Photo: SEAT Motorsport Italia

Nicola Baldan ready to take TCR Italy and European challenge with SEAT

Nicola Baldan will drive a SEAT León TCR for Pit Lane Competizioni in the 2017 TCR Italy season. The Italian, a former EuroV8 title contender, will race with direct support from SEAT Motorsport Italia as the manufacturer aims at taking the title after losing out on Honda and Roberto Colciago last year.

“It is a great pleasure and honour for me to represent the brand in TCR Italy”, said Baldan to TouringCarTimes. “Thanks to the support from SEAT and Pakelo I can now finally make the jump to touring cars, after so many years of cup racing.”

The Veneto-based driver, a multiple champion in Abarth and Mini one-make series, is the 2016 SEAT León Cup Italia champion. The successful year triggered the opportunity, says Baldan: “After winning the title last year in the León Cup, I attracted some attention from SEAT Motorsport Italia. They offered to lend a helping hand and with such a professional team as Pit Lane Competizioni I am confident we can go for the title this year.”

Baldan also confirmed he will take part in the single-event TCR European Trophy at Adria, his home track, later this year, while not ruling out outings in the International Series: “It’s not just about this year, we are trying to build the foundations to take part in the TCR International Series next year. In 2017 I will do my best to win the title in both TCR Italy and the European Trophy, whose level I believe will be very high.”

Speaking of the newly-rebranded TCR Italy Touring Car Championship, Baldan believes the competition will be tougher than last year, as MM Motorsport have already announced former Porsche junior Eric Scalvini: “[Roberto] Colciago did an incredible job last year, but honestly apart from Alberto Viberti and some good performances from Enrico Bettera, the competition was not really a factor in the championship. I am glad to see that this year there will be more drivers and cars, and i believe 5 or 6 of them will be able to stay at the front. Eric Scalvini has already been announced at MM Motorsport, who will field another Honda Civic TCR, and I know Pit Lane Competizioni are looking for a competitive driver for their new Audi RS 3 LMS.”

When asked why the number of entrants in Italy is lower compared to other national TCR championships such as Germany, Baldan puts no blame on the organisers, citing the Italian racing environment and the Italian tastes for racing as the main reasons: “I believe ACI Sport are putting a lot of effort in TCR Italy, so I wouldn’t blame them for the low number of entrants. Unfortunately many young Italian drivers only think of Formula One as their main goal, and when they realise they can’t make it they just quit racing, whereas I believe touring cars are a very good alternative to single seaters. Young drivers and their families are disheartened when going off a Formula 4 car on to a TCR. There’s something wrong in the system.”

Baldan believes TCR Italy will grow in the next few years, as the passion generated by the old Italian SuperTurismo can’t have vanished: “We have a strong tradition in Italy for touring cars, it is where the FIA World Touring Car Championship has its roots and I still remember the days of the big works teams of Alfa Romeo, Audi and BMW, which attracted huge crowds. I think the TCR concept is an exceptional basis to re-build something that is in our DNA. Despite the lack of entries, I hope that I, together with my rivals, will be able to raise the bar of the competition and generate the interest the category deserves.”

The TCR Italy Touring Car Championship curtain raiser is scheduled for May, 7th, at Adria, Baldan’s home track.