· MONLAU COMPETITION and CUPRA (#108) win on home turf
· Event legend Francesc Gutierrez takes his 6th win, 20 years after his first
· Accident damage prevents Bas Koeten Racing from finishing in the top five
· CWS Engineering (#178): rising from the ashes
· Enormous crash for Synchro Motorsport (#76) writes off brand new Honda
One of the strongest TCR grids of the year fittingly witnessed a Spanish team featuring Spanish drivers in a Spanish car take victory on a Spanish track at the hallowed Hankook 24H BARCELONA in 2018. Alongside his Cupra Racing - Monlau Competición teammates (#108), including 13-time Women's Trial World Champion Laia Sanz, Francesc Gutierrez took his third outright TCE victory at an event he has competed in every year since 1998. With 2nd place going to fellow Barcelona-based Baporo Motorsport (#107), it was a good day for Spanish motor racing.
The fairy-tale Spanish sweep of the podium was not to be, however, as the second MONLAU COMPETITION CUPRA (#107) – the reigning TCR-class champion in the 24H TCE SERIES – would exit the race at high speed against the wall at turn 9. Ironically, this was not the first accident to befall the team, as an on-track collision had already dropped the car out of the overall lead and almost 10 laps back in the first six hours.
Imbalanced handling and the resultant understeer meant the Red Camel-Jordans.nl SEAT Leon TCR (#303) was rapidly eating its front tyres during the opening stages, but savvy pit calls and consistent running meant the Dutch team would put two difficult race weekends firmly behind them to finish 3rd overall.
Unusually, Bas Koeten Racing notched up a retirement at Barcelona, the drivers of Kawasaki Racing (#155) deciding against repairing the CUPRA TCR’s broken gearbox to maximise its points haul at the following round at Spa-Francorchamps. Though fighting for the overall lead as night fell, the ‘sister’ NKPP Racing (#175) fared little better, accident damage costing the CUPRA TCR 16 laps, while a broken driveshaft after yet more on-track contact would drop the #175 – now fitted with the rear window from the #155 – out of overall top five come the chequered flag. It marked the first time that a Bas Koeten Racing entry failed to finish on the TCE podium in 2018.
Team Altran Peugeot’s second outing in as many races went far from smoothly in Barcelona. Two hours would be lost in the early going fitting the #908 with a brand new engine, while the sister #308 would suffer a “calculation mistake” and run out of fuel on-track. For want of just one litre, the French team would lose seven laps being recovered to the pitlane, and would have to settle with 5th in the TCR class.
Atech Racing (#55) endured a heart-in-mouth moment when the SEAT Leon TCR launched itself over the kerbs in 5th gear at turn 10 when the brakes failed. The rough landing ended up rupturing the radiator, and 1.5 hours were spent repairing the damage. A character building race for the UAE-based outfit also saw the Audi destroy its turbo during qualifying, lose 3rd gear with more than two hours of running left to go, and suffer low fuel pressure through the race, requiring the team to stop more regularly to brim the tank. To survive and come home 9th in-class was a remarkable achievement.
A precursor to the drama that was about to unfold, TCE pole position ultimately came down to one-tenth of a second in Barcelona, with SP3 entrant CWS Engineering (#278) just pipping TCR runners, AC Motorsport (#888). Sadly, contact on the first lap would prove the Ginetta’s undoing. With its side-mounted exhaust flattened, super-heated exhaust fumes had nowhere to go, and would eventually take hold of the rear bodywork on lap 40. The pole-sitting G55, its rear end now burnt to a crisp, was out on the spot.
Though easily the most dramatic, this wasn’t even CWS’ only fire hazard of the weekend. During the optional private test, the sister #178 Ginetta came close to igniting, rather scarily, in the re-fuelling station, though quick work by the CWS team and the adjudicating fire marshals meant the flames wouldn’t bite. Overheating issues would plague the sole remaining CWS entrant, as would a couple of trips through the gravel, a broken oil pump belt, and even a wheel working itself loose, the latter destroying any hope of an overall top three finish. Incredibly though, with the Munckhof Racing BMW M4 (#259) suffering a repeat of its engine issues from Imola, the #178, amazingly, would come through to take the SP3-class win.
CWS’s front row sparring partner – AC Motorsport – didn’t fare much better, a loose screw causing the right rear tyre to rub against the bodywork and start a fire beneath the bodywork. This, plus amalgamated mechanical issues, saw the #888 Audi retire during the night.
A returning Synchro Motorsport (#76) was no doubt hoping for a better weekend at Barcelona than the one it endured. Having worked themselves into the A3-class lead in the early stages, a brakeless Andrew Hack would end up rolling over the top of the EBIMOTORS 991-II Cup, eliminating the UK team’s brand new Honda Civic Type-R ‘FK8’ on its maiden run. Hofor-Racing by Bonk Motorsport (#131) would take the win by default, but only after spending 12 hours in the garage.
Words – James Gent
Images – Petr Frýba
1. CUPRA RACING – MONLAU COMPETICION (#108, CUPRA, TCR) – 621 laps
2. Baporo Motorsport (#133, Audi, TCR) – 616 laps
3. Red Camel-Jordans.nl (#303, SEAT, TCR) – 610 laps
4. Bonk Motorsport (#115, Audi RS3 LMS DSG) – 604 laps
5. Team Altran Peugeot (#308, Peugeot 308 Racing Cup TCR) – 603 laps
A6-Pro – Herberth Motorsport (#911, Porsche 911 GT3 R)
A6-Am – PROsport Performance (#85, Mercedes-AMG GT3)
SPX – Leipert Motorsport (#10, Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo)
991 – Porsche Lorient Racing (#64, Porsche 991-I Cup)
GT4 – NM Racing Team (#215, Ginetta G55)
TCR – CUPRA Racing - Monlau Competición (#108, CUPRA TCR)
SP3 – CWS Engineering (#178, Ginetta G55)
A3 – Hofor Racing powered by Bonk Motorsport (#131, BMW M235i Racing Cup)
1. Hofor-Racing powered bei Bonk Motorsport (#131, CUP1) – 102 points
2. Red Camel-Jordans.nl (#303, TCR) – 85 points
3. NKPP Racing by Bas Koeten Racing (#175, TCR) – 83 points
1. All of MONLAU’s 24H TCE SERIES wins have included Alba Cano Ramirez
2. More laps were completed at Barcelona than any other race since 1999.
3. More than two manufacturers finished in the top 5 in TCR / A3T since 2011