Mikel Azcona crowned TCR Europe champion as Mike Halder wins Race 2
Mikel Azcona wrapped up the inaugural TCR Europe series title by finishing eighth in the final race of the season at Barcelona as KCMG interloper Mike Halder claimed his first series victory.
Spaniard Azcona did not have things his own way and dropped as low as tenth after starting seventh on the grid. But a measured drive and problems for rivals Dusan Borkovic and Attila Tassi secured the title.
Borkovic and Tassi collided at the end of the opening lap which put both into retirement, making the championship a straight fight between Azcona and Team WRT’s Jean-Karl Vernay for the remainder of the 12-lap encounter.
Vernay battled through from 12th on the grid to finish a strong seventh by the end, but it was not enough to prevent Azcona.
Halder duly led from start to finish to secure KCMG the teams’ championship title following a miserable race for chief rivals Target Competition after which Peter Terting, finishing fifth, and Reece Barr, finishing tenth, were the only scorers.
The German got the jump on pole-sitter Terting off the line and led into the first corner, as M1RA driver Dániel Nagy grabbed second.
The safety car was deployed almost immediately as a multitude of cars failed to complete the opening lap.
Among those were Borkovic and Tassi, with the Serbian in the Target Competition-prepared Hyundai i30 N TCR appearing to have suspension damage before careering into the side of Tassi’s Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR.
Nathanaël Berthon, Kim Gavrilov, Munkong Sathienthirakul and Danny Kroes also encountered strief and retired.
As the safety car came in after four laps, Halder maintained his margin over the Hungarian in the Hyundai i30 N TCR and extended it to as much as 1.5 seconds as Nagy was forced to fend off the attacks of WestCoast Racing driver Ash Sutton.
Nagy closed the gap to within a second by the flag as Sutton just about secured the final step on the podium, beating WTCR regular and Nagy’s M1RA team-mate Norbert Michelisz.
The 2017 BTCC champion made a good start and seized third place from Terting’s Hyundai on the inside of the fast Turn 3.
Terting took fourth place behind Michelisz after a superb fight with the second KCMG Honda Civic of Josh Files. The British driver narrowly headed Verany to the line, with Azcona coming home eighth.
Stian Paulsen rounded off the weekend with a ninth place finish in his Stian Paulsen Racing-prepared Cupra TCR. The Norwegian finished ahead of Barr, who brought his Hyundai i30 N TCR home in the final points scoring position.