TCR Talk previews this weekends action from the 2018 FIA WTCR Race of Portugal with the first race on Saturday and the second and third races taking place on Sunday afternoon.

This weekend we are treated to the return of World Touring Car Cup after the massive four day UBER TCR Festival that took place at Zandvoort in the Netherlands. The many crowds at the national holiday event also witnessed the TCR Europe Series and TCR Benelux Seriesin action.

Zandvoort also saw the WTCR Drivers’ Championship turned upside down, thanks to some Balance of Performance changes that took place after Nurburgring Nordschleife round which saw Audi join Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen at the front of the field

The Drivers’ Championship:

The historic street circuit of Vila Real plays host to Rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the WTCR season and also marks the halfway point for this highly competitive series. Yann Ehrlacher in the #68 Munnich Motorsport Honda Civic TCR leads the standings with 146 points.

Ehrlacher took the first race victory of the weekend as the Hyundai had a retirement with Yvan Muller and Norbert Michelisz colliding (again!!). Elsewhere, the Audi’s and Peugeot’s proved to be absolute weapons in race trim.

Aurelien Comte gave the Peugeot 308 TCR its first win, whilst Jean Karl Vernay took his secomd of the year. So what does this mean?? Well, the championship looks a little like this:

Yann Ehrlacher: 146 points
Yvan Muller: 137 points
Rob Huff: 130 points
Jean-Karl Vernay: 121 points
Gabriele Tarquini: 118 points
Thed Bjork: 112 points
Esteban Guerrieri: 107 points
Norbert Michelisz: 102 points
Frederic Vervisch: 65 points
Mehdi Bennani: 65 points

Who will be on top after WTCR’s Race 3 on Sunday? We’ll know after Race 3 on Sunday!!

The Balance of Performance returns:

Ah yes, this one never gets old or boring. The mere mention of these three words this year always sparks lively debate and it will do once again this weekend.

Last time out at Zandvoort, the Hyundai’s were lucky to qualify inside Top 20 after the BoP adjustment with the ride height increased and the engine power reduced from 100% to 97.5%. This led to cries from both Yvan Muller Racing and BRC Racing as they felt this wasn’t being applied properly.

However, when you take into consideration that the Hyundai i30 N TCR has taken five wins out of twelve so far against three for Honda, two for Audi and one each both for Peugeot and Volkswagen, its clear to see why this happened.

For the recent TCR Europe Series weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, BoP saw a reduction in ride height for the Hyundai’s but leaving them at the same maximum power setting. The Portuguese venue will be another intriguing weekend if you’re a Hyundai driver. Expect more lively debate about this subject.

The Magnificent Eleven:

Amazingly, 11 drivers out of the twenty seven entries have not raced on this circuit before so this weekend will be a steep learning curve for them.

When you look at the list of debutantes for the Vila Real event though, some of these drivers have a lot of experience in car setup which will come in handy on the tight, fast and dusty Portuguese layout:

Nathanael Berthon, Aurelien Comte, Denis Dupont, Fabrizio Giovanardi, Mato Homola, Benjamin Lessennes, Gianni Morbidelli, Pepe Oriola, Gordon Shedden, Jean-Karl Vernay and Frederic Vervisch will all be looking to tame the circuit whilst also getting their collective heads around the new concept of the Joker Lap.

The safety car is on standby!

So, you have one of the fastest, tightest street circuits in Europe, a hot and dusty track that attracts motorsport fans by the thousands and a massive field of TCR Regulation cars ready to go hell for leather to get those vital points…

But its a street circuit…with a lot of cars being steered by some hot-headed drivers with scores to settle or points to make. I expect three safety car appearances myself…

Also take into consideration that last year there were sixteen WTCC TC1 entries competing, which is a lot less than this year might I add. This year sees 27 cars on track at the same time for three races, so don’t be surprised if the safety car makes an appearance or two which could potentially wreck a vital Joker Lap strategy.

Joker Lap returns:

Last year the WTCC made the move to improve its racing spectacle by introducing a Joker Lap at some of its events in the same fashion as the FIA World Rallycross Championship puts it to good use.

The Joker Lap has been confirmed to return for the three WTCR races and will surely shake up the field of twenty seven cars entered on the tight and fast street circuit. Whilst overtaking is possible, this option to make up places or lose places in each race offers a new aspect for the majority of the field.

The wildcards:

Continuing the tradition that started out in Hungary earlier this year, WTCR has announced its two local wildcard drivers in the shape of Edgar Florindo and Jose Rodrigues.

Florindo is also experienced with TCR as he has driven in the TCR Portugal Series, having claimed eight consecutive podiums and two victories last season. The local driver will be out in a Veloso Motorsportrun CUPRA TCR as he tackles the event on the World Stage for the first time.

Rodrigues is already familiar with TCR machinery having raced a 2017 Honda Civic TCR in both Germany and Portugal. This year he is a full time entry in the TCR Italy Series with Target Competition who will be running his entry this weekend.

Meanwhile Rodrigues is taking this opportunity with both hands as he is already a part of Tiago Monteiro’s Skywalker Management company and is excited to race with the best in the business.

Weekend schedule [UK Time]:

Saturday, June 23:

Free Practice 1: 09:00-09:30
Free Practice 2: 11:00-11:30
Qualifying 1: 12:30-13:10
Race 1: 16:30

Sunday, June 24:

Qualifying 2: 09:30-10:30
Race 2: 15:45
Race 3: 17:10

                                                                                                 By Phil Kinch (TCR Talk)