2016 TCR International Series season review
TCR International Series, in its second year of existence, proved once more that Marcello Lotti found a proper touring car championship concept when launched an idea of a new series back in 2014. In the meantime, TCR family expanded to fifteen national and regional competitions all over the world, with the TCR International Series as the major global touring car series, even more popular and certainly more progressive than the FIA WTCC.
The 2016 TCR International Series season ended in the same way as the inaugural season in 2015, with Swiss driver Stefano Comini celebrating the title at the last round of the championship at Macau Guia Circuit. Everything else was different. Comini clinched his back-to-back title with Leopard Racing‘s Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR, instead of Seat Leon of Target Competition. Instead of Pepe Oriola, Comini’s main rival was another Craft-Bamboo Lukoil team driver – James Nash, who was short by only 3.5 points at the end of the season. For a comfort, Craft-Bamboo Lukoil took the Teams’ championship title, securing also the Model of the Year crown for Seat Leon.
Eight manufacturers participated in 2016 TCR season
In total, four manufacturers with four models were represented for the full season (Seat Leon, Volkswagen Golf, Honda Civic and Alfa Romeo Giulietta) with four more appearing occasionally during the season (Subaru Impreza, Opel Astra, Peugeot 308 Racing Cup and Ford Focus). For 2017 season, it is expected that Opel Astra, Audi RS3 and Kia Ceed would take part for the full season.
The 2016 TCR calendar featured 11 events with 22 races, same as in 2016, but the venues were different. More than a half circuits were new in the calendar: Bahrain, Estoril, Spa, Monza, Oschersleben and Sepang. Other circuits were Salzburgring, Sochi, Chang/Buriram, Marina Bay/Singapore and Macau Guia. There were again three events that supported Formula One meetings, at Bahrain, Singapore and Sepang.
Eleven different winners in 22 races
In 22 races, eleven different drivers scored victories. It’s interesting that the drivers who scored most wins (four) didn’t finish on the top of the classification, Pepe Oriola was fourth, Mikhail Grachev ended only in the 8th place. Other multiple winners were Stefano Comini and Jean-Karl Vernay (three wins) and James Nash (two wins). One victory was added to personal accounts of Mato Homola, Gianni Morbidelli, Kevin Gleason, Aku Pellinen, Roberto Colciago and Tiago Monteiro. The latter two won races in their only TCR International appearances.
Only half of the points at Macau Guia Circuit
The season ended with a controversial finale at Macau Guia Circuit. It was controversial because an organising committee insisted that cars and drivers from other touring car competitions (especially Chinese) would be allowed to participate along regular competitors. On the other side, the King of Guia and eight-time winner Rob Huff wasn’t eligible to compete. Some of the guest drivers were too slow to qualify for the race, the other caused accidents, so both races were shortened and only half of the points were awarded.
Macau is out after a controversial season’s finale
For 2017 season, Macau isn’t on the calendar. In the provisional calendar, the season’s finale is planned for Yas Marina Circuit, as a supporting event of the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The calendar is shortened to ten events, two other new circuits are Rustavi International Motopark (Georgia) and Hungaroring. Monaco was initially included on the calendar before it was removed after it was found the Monegasque ASN had never entered negotiations to stage the race.
Further expansion of the TCR family
As we mentioned, TCR family significantly expanded during 2016 and that expansion would continue in 2017. The new competitions announced for 2017 are TCR Scandinavia, TCR Middle East Series and TCR Iberico (Spain and Portugal). The respective TCR champions in 2016 are Andy Yan (TCR Asia), Stephane Lemeret (TCR Benelux), Josh Files (ADAC TCR Germany), Francisco Mora (Portugal), Roberto Colciago (TCR Italy), Dmitry Bragin (TCR Russia), Jaime Font/Faust Salom (TCR Spain), Chen Jian Hong (TCR Thailand), Ivo Breukers/Rik Breukers (TC Endurance Series), Nabil Moutran/Ramzi Moutran/Sami Moutran/Phil Quaife (24H Series TCR class).