International touring cars return to Imola after seven years

The fourth race meeting of the TCR International Series takes place this week at Imola, on another legendary racetrack in motorsport history that is named after Enzo and Dino Ferrari.

The event marks the return, after seven years, of an international Touring Car series to the Italian circuit that was home of the 1980 Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix and the San Marino Grand Prix between 1981 and 2006.

Inaugurated in 1953 as a semi-permanent road course, the circuit hosted in 1963 an F1 non-championship race won by Jim Clark’s Lotus-Climax and in 1968 the Cycling Road World Championship with the victory of Italy’s Vittorio Adorni. The layout of the track was redesigned in 1972 and then it was slightly modified twice in 1994 and 2006.

This weekend the whole TCR International Series action will be concentrated on the Sunday, with only one 60-minute Free Practice in the early morning, followed by the Qualifying in the late morning and the two races that will be run back-to-back in the early afternoon.

TCR in Imola – the event at a glance

Lap distance: 4.51 km

Race distance: 14 laps

Start: standing

Grids: determined by Qualifying results (Q1+Q2) with top-10 reversed for Race 2

Timetable: Sunday, 09:00/10:00 Free Practice

Sunday, 11:30/12:05 Qualifying (Q1 + Q2)

Sunday, 14:15 Race 1

Sunday, 15:30 Race 2

all times: GMT +2

Alain Menu and Mikhail Grachev join WestCoast in Imola

WestCoast Racing has significantly reshuffled its driver line-up for the upcoming TCR International Series event that takes place this weekend at Imola.

Touring Car legend Alain Menu and Mikhail Grachev will replace Aku Pellinen and Kevin Gleason at the wheel of two of the team’s three Honda Civic TCR cars; they will join Gianni Morbidelli who is currently third in the Drivers’ Championship.

According to the team, after winning his maiden TCR race in Spa, Pellinen cited budget complications after his key sponsor was no longer able to commit to the series as the reason for his departure, TCR regular and race winner Gleason has also been forced to step down while negotiations with a key backer continue.

Returning to the championship after a couple of appearances last year in the Top Run Subaru, Menu said: “It’s nice to be back and I am grateful for this opportunity. WestCoast is one of the top teams in the series with one of the front running cars, so I am very much looking forward to it, although it will be tough as I haven’t had any opportunity to test the car ahead of what will be a single day event.”

As for Grachev, he has switched from the Liqui Moly Team Engstler for which he had driven since the past season: “For me it is important to grow as a driver and in a team such as WestCoast with an experienced team mate such as Gianni Morbidelli now I fully have it.”

Team Owner Greger Petersson commented: “Grachev has shown commitment to the TCR International series and we are delighted that he sees WestCoast as a team that can help him meet his racing goals. And with Alain we add great experience in Touring Cars that would be a benefit to any team. Of course we are very disappointed to have lost Aku and Kevin with Aku, but this is the reality of racing where commercial partners are needed to meet budgets and hopefully both of them will be able to return to us and the series soon.”

Liqui Moly Team Engstler hires Jordi Gené for Imola

Experienced Spanish Touring Car driver Jordi Gené has been hired by the Liqui Moly Team Engstler for this week’s TCR International Series event at Imola.

Gené replaces Mikhail Grachev and joins Davit Kajaia in the second Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR run by the German outfit.

The Spaniard was one of the leading players in last year’s TCR International Series; he scored three race wins for Craft-Bamboo Lukoil at Sepang, Sochi and Singapore, and eventually was classified third in the Drivers’ Championship.

He also knows the Golf Gti TCR very well as he took part in the technical development of the German car.

Carlotta Fedeli and Diego Romanini join with B.D. Racing

Two Italian drivers will join the TCR International Series field for their home event at Imola, this weekend. Carlotta Fedeli and Diego Romanini will drive a couple of SEAT León cars run by B.D. Racing Motorsport.

Fedeli, 24 years old from Rome, has built enough experience in recent years, taking part in SEAT Italia’s one-make trophies. She was classified a brilliant sixth in the 2014 Ibiza Cupra Cup and improved to fifth last year; in both seasons she managed to claim podium results at Imola.

She has been upgraded to the León Cup for the current season, achieving an outstanding third place for B.D. Racing in the opening round at Adria.

A former competitor in the FIA Touring Car championships and the Superstars Series, the experienced Romanini will return to the TCR International Series after making a few appearances last year in a Ford Focus.

B. D. Racing will field a León TCR for Fedeli and a Cup Racer for Romanini; the team directed by Davide Bernasconi had already visited the TCR International Series last year, running Antonio D’Amico’s SEAT at Monza.

Jordi Oriola rejoins the championship at Imola

After taking part in the TCR International Series opener at Bahrain, Jordi Oriola will make his return to the championship at the wheel of a Honda Civic TCR run by Target Competition.

Target team manager Walter Gummerer explained the situation: “Following the decision taken by Opel Motorsport to have a break from racing and focusing on testing to develop the Astra TCR, we have been looking for an alternative solution that could enable Jordi to rejoin the championship. Now the plan is to race at Imola and Salzburgring with the Honda. Afterwards we will reconsider the situation according to any further developments.”

Success ballast for Pepe Oriola and Jean-Karl Vernay

It would have been the WestCoast Racing Honda Civic of Aku Pellinen to carry the maximum 30-kilos of success ballast at Imola. In fact, the young Finn was the highest point scorer in Spa, with a victory (his maiden one in TCR) and a fifth place in the two Belgian races that, added to third in qualifying, granted him 38 points. However, Pellinen will not take part in the event.

This will leave Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Pepe Oriola – who retook the championship lead in Spa – and Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay – the other rookie winner in Belgium – as the only drivers with the ballast. Oriola will carry 20 extra kilos on board his SEAT León, while the remaining 10 kilos will be imposed to Vernay’s Volkswagen Golf Gti.

In terms of the title fight, Oriola’s closest competitors – his teammate James Nash and WestCoast Racing’s Gianni Morbidelli – will have the advantage of driving ballast-free cars on the ups and downs of the Italian racetrack.

Live streaming and timing from Imola

Both live streaming and timing from Imola will be available on the websites www.tcr-series.com and www.tcr-series.tv .

The live timing will cover all the sessions and races, while streaming will cover qualifying and both races.

Live streaming of the qualifying session will begin Sunday at 11:20 local time (GMT +2) and will be followed by the delayed broadcasting of Race 1 at 14:05 and the live broadcasting of Race 2 at 15:20.

Live from Belgium and Thailand on www.tcr-series.tv

This weekend will also mark the opening of TCR Benelux and TCR Thailand. The website www.tcr-series.tv will offer a full coverage of both series.

Live timing and live streaming will be available according to the timetable here below.

TCR Benelux from Spa-Francorchamps

Friday, 20 May: 17:15 (CET) Practice – timing

Saturday, 21 May: 10:50 (CET) Qualifying Race, 60 minutes – timing

Sunday, 22 May: 11:00 (CET) Races 1 & 2, 40 minutes – timing & streaming

Sunday, 22 May: 16:55 (CET) Race 3 & 4, 40 minutes – timing & streaming

TCR Thailand from Buriram

Friday, 20 May: 10:55 (05:55 CET) Practice – timing

Friday, 20 May: 15:50 (10:50 CET) Qualifying – timing

Saturday, 21 May: 14:20 (09:20 CET) Race 1, 12 laps – timing & streaming

Sunday, 22 May: 14:10 (09:10 CET) Race 2, 12 laps – timing & streaming