Photo: TCR Europe

Bargwanna enjoying TCR World Tour, wants more Australians to join overseas rounds

Ben Bargwanna’s focus is on TCR Australia this year, and he wants his rivals to follow him into racing in TCR World Tour rounds abroad.

The 22-year-old Australian has been having an “amazing” time with Team Clairet Sport, and after two rounds at Algarve and Spa-Francorchamps he has a best finish of 12th.

“This track is totally different to anything in Australia, so it’s been an eye-opening experience,” Bargwanna said to TouringCarTimes at Spa, grinning from ear to ear.

“Even just driving in the facilities, everything around it, it’s really cool. And then you drive through Eau Rouge and it’s like ‘ooo’, it’s just the best experience ever. So inside the car it’s been pretty amazing.

“TCR Australia do a really good job, but this is the next step, this is the next level. I mean we are competing against the best of the best. We’re fighting it out on a world stage. It’s another step up, but in terms of what we do in Australia we still do a good job, and the events back home are still really good.

“But I think this has been cool. It has been cool to come here and experience this, and it is definitely different, but not too different.”

Making the most of out his parallel TCR Australia campaign is “our goal and that’s what our sponsors want”, and the final two rounds in November will be part of the TCR World Tour.

“We’ll do the best we can to win the Australian championship. But if we can come back over here that would be awesome, because I just love racing in Europe, or just anywhere else in the world. We’ll do the best we can to do more rounds overseas, but our focus is Australia at the moment.”

Bargwanna ideally wants to qualify for the TCR World Rankings Final at the start of next year from points earned in TCR Australia alone, but knows that entering World Tour rounds with a higher points co-efficient will boost that aim significantly.

So far it’s been proven hard to beat the very best in Europe, so what has the adaptation been like to a different format and sporting regulations in Europe and how does he think his World Tour rivals will cope with the challenges of TCR Australia?

“I think it’s hard, but I think when they come to Sydney I think everyone will probably understand it pretty quick,” Bargwanna reckoned.

“But Bathurst, being the track it is, I think it will be a challenge. With not much practice as well. So that’s just the challenge it is. And I think they’ll struggle, but who knows? These guys are talents, we’ll have to wait and see.”

So far Bargwanna has been the only driver to appear in the TCR World Tour in a Peugeot, which has had its downsides.

“Part of the reason we chose Peugeot is because I already know the car. So I don’t have to learn a new car and track at the same time,” he explained.

“But fortunately Team Clairet, they have so much experience with the Peugeot and these tracks, so they know a lot of things and I sort of let them have a conversation in French and then they pick a direction. But I’ve been very fortunate with these guys, and of course I know the car.

“So it hasn’t been too hard. I think we’ve got onto it pretty quick, we’ve got onto the set-up pretty quick, but it’s still a challenge with limited running.”

One element that Bargwanna found easier than his rivals at Spa was the hot temperatures, which required tyre and engine management, as “it’s pretty similar to Australia, we get some hot days over there”. With summer weather for the next World Tour rounds, will he use that to entice fellow Australians to the races in Italy, Hungary, Uruguay and Argentina?

“Yeah, absolutely. What we’re doing, we want to promote this category in Australia. So hopefully it inspires some young kids who want to take this path, and we want to show people that this is an option, you can do it.

“We fought really hard to get here, we pulled some strings, made it happen. But I think people in Australia can do. I just need to show that it’s possible. And I think we have.”