Race preview: Dutch WTCR trio to the Max at Zandvoort
Nicky Catsburg, Tom Coronel and Niels Langeveld will join Max Verstappen in flying the Dutch flag when the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO heads to Zandvoort for the Jumbo Racedagen this weekend.
While Verstappen will be kept busy demonstrating his Red Bull Formula One car in front of an expected 100,000 spectators and counting, Catsburg, Coronel and Langeveld will be chasing points in the super-close WTCR / OSCARO. And with thousands of fans packing into the seaside track west of Amsterdam, plenty of support is expected for the home racers.
The big numbers so far
So far in 2019, six drivers have celebrated race wins, five have qualified on the DHL pole position, while six have set fastest race laps. And to further underline the ultra-competitive contest, six customer racing brands and 12 drivers were within 0.6s of each other in the middle phase of Second Qualifying at the Hungaroring last month.
Of the Dutch trio, Catsburg has come the closest to winning after leading the second race of the season in Marrakech only for brake failure to put him out. He was a double pole-sitter in Slovakia last weekend but couldn’t convert his qualifying pace into race wins. Coronel has scored points on all three weekends this season, while Langeveld registered his first WTCR points in Slovakia.
No rest for WTCR / OSCARO racers
WTCR Race of Netherlands marks the third WTCR / OSCARO event in the space of four weekends. And with the brake dust still settling following last week’s triple-header in Slovakia, teams have been in overdrive to get ready for Zandvoort, heading to the Dutch track directly from Slovakia.
Coronel challenges Verstappen
Tom Coronel reckons he could prove Max Verstappen wrong if he got the chance to drive his compatriot’s Red Bull Formula One car. Verstappen was asked in an interview how long Coronel could last in an F1 machine and jokingly responded that Coronel’s “neck would fall off after two corners”, such are the physical demands placed on drivers by F1 cars. Coronel, a friend of the Verstappen family, said: “I will challenge that one! I would say I would do 10 laps! Certainly not 60 but 10 for sure! First of all, I train well and if I know I get the chance to drive I will train even more. I’ve done Formula Nippon before so I have an idea what to expect. But it’s not something that will happen. Like the Verstappens we live for motorsport, we are addicted to motorsport, but I don’t think I will let him drive my CUPRA TCR because he would crash it in two corners!”
Welcome to the #WTCR2019SUPERGRID
The #WTCR2019SUPERGRID celebrates the fact that seven WTCR / OSCARO drivers have won 14 FIA world titles plus 29 other major championships.
Gabriele Tarquini, who began his world title defence with the Race 2 win at the season-opening WTCR AFRIQUIA Race of Morocco, heads the list. Now carrying the number 1 on his BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse i30 N TCR, Tarquini took his second victory of 2019 when he beat team-mate and home hero Norbert Michelisz in Race 3 at the Hungaroring last month.
After missing out on the inaugural crown by three points in a seven-way title decider in Macau in November, four-time world champion Yvan Muller is back in a Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR developed by Geely Group Motorsport from China. He broke his WTCR / OSCARO podium duck at the Hungaroring but is still chasing his first 2019 win.
Thed Björk partners Muller at Cyan and started his bid for a second FIA world crown by giving Lynk & Co an historic victory in Morocco. However, the Hungary and Slovakia weekends proved frustrating in comparison, which will make the Swede more determined than ever to bag a strong haul of points in The Netherlands.
Rob Huff (SLR VW Motorsport Golf GTI TCR), the 2012 FIA World Touring Car champion, is one of 12 of the 15 winners from 2018 returning in 2019. After a challenging start to the season, the Briton came close to a Race 2 podium in Slovakia.
BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team’s Augusto Farfus, ex-FIA World Rallycross ace Johan Kristoffersson (SLR Volkswagen) and Andy Priaulx (Cyan Performance Lynk & Co) are all world title winners and new to WTCR in 2019.
Winner of Race 1 in Marrakech, Esteban Guerrieri (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR), topped the standings after Race 1 in Hungary only for his challenge to unravel when broken steering caused his Race 3 crash. He made amends with a fighting second place in Race 2 at the Slovakia Ring.
Jean-Karl Vernay (Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport) – a winner at Zandvoort last season – had high hopes of his first 2019 win in Hungary when he lined up on the reverse-grid Race 2 pole. But a clutch issue meant a sluggish start resulting in the Frenchman settling for second ahead of impressive newcomer Daniel Haglöf (PWR Racing). Vernay and team-mate Gordon Shedden were among a number of WTCR / OSCARO racers to test at Zandvoort pre-season.
Comtoyou Racing pair Niels Langeveld and Frédéric Vervisch complete the Audi-powered attack with Vervisch heading to Zandvoort on the back of his first win of 2019 in Slovakia, the result of an impressive charge from ninth on the grid by the Belgian. Boosted by his maiden WTC / OSCARO points in Slovakia, Langeveld will look to capitalise on his vast Zandvoort knowledge.
A number of exciting young guns are aiming to challenge the established order in 2019. They include Mikel Azcona, who has graduated to WTCR as the TCR Europe champion to race a PWR-run CUPRA, and his close rival in recent seasons, Attila Tassi, the 19-year-old Honda-powered KCMG driver.
Kevin Ceccon (Team Mulsanne) and Yann Ehrlacher (Cyan Performance Lynk & Co) are already winners in WTCR, but at 25 and 22 respectively, they remain among a list of talented prospects that also includes Aurélien Panis, who has switched to CUPRA power for 2019 with Comtoyou Team DHL CUPRA Racing. Ex-single-seater racer Ceccon scored a podium brace in Slovakia, while Ehrlacher was a winner at Zandvoort last May.
Tom Coronel partners Panis at Comtoyou and is a huge fan favourite. He heads to his home round of WTCR / OSCARO boosted by an encouraging showing in Slovakia. Countryman Nicky Catsburg (BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team) is new to WTCR in 2019 having won in the World Touring Car Championship in the past. Benjamin Leuchter has a strong reputation from TCR Germany and played a key role in the development of the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR.
ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Néstor Girolami, another series newcomer for this year, is also a WTCC race winner and heads the title standings after claiming his third WTCR / OSCARO victory in Slovakia. Having become the first Chinese to score WTCR points last season, Ma Qinghua made more history as the first Chinese driver to win a WTCR / OSCARO race when he triumphed in Race 3 at the Slovakia Ring in his Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
Tiago Monteiro starts his first full season since serious head and neck injuries ended his hopes of winning the WTCC title in 2017. The Portuguese, a Formula One podium finisher in the past, joins Hong Kong-based KCMG to race a Honda Civic Type R TCR. Monteiro’s former team-mate, Norbert Michelisz, is another title contender for BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse and was twice on the podium at WTCR Race of Slovakia.
No place like home: Dutch WTCR trio on racing at Zandvoort
The WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO makes its second visit to Zandvoort this week. Here’s what Dutch drivers Nicky Catsburg, Tom Coronel and Niels Langeveld have said about the 5.922-kilometre track and the Jumbo Racedagen weekend:
Nicky Catsburg (BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team): “The Jumbo Racedagen is a very cool event. There will be Formula One demos and a lot of people coming for Max, more than 100,000 people are expected. I first drove at Zandvoort when I was 15, but I came to watch even earlier and I remember being there as a kid sitting in the dunes for the Masters of Formula 3 event. Of course I’m one of three Dutch drivers in the WTCR. I have a lot of respect for Niels. He’s worked really hard to get where he is and it was super-nice for him that he got his deal with Audi. I’ve known Tom for a long time, we often travel to the races together and he’s much more known in The Netherlands than I am. When you go to the supermarket and you say ‘do you know Tom Coronel?’ people say ‘yes, I know Tom Coronel’. When you say ‘do you know Nicky Catsburg?’ they have no idea, but I wouldn’t mind to keep it like that!”
Tom Coronel (Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing): “It’s been a heavy month with three races in four weeks but of course my focus is on my home round for a few reasons. First, because of the fans, and second, I know the track very well having raced for nearly 30 years. It can also be a bit ‘stressy’ because a lot of people are pulling me apart with lots of questions and lots of PR and promotional things going on. I feel confident and it’s always nice to race in Holland where the WTCR is very famous because it’s been on TV since the beginning. Although Max is the main thing, for the racing WTCR is the main thing. The racing is so close, you could be P10 or you could be first. You never know what’s going to happen and this makes it exciting.”
Niels Langeveld (Comtoyou Team Audi Sport): “Of course it’s really exciting to be doing my home race in WTCR and I do think about how cool it would be to win my home race. But I need to stop thinking like that and instead make sure everything is 100 per cent with the preparations, and that I am in a good way of driving and capable of getting the result. Zandvoort is a track I know very well but for my best corner I would have to pick Scheivlak, which was the only corner with its own website when I started racing! It’s the corner where the most crashes have been, it’s the corner with the highest speeds and it’s the corner where you have the biggest rollercoaster feeling. You come over the top and then you fall down but you need to go to the right, keep the speed, be on the line and carry as much speed as possible. It’s easy to get oversteer in this corner and lose the rear, and I had many big moments in the Swift Cup and Clio Cup. It’s an amazing corner but you need to be perfect.”