The new TCR Europe Series kicked off in style last weekend at Le Castellet’s Circuit Paul Ricard with a strong 26-car field representing seven manufacturers. And also with high quality in terms of drivers who have amassed altogether no fewer than eleven titles in TCR series. Audi, Cupra, Honda, Hyundai, Peugeot and Volkswagen have been joined by the Subaru.
2017 TCR International Series champion Jean-Karl Vernay and the Leopard Lukoil Team took part in the opening round of the 2018 TCR Europe Series. The Luxembourg-based team, with the technical and sporting support from Belgium’s WRT, run an Audi RS 3 LMS for the French driver in a parallel programme to their WTCR commitment.
After the pole position, Dušan Borković also emerged as the first double winner of the new TCR Europe Series: the Serbian driver had no problems to keep the advantage of the pole position at the start and controlled the situation throughout the Race1 on Hungarian Dániel Nagy and the Spaniard Mikel Azcona. While the leading trio had a relatively quiet afternoon, the battle was fierce and superb in a compact group of six cars that really put in the show for P4: Jean-Karl Vernay started with his Audi Audi RS 3 LMS in seventh position and, despite a contact with Barr and a closely-fought, ended in 6th.
In Race2, an intermittent rain began to fall just while the cars – all on slicks – reached the starting grid and intensified during the first laps, which resulted in a number of drivers spinning or running wide. In these tricky conditions one driver was in a league of his own: Jean-Karl Vernay. The Frenchman performed an impeccable drive and took the lead during the first lap.
On a now dry track, Vernay tried his best to maintain the lead, but couldn’t prevent Borković from passing on the final lap. Vernay emerges now as 4th in the series drivers’ ranking. The TCR Europe Series’s second event will be held at Circuit Zandvoort, Netherlands, on 19/21 May.
Jean-Karl Vernay: “I have done all I could. Until the track was wet and slippery I was able to stay ahead, as the car was perfect. But when the racing lines began to dry I knew I had no chance. The Hyundai is far superior by now; I was able to keep Borković at bay until halfway through the final laps, but eventually I could not prevent him from passing me.”
Drivers’ Standing: 1 - Borković / 55 2 - Nagy / 36 3 - Azcona / 29 4 - Vernay / 26 5 - Files / 13