Here is the TCR Guru roundup of all the action that took place at the legendary Zandvoort circuit, from Qualifying all the way though to Race One on Sunday and Race Two on the Monday…
Yes, thats right, I said Monday… No, I’m not going mad. Been there, done that, got the T-Shirt already.
The 2018 TCR Europe Series Entry List For Zandvoort:
TCR Benelux competitors remember Timo Kuppens
The sticker ‘#Ride4TIMO’ appears on the cars of the TCR Benelux competitors. This appears in memory of Timo Kuppens, who passed away prematurely in last December.
He was the son of Isabelle Lietaer and Renaud Kuppens. His father was among the first competitors of TCR Benelux, claiming four race victories and finishing fifth in the 2016 championship driving for the Boutsen-Ginion Racing.
Renaud Jeanfils, director of the ICE company, who helps Cédric Hennau in his role as the promotor of TCR Benelux explained: “Timo’s death affected me deeply, especially because my son and he were almost the same age. Besides this long-time friendship, Timo’s father, Renaud, was one of the first people to believe in TCR Benelux. We couldn’t let this go by.”
Dutch drivers on pole in both races at Zandvoort: Van Lagen in Race 1 and Kroes in Race 2
Local drivers had a perfect Qualifying session for the TCR Europe at Zandvoort and will start from pole position in both races.
Jaap van Lagen, called in from the ‘bench’ by the Leopard Lukoil Team, has perfectly fulfilled his role of Jean-Karl Vernay’s substitute and snatched the pole for tomorrow’s Race 1 in his Audi RS3 LMS with an impressive lap of 1:44.536 that was four tenths faster than the 1:44.980 previously posted by Mikel Azcona’s PCR Sport Cupra.
The other Dutch in the field, Azcona’s teammate Danny Kroes qualified tenth and thus acquired the right to start from the top-ten reverse grid for Race 2.
Honda and Hyundai will share the second row for Race 1, as Attila Tassi (1:45.387) and Kris Richard (1:45.494) qualified third and fourth; the current championship leader Dušan Borković ranked fifth only 5 thousandths of a second behind his Target Competition teammate Richard. Jens Reno Møller will complete the front row of the grid for Race 2.
The most disappointed drivers were Stian Paulsen and Julien Briché. After being second fastest in Q1 with a lap of 1:45.150 (that would have been good enough for third in Q2) the Norwegian was not able to go faster than 1:45.895 and was relegated in 13th place.
As for Briché, on his first appearance in the championship, missed the cut for Q2 when Møller improved under the chequered flag.
After the session the Stewards imposed a drop of two positions (from 19th to 21st) on the starting grid for tomorrow’s Race 1 to Loris Cencetti who was judged guilty of impeding Francisco Abreu during the session.
Qualfying One: Van Lagen sets the pace from Paulsen
Jaap van Lagen improved the fastest lap time for TCR Europe, topping the Q1 part of the Qualifying with a lap of 1:44.821. He was the only driver capable of going under the 1:45 mark, while Stain Paulsen was second-fastest, completing a lap in 1:45.150.
He was followed by Kris Richard who was only 39 thousandths of a second slower, while Josh Files was fourth, one further tenth adrift.
Mikel Azcona, Dániel Nagy, Attila Tassi, Dušan Borković, Reece Barr and Danny Kroes filled the position from fifth to tenth, all within nine tenths off the fastest time.
Jens Reno Møller provided the last thrill, clocking a 1:45.957 that was good enough for the 11th position and kicked Julien Briché down to 13th behind Igor Stefanowsky; this meant that the French missed the cut by only 10 tenths of a second.
Qualifying Two: Van Lagen insists and claims the pole
Van Lagen put in a great effort and claimed pole position, improving further his lap times in Q2 to an impressive 1:44.536.
After the first turn of timed laps, Azcona topped the timesheet with a lap of 1:44.980, ahead of van Lagen’s 1:45.000, Tassi’s 1:45.387 and Richard’s 1:45.494.
Van Lagen was the only one of the top four to improve, snatching the pole, while Borković (1:45.499) and Barr (1:45.564) moved up to fifth and sixth.
The last one to improve was Files who climbed to seventh with a lap of 1:45.635.
Quotes after the Qualifying session at Zandvoort
Jaap van Lagen (pole for Race 1): “It’s nice to be back on the TCR scene, and to do it here, at home. Of course, I do a lot of coaching at Zandvoort and the circuit has not many secrets for me, but still, to achieve a pole position requires having a very good car. This is exactly what Leopard Lukoil Racing and Team WRT have provided to me and I thank them for the excellent work. This weekend, there will be a lot of people and it would be nice to make them happy. OK, they come mostly to see Max Verstappen, but they would for sure enjoy a Dutch win in TCR Europe!”
Mikel Azcona (second): “I have pushed as much as I could throughout all the sessions and I am very happy with the result. The Cupra is performing very well here and the team is doing a fantastic job, without having the experience and the means of other squads. I really love the track, because it is very technical and ‘old style’, the kind of track where you cannot make a mistake. It feels almost like an urban track, you are always at the limit and very close to the barriers or the sand traps.”
Attila Tassi (third): “Considering it’s the first time I race here, I am very happy with the result and with the work we have done. In free practice 1, we did a race simulation, and in free practice 2, we worked a lot on the set-up, testing various options. We did more changes in Q1 and they worked well, which allowed us to gain half-second in Q2, which proves we had a good work plan for the day.”
Danny Kroes (pole for Race 2): “I have mixed feelings, of course. On one hand, I am very happy to be on pole for Race 2 on Monday; on the other, I am not satisfied with the gap in respect to my teammate. I had too much grip on the rear and it was not effective in slow corners. On Monday, I hope to make a good use of the pole, and hopefully, we have sorted the issue we had at the start at Le Castellet. Although I am Dutch, I have not a lot of experience here at Zandvoort, where I have only raced three times, so I won’t be advantaged to race on home soil.”
Mikel Azcona wins Race 1 after a pile-up at the start as Dušan Borković retains the lead in the standings
Mikel Azcona claimed his and PCR Sport’s first victory in the TCR Europe Series at the end of a race that was influenced by a pile up at the start that eliminated three cars and resulted in a safety car period.
Local hero Jaap Van Lagen who was on pole position in the Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS spoiled his chances with a slow start that dropped him down to fifth, while Azcona managed to keep the Hell Energy Racing’s duo of Attila Tassi and Josh Files behind into the first turn and laid down his success on that move.
When the race resumed after the safety car intervention, the young Spaniard and his Cupra managed to build a gap ahead of Tassi’s Honda, while Van Lagen was able to overtake Dušan Borković’s Hyundai and Files to take third and also victory in the TCR Benelux.
Borković retained the lead in the standings, but Azcona has closed the gap to eight points; Nagy is third, 22 points behind the leader.
Quotes after the first race at Zandvoort
Mikel Azcona (winner): “I am very happy, it has been a great day and yes, my championship starts looking good. First start was lively, but I managed to pass the Audi and then fought with Tassi for a couple of turns. I was on the inside though and could keep the line and the advantage. At the restart after the safety car period, I could build some gap and it was a pretty uneventful race. It’s never easy, especially on a track like this, but did no mistakes and kept a good pace. The car was perfect and I really enjoyed driving on a track with so much history and in front of such a huge crowd.”
Attila Tassi (second): “I had a very good start and fought with Azcona for the lead. He touched me and sent me onto the grass, but he apologized right away after the race, so everything is fine. My tyres got dirty and spent most of the race trying to preserve them and not to do mistakes. In the final laps, I had to defend from van Lagen, but everything went ok. It’s a good result and I am very satisfied with the car.”
Jaap van Lagen (third): “It has been a good and fun race, except for the start, of course. I was too low on the revs and couldn’t get the right grip. Unfortunately, I lost some positions, and with the long safety-car period, there was not enough time to catch up. Still, the pace and the car were good, I had nice fights and two overtakes, and made it to the podium. I hope we can do better tomorrow, but it won’t be easy starting from P10.”
Josh Files wins a thrilling race whilst local boys van Lagen and Kroes finish on the podium
Josh Files completed a spotless performance in Zandvoort’s Race 2, claiming his and Honda’s first victory in the TCR Europe Series. The Briton took a perfect start from fourth on the grid, stole the lead from Jens Reno Møller after a few hundred metres and never looked back.
The drivers behind him put in a great show, as they were involved in a series of tough fights for the positions. Local boys Jaap van Lagen and Danny Kroes claimed well deserved podium results, finishing second and third respectively.
Van Lagen elbowed his way through the field from ninth on the grid to second in eight laps; afterwards he tried to close the gap from Files, but to no avail. As for Kroes who had started from the pole, he clenched his teeth and managed to keep a charging Attila Tassi at bay. During the final lap they made contact, swapped positions and paints, but eventually Kroes was tougher and retained the third position.
Race 1 winner Mikel Azcona grabbed a sixth place that helped him to join Dušan Borković on top of the standings on equal points; Files moved up to third, 16 points adrift.
Kroes demoted to fourth behind Tassi
The Stewards of the meeting decided to penalise Danny Kroes for his contacts with Attila Tassi during the fight they had in today’s Race 2 while fighting for the third position.
They have dropped the Dutch driver to fourth in the race results, promoting Tassi to third. The competitor renounced to use his right of appeal.
Dániel Nagy was given a ten second penalty for the collision with Stian Paulsen, this dropped him from ninth to 12th.
Quotes after the second race at Zandvoort
Josh Files (winner): “It was a perfect day for me and I am happy it happened on such a fantastic track and close to home, as I live virtually across the Channel. Again, I had a good start and after a short fight with Møller, I took the lead. From there, it was a matter of avoiding mistakes and preserving tyres. I was not under any direct threat, but this is a track where you cannot relax. The car was perfect and the team did a perfect job. Now we can focus on reducing the points gap and join the fight for the title.”
Jaap Van Lagen (second): “It was a great race and it feels really special to be on the podium in front of this huge crowd. Unlike yesterday, I had a very good start and could gain some positions staying on the outside line. Then, I did a couple of overtaking manoeuvres and found myself behind Kroes. I noticed that he was having some trouble with his tyres, and eventually I could pass him. The car was really strong and allowed me to push hard throughout the entire race.”
Danny Kroes (third): “It was a good result and a nice way to finish the weekend. The start was lively and there were some contacts, but Files was faster and pulled slightly away. I had to fight for the entire race, notably with Van Lagen and then Tassi. I think that last fight was quite entertaining for the spectators. Attila kept pushing all the time, there was also some bumping, but I managed to resist and I am quite proud of this podium.”
The TCR Europe Series will resume at Spa-Francorchamps on June 8th to 10th.
The Guru’s Thoughts…
The TCR weekend at Zandvoort was a busy one with WTCR, TCR Europe and TCR Benelux in action, however it was also a big weekend where Balance of Performance and Compensation weight came into effect.
Whilst its great to see the Hyundai teams leading in all series, they have been enjoying a dominance that had to come to an end eventually.
What the change to the Hyundai’s meant was that the other models have been able to close in on them and start looking for podiums and wins. The fact that we have a Honda and a CUPRA now having on races in TCR Europe alongside the Hyundai is a good sign. Add in the improved pace of the Audi’s and you have at least four models in the hunt.
Next up is Spa and this often lends itself to some good racing with a lot of overtaking opportunities. However it will also affect those with a power deficit…
As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of the The Official TCR Talk Group & The TCR UK Fans Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from FIA WTCR, The TCR Europe Series, Domestic & Regional TCR Series and any news on the TCR UK Series which started this year.
All images are used courtesy of WSC / TCR Europe Touring Car Series
Until next time, all the best!