Photo: TCR Media

Second Race of Austria this weekend for TCR

The TCR International Series will visit Austria for the second time this year this weekend, joining the European Le Mans Series at the Red Bull Ring as a stand-in for the Argentinian round, which has been dropped to avoid a lengthy overseas trip for the teams and cars and allow more time to develop the young TCR cars.

Target Competition’s Stefano Comini leads the championship with a tiny two-point margin over fellow SEAT driver Pepe Oriola and a further 11 over WestCoast Racing’s Gianni Morbidelli.

Last time out in Sochi Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Jordi Gené took the win in Race 1, while Comini won the second heat, thrilling the fans with spectacular reversed donuts. The Spaniard will receive maximum ballast, having scored 40 points, just one more than team-mate Oriola, who will have to carry 20 kilos. Stefano Comini scored 37, enough to jump in the lead of the championship, and will be penalized with a 10-kilos ballast.

Honda certainly have a power advantage and the straights at the Red Bull Ring should play in favour of the Japanese cars, as the Civic also likes fast corners. However, the middle section may well prove vital, and the SEATs are certainly very strong in highly technical layouts.

Gianni Morbidelli will have to make the most out of the Austrian weekend, having scored as little as six points in Russia, losing the championship lead in the process. With no ballast the Italian will surely be willing to go flat out and try to score maximum points at the Red Bull Ring. WestCoast Racing Team Manager James Nixon said: “The Red Bull Ring will again be a tricky track for the Honda Civic TCR, but we should all fare better without the ballast we carried in Russia. Having said that, we’re well aware that SEAT has just driven there as part of the Eurocup, so those teams will have a lot of circuit knowledge and may be hard to beat.”

The team are also working closely with JAS Motorsport in order to prevent the reliability issues experienced in Russia to happen again: “WestCoast Racing and JAS Motorsport are working hard to find a fix to the reliability issues that halted the Honda Civic TCRs in Russia and we continue refining setups in an attempt to find some speed and lose the understeer that compromised our drivers in the previous round. As always, we will try our utmost to return to the sharp end.”

Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Pepe Oriola is also very motivated ahead of the Red Bull Ring, as the Spaniard also turns 21 this week and wants to give himself a nice birthday present: “It would be perfect to leave Austria leading the championship,” said Oriola. “We are going towards the end of the championship and we are all very close in the standings, so I can’t afford to make any mistakes. I worked really hard on the simulator to learn the Red Bull Ring, as there’s a lot at stake in Austria. It will be my first time in Spielberg but I am not afraid, I like challenges. I know that if it all goes well this weekend I can go on holiday leading the championship, and that’s what I am going to focus on starting from Free Practice 1.”

“It would be great to repeat the situation we had in Sochi,” added the Spaniard. “That would allow me to open a big gap and be at the sharp end of the standings. I have to take it step by step though, in a circuit I don’t know and where the weather can play a big role, although it should be dry. I am in good form and want to make full use of it.

With a wonderful weekend in Sochi Gené got much closer to the championship lead, as his gap is now down to 20 points, and the Spaniard will be eager to make the most out of a weekend in which he carries 30 kilos of ballast, in order to continue his chase for the lead: “After a successful weekend last round, I now have to deal with the effects of 30kg of ballast,” said the experienced Craft-Bamboo driver. “It will certainly be a challenge but I am looking forward to it, we are at a critical part of the season and it is now becoming imperative that I continue to score points to make sure I can catch the leaders by Macau.”

New additions to the series include Gabriele Marotta and Superstars Series race winner Michela Cerruti, as well as the newly-developed Volkswagen Golf, with Dániel Nagy also in the mix at the wheel of a Zengo Motorsport SEAT León Racer. Michel Nykjaer will no longer participate in the TCR International Series.

The weekend will start early in the morning on Saturday at 8.30 for the first Free Practice, with one more 30-minutes session scheduled for 13.00. Qualifying will be held at 16.30 with the usual format, with the top twelve drivers from the 20-minutes Q1 progressing to Q2.

The 14-lap races will start at 8.25 and 11.40.