Spa-Francorchamps preview: High-profile drivers add to the excitement in Belgium
The TCR International Series stops at Spa-Francorchamps for the third event of the season. The iconic Belgian track will host a field of 24 cars within the support package of the FIA World Endurance Championship, as the addition of high-profile drivers adds to the excitement of a very tight championship battle.
The top three in the championship are all within two points of each other, with Jean-Karl Vernay leading the standings for Team WRT despite not having won a race just yet. The Frenchman will team up with touring car star Rob Huff, after the two successfully teamed up for the TCR Benelux season opener two weeks ago. The Brit is no stranger to TCR, having competed in the 2015 Guia Race at Macau, winning the first race of the weekend before a crash in Race 2. With the exception of next week’s race in Monza, which clashes with his WTCC programme, Huff is set to race in all of the events of the season.
After scoring a win in Bahrain, Dusan Borkovic now looks firmly in the hunt for the championship. The Serbian is second, just one point shy of Vernay, although his Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR has undergone a Balance of Performance change, losing its 20-kg weight break. The 30 kilos of success ballast the Serbian will have to carry mean a difference of some 50 kilos compared to Bahrain. Davit Kajaia, who won the first race of the season on home soil, should not be counted out either, as the GE-Force operation scales down to two cars, the third unit having been sold after Bahrain.
Also on maximum success ballast is Roberto Colciago, as the TCR Italy 2016 champion scored 37 points in the Middle East, the same amount as Borkovic. The M1RA driver will have to overcome the discomfort of the extra weight to continue bagging points, after his Race 2 win in Bahrain. Team-mate Attila Tassi is also consistently improving, and one should not rule out a couple of eyebrow-raising performances from the young Hungarian.
Pepe Oriola’s Craft-Bamboo SEAT will be ballast-free in Belgium, after scoring a meagre 14 points last time out. The Spaniard’s goal is to continue bagging points to stay in the title hunt: “Racing in Spa is always special”, said the Spaniard. “It is one of my favourite tracks, and some of the results I scored here allowed me to fight for the title at the end of the year. I hope I will be able to repeat the feat, although it will not be easy due to the changeable weather in Spa-Francorchamps.”
Team-mate Hugo Valente will have to carry 10 kilos of ballast due to having scored 36 out of his 38 points, and he will surely be a contender this weekend. James Nash will also need to up his game if he is to repeat his performances from last year, when he stayed in the hunt for the title up to the season finale in Macau.
Tom Coronel will also join the party in Belgium at the wheel of a Civic TCR, although he is not currently scheduled to compete in any further meetings. Having raced at Spa a couple of weeks ago, the Dutchman will make full use of his experience to make sure he will thrill the large crowd expected for the FIA WEC races.
Two of the great protagonists from last year are also expected to score more points than they have so far. Stefano Comini is still struggling in his Comtoyou Audi RS 3 LMS, although the Swiss looked like he had made a good step forward when he raced in Spa two weeks ago in TCR Benelux. Nevertheless, he is 31 points behind the leader in the championship, and he will have to hurry if he’s to fight for a third title in a row.
The same goes for WestCoast Racing’s Gianni Morbidelli, who is still struggling to get to grips with the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR after two years at the wheel of Honda Civic TCRs. The former Grand Prix driver only has 10 points to his name, admittedly risking of never being in the hunt for the elusive maiden TCR title.
The timetable has been slightly altered due to the presence of the FIA WEC during the weekend, with free practice starting on Thursday at 11:00, lasting 30 minutes. One more session at 16:00 will round up the day for the TCR International Series, while Qualifying is scheduled for 13:05 on Friday. Later in the afternoon, at 17:25, the first 9-lap race will start. The second heat is scheduled for 11:35 on Saturday, not long before the start of the 6 hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
TCR International Series – Race of Bahrain Entry List
No – Driver – Nat – Team – Car
1 – Stefano Comini – SUI – Comtoyou Racing -Audi RS 3 LMS
2 – Jean-Karl Vernay – FRA – Team WRT -Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
3 – Rob Huff – GBR – Team WRT -Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR
5 – Roberto Colciago – ITA – M1RA -Honda Civic Type-R TCR
6 – Frédéric Vervisch – BEL – Comtoyou Racing -Audi RS 3 LMS TCR
7 – Hugo Valente – FRA – Craft-Bamboo Racing -SEAT León TCR
9 – Attila Tassi – HUN – M1RA -Honda Civic TCR
10 – Gianni Morbidelli – ITA – WestCoast Racing -Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
11 – Jens Reno Møller – DEN – Reno Racing -Honda Civic Type-R TCR
12 – Guillaume Mondron – BEL – Delahaye Racing Team -SEAT León TCR
16 – Davit Kajaia – GEO – GE-Force -Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR
18 – Duncan Ende – USA – Icarus Motorsports -SEAT León TCR
21 – Giacome Altoe – ITA – WestCoast Racing -Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
23 – Pierre-Yves Corthals – BEL – DG Sport Compétition -Opel Astra TCR
25 – Edouard Mondron – BEL – Delahaye Racing Team -Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR
34 – Stian Paulsen – NOR – Stian Paulsen Racing -SEAT León TCR
52 – Maxime Potty – BEL – Michaël Mazuin Sport -Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR
54 – James Nash – GBR – Craft-Bamboo Racing -SEAT León TCR
55 – Ferenc Ficza – HUN – Zengo Motorsport – SEAT León TCR
62 – Dusan Borkovic – SRB – GE-Force -Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR
63 – Benjamin Lessennes -BEL – Boutsen Ginion Racing -Honda Civic Type-R TCR
64 – Tom Coronel -NED- Boutsen Ginion Racing -Honda Civic Type-R TCR
70 – Mat’o Homola – SVK – DG Sport Compétition -Opel Astra TCR
74 – Pepe Oriola – SPN – Craft-Bamboo Racing -SEAT León TCR
TCR International Series – Race of Belgium Timetable
Thursday 4th May
11:00 – Free Practice 1
16:00 – Free Practice 2
Friday 5th May
13:05 – Qualifying
17:25 – Race 1 (9 Laps)
Saturday 6th May
11:35 – Race 2 (9 Laps)