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Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing collects its third win of the 2019 24H TCE SERIES, in spite of race-winning pace from FOUR other contenders in TCR. Synchro Motorsport breaks its 2019 duck in A3, while Team ABBA Racing is left to wonder what might have been.

TCR. Pt.1 – Four in the running for TCE victory
Three wins out of four. It’s been a strong start to the 24H TCE SERIES season for Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing (#112).

The relatively new Autorama /Wolf-Power alliance got its first season with the Volkswagen Golf GTI off to the best possible start with TCE victory at the Hankook 24H DUBAI, a first for team boss Stefan Tanner. The Swiss outfit quickly followed that up with a win in the opening European round of the season at Mugello, and only superior pace from the Red Camel-Jordans.nl CUPRA and pre-race engine failure meant the Joe Bradley-coined ‘Autodrama’ would give best in Spa, a race that still ended with 2nd place.
 
That Red Camel-Jordans.nl would be among Autorama / Wolf-Power’s toughest opponents at Brno was to be expected then, the reigning TCR European Champions dutifully making their intentions clear from the get-go by claiming outright TCE pole position on Friday afternoon. They were far from the only contenders though. Indeed, during the first three hours, and after some terrific on-track battles, AC Motorsport (#188), MONLAU COMPETITION (#107), NKPP Racing by Bas Koeten Racing (#175) AND Autorama each took their respective turns in the TCR hot spot, the all-Swedish Lestrup Racing never too far behind to pick up the pieces were it necessary. Fast-forward to the nine-hour mark, and the top three in TCE were still split by less than 30 seconds. 
 
Red Camel-Jordans.nl ultimately crossed the finish line to lead the TCE field into the overnight intervention, despite the CUPRA devouring its tyres around the surprisingly low grip Automotodrom Brno. It spoke volumes about the Dutch team’s formidable efforts, and accidentally cloaked what was a fantastically close fight for victory. 
 
Those same tyre problems, however, would ultimately scupper the orange CUPRA’s run on Saturday. Superb pace from two-time Rolex 24 at Daytona class winner and reigning Hankook 24H DUBAI winner Rik Breukers was a given, and younger brother Luc, making his 24H TCE SERIES debut alongside Rik and father Ivo in an all-Breukers family entry, proved sensationally quick too. Neither the boys though, nor Ivo, could nurse the tyres for long enough during their stints on the surprisingly tricky and abrasive surface. Having stamped its authority on a race win in the opening stages, Red Camel-Jordans.nl had to be content with the final step of the TCE podium in the end.
 

TCR. Pt.2 – Early contenders for victory continue fight for podium spots Autorama / Wolf-Power meanwhile, even with TCR European Drivers’ Champion Antti Buri behind the wheel – alongside long-time teammate Kari-Pekka Laaksonen and team staple Fabian Danz – would have to work hard to overhaul the AC Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS, and the CUPRA TCRs of MONLAU COMPETITION and NKPP Racing for victory. Time lost on pitroad and a similarly uphill struggle to keep life in the tyres meant MONLAU had already slipped three laps behind come half-distance, despite the early race-leading pace of former LMGTE Am World Endurance Champion Stuart Hall. An understeering Tom Black’s trip through the turn six gravel trap would eventually bring out the event’s third and final Code 60 period with just 70 minutes left to run, and the Spanish hot hatch would finish its weekend 6th in TCE.
 
Fittingly, this was just one place behind AC Motorsport, another early contender for victory. Former British Touring Car Championship specialists Vincent Radermacker and James Kaye on driver detail meant pace was never going to be an issue. Unfortunately, encroaching brake issues not only lost the team time in the pits, but would also cause Radermacker to spin off-track on the absolute final lap of the race. It was a failure that ended up costing the Belgian squad 4th in TCE within sight of the flag.
 
After four race-leading performances so far this season, few would begrudge AC Motorsport a first win of the season in Portimão, should the cards fall that way.
 
Consistent running and formidable pitwork from the Bas Koeten Racing crew meanwhile proved its traditional force to be reckoned with. 24H SERIES stalwarts Gijs Bessem and Harry Hilders were back in the NKPP Racing CUPRA for the first time since COTA last year, their ‘new’ Porsche 911 still on the shelf after heavy, race-ending shunts at both Dubai and Mugello. Keen eyes even spotted a certain Christiaan Frankenhout – Hofor Racing’s resident superstar – on the entry list for NKPP, although the Dutchman was only in action during Thursday’s private test sessions as he will be swapping his AWD Mercedes-AMG GT3 for a FWD CUPRA at this October’s inaugural TCR SPA 500. Tantalising prospect, wouldn’t you agree?
 
Not that Frankenhout’s absence from the Bas Koeten line-up come race day unduly slowed the team down. Indeed, both Bessem and Hilders proved more than capable of keeping the leaders honest throughout the closing stages, many wondering in fact whether the Dutch CUPRA could make it to the finish with one less pit stop than the Autorama Volkswagen. The final late-race Code 60 and a brief off-track moment from Bessem put paid to that, however, and by the time the VW started its final lap, the gap had extended to over a lap, NKPP’s attention now on the rapidly closing Red Camel CUPRA in 3rd. Victory number three was in the bag, a result that gives Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing a nine-point lead in the 24H TCE SERIES European Championship.
 
Not that it was a race completely without incident for the victorious Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing. Antti Buri received an unsighted whack into the Golf’s passenger door when OLIMP Racing’s otherwise rapid Karol Basz made a half-hearted attempt to pass into turn six heading into the race’s final hour.
 
Issues aplenty thus opened the door for Lestrup Racing (#110), the all-Swedish Volkswagen Golf GTI, thanks to the last minute retirement of AC Motorsport and despite a race-long struggle for grip, taking 4th place to add to its podium finish at Mugello and team owner Frederik’s TCE win in Dubai with Autorama.  
 
Team Hyundai Denmark (#130) ended a tough weekend with 8th, 68 laps down. Having already suffered right rear suspension failure on Friday, an incident that pitched Jan Engelbrecht into the gravel at turn three and cost the Danish outfit 12 laps in repairs, the team’s poor fortune was capped by recurrent overheating problems, team radio failure, and a bizarre incident when Engelbrecht pitted only to find neither his pit crew nor teammate Søren Jönsson were ready to receive him. More time lost.
 
“That was quite confusing,”Søren explained. “But the car is at least driving better and better. We’re learning together with Hyundai Motorsport more and more about the car. We need more speed.”
 
No doubt the team will hope the i30 N’s maiden series podium won’t be too far away. As will TTC Racing (#103), which completed a solid run to pick up 7th in TCE.

Overall TCE and TCR Top 3
  1. Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing (#112, Volkswagen) – 295 laps
  2. NKPP Racing by Bas Koeten Racing (#175, CUPRA) – 294 laps
  3. Red Camel-Jordans.nl(#101, CUPRA) – +8.234s 

SP3 and A3 – Synchro finally back on top; Team ABBA’s dogged fightback Had anyone fluttered a 3rd-place finish in A3 under the nose of Winkler Tuning (#666) on Friday afternoon, chances are you wouldn’t have heard the answer for derogatory laughter. The BMW E46 123D, with just three laps of running under its belt at Brno, suffered a spectacular engine failure after just three laps on Friday, side-lining the Austrian team for the remainder of the day. The irony was that the team, having fitted a brand new engine in preparation for the Hankook 12H BRNO, would end up putting the ‘old’ powerplant back in again overnight.
 
Not content with simply packing up and going home though (few would have blamed htem under the circumstances), the only diesel-powered car in the field continued with only minor handling and heat gremlins to deal with across Saturday afternoon, Winkler Tuning not only finishing the race but completing enough laps to be classified 3rd. Few deserved radiolemans.com’s Spirit of the Race award more.
 
Few, but not all…
 
Coming into Saturday afternoon, Team ABBA Racing’s weekend had already turned torrid. Having grabbed the TCE lead in the opening stages, the BMW M3 V8 GTR (#334) lost more than an hour at its first pit stop to gear selector problems and overheating issues. That Charles Lamb would make contact with the #91 Herberth Motorsport Porsche on the very final lap on Friday didn’t so much add insult to injury as kick dirt in its face. Team ABBA mechanics would work until 1am on a laundry list of repairs, including a broken steering arm and broken suspension mounts.
 
Despite already being 39 laps behind though, father-son teammates Richard and Sam Neary battled gamely on after Saturday’s restart. A finish, at the very least, would have been a deserved return for the two-time Hankook 24H SILVERSTONE winners’ herculean efforts, although even this was denied them after Sam parked the BMW up for good off-track, its drive gone. Hopefully the SP3-class win offers some consolation.
 
Compatriots Synchro Motorsport (#676) meanwhile were finally able to shed a monkey from their back in Brno. Coming into the event, the FK8-spec Civic Type-R had been classified 3rd at Mugello and Spa, events the Japanese hatchback failed to finish and which, in the early going, it looked set to win.
 
Caution was the name of the game on this occasion therefore, demonstrated wen team principal Alyn James opted to bring the Honda in towards the end of Friday’s ‘half’ of the race to adjust the camber settings, thus preserving tyre life. On Saturday, the Honda would, in now 24H SERIES tradition, lose parts of its rear bumper. More time would be lost with a failed driveshaft, although the Honda UK employees excelled to complete the job in just under 10 minutes. Were this not enough, the Synchro mechanics were even pulling double duty in Brno, sportingly assisting garage mates Red Camel-Jordans.nl who were a few crew members short in the Czech Republic (even Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona class winner Rik Breukers was on rear jack duty!). This truly was a weekend when the new FK8-spec Civic, after so many difficulties, could not be beaten. A well-deserved result for former 24H TCE SERIES champions, Synchro Motorsport.
 
Behind them in 2nd was the Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport (#869), the BMW M240i Racing Cup delivering the Swiss-German team’s second podium of the weekend in only the second outing for the car this year. One of the few teams to gamble on wet tyres during the event’s all-too-brief rain shower, it was a gamble that didn’t pay off, Jurgen Meyer back in to swap out the now ruined rubber after just a few laps. Don’t be too quick to count out the #869 BMW on its next event though. As the team demonstrated seven times from seven races last year, it knows what it takes to win. 
 
SP3 Results
  1. Team ABBA Racing (#334, BMW) – 194 laps 

A3 Top 3
  1. Synchro Motorsport (#676, Honda) – 269 laps
  2. Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport (#869, BMW) – 266 laps
  3. Winkler Tuning (#666, BMW) – 204 laps 
 
*You can check out the GT round-up from the Hankook 12H BRNO HERE, the full race results HERE, and the TCE European Championship standings HERE
 

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