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JAPANESE GRAND PRIX
Suzuka International Racing Course. 25 September 2018
August 31, 2018

 

The ITC is back and with a new mod to boot. So high has interest been in the series that it now boasts a second division of its own; the International Touring Challenge (ITC2). We were expecting the competitiveness of this year's grid to be tremendous and

Avid Chronic Racing Zakspeed - Chris Butcher/Jack Kiethley - 2017: 1st (Vod:Bul Racing)

With Avid Chronic Racing taking over Vod:Bul Racing at the turn of the year, progress was expected and it came in droves. Even more top talent signed, a lucrative partnership with Zakspeed confirmed and success across the eRacing scene. In essence this is still the Liverpool-based outfit that won the title last year though none of their Class of 2017 make a return.

Three-time race winner Chris Butcher has been picked up and, if he completes his first full season of the International Touring Cup, could well be in the title hunt. In order to take first place however he'll be forced to beat Jack Kiethley, a legend of touring car simracing but only now making his debut at GPVWC. A huge player in the eWTCR and the Mercedes-AMG eRacing Competition, this fiery Englishman is not to be underestimated in any category.

Vod:Bul Racing only finished outside of the top two once in the ITC having taking part in the championship since it's inaugural season. With THR and Enterprise GP out of the way, they took one of their last titles in 2017. ACR Zakspeed are surely looking to ensure their record is one for one.


Epic Racing Team - Chris Shepherd/David Fidock - 2017: 2nd

Epic have been a wonderful sight to behold on the ITC grid following their debut in 2015. Smashing liveries and two fast drivers in Chris Shepherd and Geoffrey Fournier ensured that they were admired and feared on their day. 2017 saw the team post their best ever finish of second in the championship but 2018 sees a shake up.

Out goes Fournier, in comes Fidock.

The initial reaction within the community suggests that this is a huge coup and looking at larger context, you'd have to agree. David is a two-times Superleague champion and has shown great promise in World GT when he graced it with his presence. I remain slightly sceptical personally. The Englishman has been erratic in previous ITC showings and though he clearly has the potential to be a top contender, as shown by his 4th in France Race 1 last year, he's only scored points in five of fourteen races contested.

It depends on what side of the paper you read. Epic should be pushing the title contenders or scrapping for top five. As long as Shepherd is firing on all cylinders they'll be just fine regardless.


Aurora Motorsports - Lewis McGlade/Kyle Benton - 2017: 3rd

Lewis McGlade is the first driver we arrive at who has taken part in every single International Touring Cup season. The proverbial old man has shown great strides of progress as well; going from bit-part points scorer to guaranteed podium scorer during a season. His own team, Aurora, has been there with him since the beginning. 2013/14 aside you can always find the Ramsgate-based group in the top five come season's end.

After a strong showing last year (though not equalling their best finish of second in 2015), McGlade hopes to find a more consistent partner in Kyle Benton. Finishing the BVTCC 2018A season ahead of his new teammate, Kyle will be hoping to settle in as a regular points scorer.

Aurora Motorsports will need to be on song this season if they hope to maintain their top five streak.


Draig Racing - Matt Richards/Ben Willis - 2017: 4th

A title winning lineup for Draig Racing but not in this league. Matt Richards took the runner-up prize to Rudy van Buren in 2017 but had great success outside of the league also taking the BVTCC 2018A Drivers' Championship crown. On that basis alone I think it's safe to say that Draig won't be in the relegation scrap and you can definitely expect Richards to be in the Drivers' title picture once again.

Ben Willis was the Welshman's teammate in their title success story over at BVTCC but struggled to break into the top ten during races in ITC last season. In a year where the grid quality was arguably at one of its weakest points, that could be a bad omen. Replacing Stefan McCready, it gives off the sense that either the team just want to stick to what they know or they couldn't sign anyone to really push for the Teams' championship.

Expect a mid-table finish.


Racing Team Schroten - Philip Morby/Pedro Delgado - 2017: 8th

Philip Morby is a fascinating case of using experience to take advantage of the grid around him. Before 2017 he'd only taken one top ten finish in three full seasons. Upon his fourth? That number had increased to thirteen, including a reverse grid race win. It was no doubt one of the best seasons in his simracing career but I get a feeling we'll be seeing more of his 2016 form this time around. The grid is simply too strong to allow him anything more than small points finishes.

On the other side of the garage is Morby's opposite as Pedro Delgado will be making his International Touring Cup bow in Poznan. One of the least experienced GPVWC racers on the grid, the Brazilian will take hope from a couple of small points scores in World GT this season.

Unfortunately, two drivers bringing in semi-consistent, small points scores doesn't spell good things for their Teams' championship chances. I've got Racing Team Schroten down as relegation candidates.


IDOS Motorsport - Matthew Clipp/Jack Mayor - 2017: 11th

Team Owner Alex Skinner has made some very shrewd signings over the Summer and he really had to. 11th will be on the bubble of relegation this season.

First up we have Matthew Clipp who, by all accounts, had a great campaign for Cosmo last season. Not only did he manage to score in all but three races, he also picked up a Race 3 podium in France. IDOS struggled for consistency last season so this move looks to suit both parties with Clipp searching for a new team.

Then we have Jack Mayor who could be a surprise package for the season. 2018 has been a breakthrough year with his Supercup campaign far surpassing anything before. He's still a talent in the making but you'd think that given his good form he'll better his 2015 ITC efforts of just one points score in twenty-one attempts.

I get the impression that IDOS will still be in for a tough year, most likely trying to keep above that relegation line. They've given themselves a good shot at beating it though. All they have to do is match last year's finishing position.


YTF1 - Johan Lindberg/Adrian Campfield - 2017: 12th

And so from one team that would have just beaten relegation to one that would have been relegated. Previous results have suggested no less should be expected unfortunately. 17th, 7th, 9th, No Show, 12th. If you thought IDOS desperately wanted some consistency then YTF1 is addicted to the search.

Last season was the first time that the Bath-based team utilised less than five drivers in an ITC season although neither return. Ben Willis is Draig-bound whilst Team Owner Matthew Allington moves out of the seat to allow potentially the best lineup since the days of 'The Fridge' and Eric Stranne to take the reins.

Johan Lindberg is a YTF1 stalwart by this point and makes his full tin-top debut at GPVWC. He's just hit his stride in Supercup however so could be in the mix for points. Partnering the Swede will be Adrian Campfield who can be hit and miss but has a wealth of touring car experience. He picked up a reverse grid podium in the final race of the 2017 season so has a great base to build off.

I'm thinking a top ten finish for another of the International Touring Cup's longest serving.


Rowen GP - Tristen Potters/Fabian Rudde - 2017: 14th

An unchanged lineup for the team that finished second-from-bottom of the full team entries in 2017.

Tristan Potters scored four times all year, three of those points scores coming consecutively at Interlagos. He's had a wildly underwhelming World GT season since with Aurora Motorsports. Fabian Rudde only scored three times all year and also had a wildly underwhelming World GT season since with Aurora Motorsports.

They say lightning never strikes twice but 14th in the Teams' Championship may very well do. Got to be one of the favourites for relegation in 2018.


CM-Tech - Daniele Brambilla/Wopke Hoekstra - Debut

Complimenting their maiden Formula Challenge campaign, CM-Tech enter the International Touring Cup for the first time. The Dutch team has had previous tin-top success in the Masters Series taking home 6th in 2017. It is likely this success that saw them selected for the Cup and not the Challenge but is it a step too far, too soon?

Daniele Brambilla has had middling points scores at best in Formula Challenge during 2018 with no sign of improvement from his short 2017 charge. He also has no tin-top experience within the league. Teammate and Team Owner Wopke Hoekstra does on the other hand having experience in the ITC, World Sport Series, Masters Series and briefly World GT. That said, Hoekstra's last ITC campaign was two years ago in 2016 where a Race 3 podium in Portugal was comfortably his best result.

I don't think CM-Tech will struggle to score necessarily but I just can't see them doing enough to escape relegation either.


EDGE Esports - Kevin 'Siggy' Rebernak/ Muhammed Patel - 2015: 14th (Wauters Automotive)

It's been three years since (then) Wauters Automotive took to an International Touring Cup grid. Rebranded and re-energised as EDGE Esports, the Belgian outfit has a lineup that excites in a couple of ways.

Kevin 'Siggy' Rebernak is a multiple-time race winner in the ITC and was Drivers' Championship runner-up in the same year Wauters left the grid, 2015. His presence alone is a huge boost and should guarantee podiums. What about Mu Patel though? The 2017 Formula SimRacing World Championship champion makes his first leap into GPVWC. You'd think he'd be fast but then again he could be another David Fidock, struggling for consistency and pace.

Good news for both EDGE boys at least will be the selection of the Subaru, a preferred RWD car. The top five shouldn't be out of reach, easily their best lineup to date.


Edonis Engineering - Erhan Jajovski/Arne Schoonvliet - 2016: 6th

Following a year out, Edonis Engineering returns to the grid and they've brought their World GT lineup with them. Despite Arne Schoonvliet and Erhan Jajovski taking the team from Groningen, Netherlands to third in the Teams' Championship however, they still represent a slight risk.

Only one individual ITC race has been contested between the two. Jajovski retired from it.

If their pace carries over successfully from World GT they should be happily fighting for the top five. At the very least they should be safe.


Enterprise Pulsars - Gergo Baldi/Niels Brugman - 2016: 1st (Enterprise GP)

Another team who took a year off however this one is of winning heritage. Refreshed as Enterprise Pulsars, the 2016 Teams' champions are back with an all new lineup.

Gergo Baldi's experience in ITC is brief though the Hungarian did notch up three podiums back in 2015. That said, becoming the runner-up of the eWTCC and showing that his pace has transferred over to the eWTCR suggests that he's still very happy behind the wheel of a FWD touring car. Funnily enough, teammate Niels Brugman is actually a race winner in the series and had a strong 2017 season despite not driving at three rounds.

Eerily similar type of lineup compared to ACR Zakspeed. Could we have a repeat title battle of 2016 on our hands?


Smile Power Racing - Mike Bell/Adam Pinczes - Debut

Smile Power Racing are back in GPVWC and the 2014 World Sport Series champions are looking to hit the ground running. The 2018 International Touring Cup will be their first series since 2015 but despite being out of the drivers' loop they've put together a solid team.

Team Owner Mike Bell has taken four podiums in the Cup though these were three to four years ago. However, his Supercup form this season with Cosmo suggests that he could still be in the points hunt every race. What he'll be more happy with is the signing of Adam Pinczes, an experienced eWTCC points scorer. The ITC should be much more up his street than single-seaters.

Smile Power won't be pulling up any trees but I'm expecting the grins to still be there come season end. Survival should be comfortable.


Red Bull Streetfighter - Eric Stranne/Tobias Olsson - Debut

The third and final new team for 2018, Streetfighter enters the fray after a pretty good 2018 World GT season. You'd be forgiven for thinking that they were, in fact, past ITC Teams' champions Ice Cold Racing though.

As of writing, Eric Stranne makes his return as the only previous Drivers' champion on the grid having won in 2014 and 2015. The Swede has taken swaths of wins and podiums in his touring car career but took a year out in 2017 to focus on other things. He's joined by compatriot and good friend Tobias Olsson who himself is a three-time race winner in the series. Olsson lacks consistency to match his raw, unbridled pace however which could hamper their chances in the Teams' championship.

Nevertheless, it would be a disappointing season with this lineup to finish outside of the top five.


TTF Racing - Tyrone Frith?/Rauno Muru? - 2015: 18th

The only team without a confirmed lineup. TTF have never been at the sharp end of things but not hearing anything about drivers with four days to go until Round 1 is concerning.

If securing drivers has been a struggle then surely we'll see Team Owner Tyrone Frith step into the breach once again. Unfortunately he'll be lucky to score a point all season given how jam-packed with talent the Class of 2018 is. Rauno Muru has been a friend of the team for a while, perhaps he may drive though he's hardly been a prolific points scorer himself.

In three seasons of being a part of the International Touring Cup between 2013 and 2015, TTF has never finished above 13th in the Teams' standings. Unless they pull out a miracle, even without knowing their driver lineup yet, I think I can comfortably name them favourites for relegation.



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