overall and first of TCR Asia.

Sritrai won the second race, while Andy Yan was second overall and winner of TCR China.

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Vernay dominated the first race, overtaking Sritrai (Team Thailand Honda Civic) at the beginning of the second lap and consistently increasing his leading gap up to 20 seconds. Behind him, NewFaster teammates Yan and Huang Chu Han completed the TCR China podium in their Audi RS3 LMS cars, while Kusiri finished fourth overall and won the TCR Asia.

At the start both the Liqui Moly Team Engstler cars of Kusiri and Diego Moran stalled; Sritrai took the lead but was soon passed by Vernay; Kusiri then dropped from fourth to sixth behind Huang and Sunny Wong (TeamWork Motorsport Volkswagen).

For half of the race, Sritrai held on to the second position, leading TCR Asia, but on lap 10 his pace faded and he lost two places to Eric Kwong and Abdul Kaathir. On lap 16, Wong lost a wheel and the fourth position in TCR China. He pitted, rejoined and eventually was classified eighth.

Sritrai took a superb victory in the second race, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Kusiri from securing the title. Sritrai made a brilliant start from second on the grid and powered past Kusiri; Yan also passed Moran to set up a four-way fight for the podium places that lasted the entire race.

With victory the only option for Sritrai, he held his nerve while others behind him were swapping places. Kusiri lost second when he was passed by Yan’s Audi on lap 8 and then was passed for third place by Moran on lap 14. Kusiri knew that the title was within reach and only had to stay out of trouble for the remainder of the race.

Moran then made several efforts to pass Yan for second but each time was thwarted, even nosing ahead briefly on lap 15 only to lose the position again when he ran wide at the next corner.

That was how it finished, with Sritrai taking the chequered flag 2.4 seconds clear of Yan, who finished as the best TCR China entrant. Moran was a frustrated third.

Vernay moves closer to the title as Tarquini and Huff share race victories

2017-2017 Zhejiang Friday---30 Gabriele Tarquini_56

The first TCR International Series event at the new Zhejiang Circuit provided two exciting races that may have changed the course of the championship before the final race meeting at Dubai.

As far as the title fight is concerned, Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay has moved a few steps closer to being crowned the successor of his former teammate Stefano Comini. The Frenchman has scored the maximum of points in Race 1 and only one point in Race 2, but as his closest rival Attila Tassi’s tally was limited to 7 points, he has stretched the leading margin to 21.

As for the other contenders – Stefano Comini and Roberto Colciago – they are now 42 and 46 points adrift respectively, meaning that their hopes have nearly completely vanished when 55 points are still on offer.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Should Vernay be successful in his quest for the crown, he must concede some credit to Rob Huff, who placed himself at the team’s service with great professionalism. And Huffy was rewarded today by a splendid victory in Race 2, on his final appearance in the current season.

But, arguably, the talk of the town for the weekend was the debut of the two Hyundai i30 N TCR cars run by BRC Racing and driven by touring car legends Gabriele Tarquini and Alain Menu. And what a debut it was! Fastest in qualifying, the two Korean cars were relegated to 13th and 14th on the grid for both races because they had been accepted under a temporary homologation form.

Despite this, they put on a great show and Tarquini claimed an impressive victory in Race 1 that immediately resulted in a change of BoP before the second race: 40 kilos added to the minimum weight and a power reduction to 95%.

In any case, it is clear that a new and competitive brand has joined TCR, adding further spice to a consistent growth in quality that was also proved by the fact that today’s race victories were shared by two World Champions.

Race 1 – Hyundai wins maiden race with Tarquini

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Gabriele Tarquini put in an impressive performance at the Zhejiang Circuit, recovering from starting 14th on the grid to lead under the chequered flag and so giving the Hyundai i30 N TCR a victory in its maiden race in the International Series.

However, as the Korean car has been accepted under a temporary homologation form, the 25 championship points were awarded to Jean-Karl Vernay who finished second in the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI. The Frenchman was followed by two other Volkswagen drivers: his own teammate Rob Huff and WestCoast Racing’s Gianni Morbidelli.

Pepe Oriola salvaged fifth place after having led for most of the race and having been involved in a couple of controversial collisions with Vernay and Morbidelli.
The results helped Vernay to stretch his leadership in the Drivers’ championship to 26 points ahead of M1RA’s Attila Tassi who finished 11th (and 10th of the scorers) after having been pushed wide after the start.

RACE ONE:

Grid: Homola and Jiang are at the back of the grid following an engine change and grid penalty for a parc fermé infringement respectively

Start: Huff makes a poor start from pole, Oriola squeezes between Huff and Vernay to take the lead; Menu hits Dupont and sends him crashing into the pit wall

2017-2017 Zhejiang Race 1---Start Race1_26

Lap 1: Tassi is pushed wide at Turn 2; Oriola leads from Vernay, Morbidelli, Vervisch and Huff; Tarquini overtakes Lloyd for sixth; Borković stops with a pierced radiator
Lap 2: Tarquini overtakes Huff and Vervisch moving up to fourth
Lap 3: Tarquini overtakes Morbidelli for third; Lloyd pits and retires after a contact
Lap 4: Huff overtakes Morbidelli for fourth; Menu overtakes Vervisch for sixth

2017-2017 Zhejiang Race 1---03 Rob Huff_144

Lap 5: Menu is given a drive-through penalty for the collision at the start
Lap 6: Tarquini overtakes Vernay for second
Lap 7: Zhang and Homola make contact
Lap 9: Oriola is chased by Tarquini, Vernay and Huff
Lap 11: Tarquini overtakes Oriola for the the lead
Lap 12: Vernay and Oriola make contact, Oriola drops to fourth behind Vernay and Huff

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Lap 13: Oriola and Morbidelli clash on the pit straight, Morbidelli moves up to fourth
Lap 14: Kajaia overtakes Nash for eighth
Lap 19: Tarquini wins the race, but Vernay, Huff and Morbidelli score the points for the top three positions in the championship.

Race 2 – Huff wins the toughest race of the season

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Rob Huff leaves the current season of the TCR International Series on a high note. The former World Champion claimed victory at Zhejiang Circuit in a race that will be remembered as one of the toughest ever in Touring Car competitions.

The drivers delivered close and thrilling battles for every position and – rather exceptionally – all these clashes, contacts, pushing and paint-swapping did not result in major incidents. All the drivers were able to keep on racing, demonstrating great skill in handling their battered cars.

Gianni Morbidelli finished the race in second position, overtaking James Nash on the last lap. Nash had bravely led most of the race in his SEAT before being forced to concede to the fastest Volkswagen cars.

Alain Menu was fourth in a Hyundai that was hit by an increase in weight and a reduction of power after Tarquini’s display of strength in Race 1.
As far as the title fight was concerned, the event favoured Jean-Karl Vernay who leaves China with a leading margin of 21 points in the Drivers’ championship ahead of Attila Tassi.

RACE TWO:

Grid – Borković, Dupont and Lloyd are missing following damage obtained in Race 1

Start – Vervisch on pole and Nash start well and swerve to the left before Kajaia; there is commotion in the first turns, Nash takes the lead from Kajaia, Vervisch, Tassi, Morbidelli, Oriola and Colciago; Vernay is pushed wide by Comini and drops to 15th

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Lap 1: Colciago and Huff overtake Oriola for 6th and 7th
Lap 2: Nash pulls away, while Vervisch, Kajaia and Morbidelli have a tough fight behind him; Colciago overtakes Tassi for 5th
Lap 3: Tassi is given a drive-through penalty for a jump start
Lap 4: The fight for second heats up, Vervisch, Morbidelli, Kajaia and Huff make several contacts, eventually Kajaia clashes with Huff and retires

2017-2017 Zhejiang Race 2---06 Frederic Vervisch_191.jpg

Lap 5: Huff elbows his way past Morbidelli for third
Lap 6: There are more contacts between Vervisch, Huff and Morbidelli; Huff overtakes Vervisch for second
Lap 7: Menu overtakes Colciago and Oriola for fifth; Vernay overtakes Panis for 10th
Lap 8: Oriola overtakes Colciago for 6th; Tarquini overtakes Colciago for 7th; Vernay overtakes Zhang for 9th
Lap 9: Tarquini overtakes Oriola for 6th

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Lap 11: Vernay overtakes Colciago for 8th
Lap 12: Tarquini and Menu overtake Vervisch who drops to 7th
Lap 14: Vernay, Vervisch and Colciago collide; Vervisch retires, Vernay pits to replace a wheel
Lap 15: Huff has completely eliminated Nash’s leading gap
Lap 16: Huff overtakes Nash for the lead
Lap 17: Morbidelli overtakes Nash for second; Menu overtakes Tarquini for 4th

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Lap 18: Oriola overtakes Tarquini for 5th
Lap 19: Huff wins from Morbidelli, Nash, Menu and Oriola; Zhang claims a brilliant 7th position.

Quotes from the podium finishers in the two races

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Gabriele Tarquini (Winner of Race 1): “What a great weekend for Hyundai, the team and myself. I certainly did not expect that and this will stay as one of the best memories in my career. To win at our debut just proves that the excellent work done pays off. Our pace in Race 1 was great. I was lucky not to be involved in any incidents at the start and to be already 7th in lap 1, having started from P14. I then realized I had a chance to win and pushed hard, despite the fact we had some fears after having encountered problems with the oil radiator in practice and qualifying. Luckily, the issue did not occur again and I could pass everybody and take the lead. In Race 2, of course, we did not have the same pace, with 40 kilos more and 95% of the power, especially towards the end of the race, the car began struggling. The weekend really was not bad for a newcomer to the series. At the end of the day, I am a rookie in TCR!”

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Rob Huff (Winner of Race 2, 3rd in Race 1): “Race 2 was probably one of the toughest and most aggressive race I have been involved in, but also a very enjoyable one, as we came on top! It was an excellent weekend for the entire Leopard Racing team, the car was very competitive here and the team did a fantastic job. More importantly, Jean-Karl has regained the championship lead and will go to Dubai with a significant advantage. My mission was to help him and I think that I achieved what was expected from me. I won’t be racing in Dubai but I enjoyed very much my stay in the TCR and hope to be back.”

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Jean-Karl Vernay (2nd in Race 1): “It was a great weekend for us and I am very happy. The car was terrific, and it was important to get the points of the victory in Race 1, which was definitely better than Race 2, which saw too much fighting. We knew the track would suit the Golf, and we used well the opportunity, which allowed us to approach the final round with some confidence, although the job is far from finished.”

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Gianni Morbidelli (2nd in Race 2): “I am very happy of the weekend, it’s great to see that our season has improved dramatically since Oschersleben and it is important to be finishing on high notes such as today. The races here were fun, but also a little bit dirty, especially Race 2. Some drivers were a little bit over the limit in closing the door, attacking or pushing.”

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

James Nash (3rd in Race 2): “It’s a little bit frustrating to finish Race 2 in third after having led with a 7-second gap, but I really made everything I could. At the beginning, I managed to pass Kajaia and Vervisch to take the lead and pulled away, building quite some gap. But then the others caught me again. I did not make mistakes and had no issues, their pace was simply much faster than mine. There was much rubbing in Race 2, but I am sure it made a great TV show!”

The final two rounds of the 2017 TCR International Series will take place in Dubai, on November 17 and 18.

PHIL’S THOUGHTS…

I have to say that as a fan, follower and blogger of the TCR International Series, that I disagree with the lack of stewards decisions made in light of some of the overtaking that took place and the results of said overtakes.

I agree that Touring Car Racing always has contact and always will do, however the manner that Pepe Oriola was demoted on lap 12 during Race One was in my opnion, punishable. Vernay clearly used the “Nudge” technique to assist his pass on Oriola and this saw the Spaniard run off the road on the Start/Finish straight.

TCR International Series Zhejiang, China 06 - 08 October 2017

Oriola quite rightly moved over to defend his position from Morbidelli on the run to the first turn, however contact again ensued and Oriola into a slid going into the first turn. The fact there was no further action taken sets a precedent and one I think we will see more of in Dubai.

Another example was the determination of Rob Huff in race two. Whilst battling for position at the top of the circuit, Huff made contact with David Kajaia and this saw the Alfa Romeo driver retire two corners later with a damaged right rear wheel. Huff then followed this up with a very elbows out pass on Morbidelli, which saw the Italian sideways and defending from Audi driver Vervisch.

Like I said, I’m all for exciting passes but I’m also for fair passing as well that doesn’t see the other driver retire or lose out on several positions because of that contact and pass.

2017-2017 Zhejiang Race 1---30 Gabriele Tarquini_217

The big news coming in this weekend were the Hyundai’s and I think you’ll agree that they have made their point. Whilst a lot of the development has been done with Gabriele Tarquini involved, adding Alain Menu to the driver lineup for the last two events was inspired.

Until the BoP was invoked for Race Two, both drivers had very good speed and pace and were able to showcase this in Race One very convincingly by moving forward very quickly from 13th and 14th on the grid respectively. Even with an extra 40kgs and 5% less horsepower, Tarquini and Menu still powered forward.

Expect to see quite a few of these out in action next year, I can already hear the phone of Andrea Adamo, Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing Manager, ringing off the hook with Sales for 2018…

2017-2017 Zhejiang Race 1---01 Stefano Comini_156

Finally, I feel some of the drivers who suffered a bad weekend need a mention. I include Stefano Comini, Mato Homola amongst quite a few. Comini is in the title hunt and now looks increasingly as if he will have to concede his reign to rival Vernay, but you can bet the Swiss driver wont give up without a fight.

Mato Homola again suffered  engine issues and a puncture during the first race, however the inexplicable decision to add weight to the Opel Astra TCR added to what was a difficult weekend. Both the Hungarian and DG Sport Competition will be out to end the season on a high in Dubai.

Finally… TCR EUROPE TROPHY

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Before that takes place, the best of the Domestic European TCR series drivers will go up against each other to win the prestigious TCR Europe Trophy which takes place at the Adria International Raceway in Italy on 29th October.

This is as close as you’ll get to seeing something similar to the Touring Car World Cup events that took place back in the middle 1990’s and I’m sure its going to be a fantastic event to witness.

As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of both the TCR Talk International Facebook Group and the new TCR Talk UK Facebook Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from The TCR International Series, Domestic Series and any news on the TCR UK Series that starts in 2018.

2017-2017 Zhejiang Race 2---28 Aurelien Panis_234

Please note that all images are used courtesy of WSC/TCR International Series.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

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