RX Season Review: TouringCar

by Hal Ridge |

Reigning TouringCar champion Anton Marklund graduated to the Supercar category for the  2013 season, ensuring that a different name would be on the trophy come the end of the year.

Massively impressive in his first appearances in 2012, Robin Larsson had hand-picked events on contest the previous season, before starting this year with the intention of mounting an assault on the title, where on past form, he was expected to dominated. However, the group of drivers lining up alongside Larsson were equally keen on winning the category title. Derek Tohill had won the championship in 2010 and would pose the biggest threat, while the ever-present Romon Castoral has the smallest team in the paddock but is well regarded as being one of the best drivers in the sport.

Those three drivers would fill the podium at the first round in England, Tohill winning the event from Larsson and Castoral. Belgian driver Koen Pauwels finished fourth, the experienced Supercar pilot committing to another season of TouringCar and looking quick at round one. Surprise of the event was Torlief Lona making his first appearance in the European series and clearly not just present to make up the numbers, he finished his first event in fifth. Round two in Portugal and it was Larsson who showed what he was capable, fastest at the Intermediate Classification he romped to victory in the final. Pauwels finished second while Castoral again came home third, more impressive given that he had jumped the start and had to do two joker laps as a result. David Nordgaard finished fourth in his Ford Focus, but was also last to cross the finishing line. Tohill had a torrid weekend, topped off by fuel pressure issues in the final bringing his Ford Fiesta to a halt, while the similar car of Lona was out on lap one with steering damage.

Swedish driver Daniel Lundh had suffered accident damage at round one in Lydden Hill and then opted not to travel to Portugal. At round three in Hungary he was third at the Intermediate Classification behind Tohill and Larsson. The Volvo driver made a great start in the final, and as Tohill was removed from winning contention with a mid-pack spin, Lundh seized the lead. Hounded by Larsson for the first part of the race, the latter would pick up a puncture dropping him to fifth ahead of Lona in sixth. Lundh brought his car home to score his first European victory, while Castoral was again on the podium in second. Tohill fought his way back up to third place by the end, dropping Pauwels into fourth.

Tohill was in dominant form during the heats at round four in Finland to land pole position for the final. The Irish driver led at the first corner, followed by Lundh who was soon passed by Larsson. By the end of lap one, Larsson had closed the gap on Tohill and found a way by. Seemingly set for victory, Larsson’s Skoda was slowed by mechanical gremlins in the closing stages. Tohill made a move to pass Larsson but the door was shut, contact between the pair resulting in heavy damage for both, Larsson would go no further while Tohill would drag his car home to second, behind Castoral who picked up the pieces to score his first win of the season and maintain his run of podiums. Lundh finished third ahead of fellow Swede Roger Enlund who made his first appearance of the season to score a strong result. Pauwels was forced out of the event in the heat stages with engine failure. Round five in Norway brought the return of former champion Lars Oivind Enerberg. Fastest in three of the four heats, Enerberg would have made it a full house had it not been for a puncture in heat three. The Norwegian stormed to victory in the final, protected by Tohill who was content to run second, highest of the championship regulars. Third was Norwegian driver Ander Braten in his second appearance of the season, while Koen Pauwels was again fourth. David Nordgaard had a better run in Norway and finished fifth, Roman Castoral didn’t make it to the final, beaten by the locals on a track they know better, while Robin Larsson had a torrid weekend. Punctures and problems on day one were topped off by transmission and engine problems on day two that put him out of the event.

If Norway was full of fast locals, it was nothing compared to round six in Sweden. However, a strong first day put Derek Tohill in a good position for day two, where he won heats three and four, his semi-final and dominated the final. Daniel Lundh was fast on his home track and kept Tohill honest throughout to score a great result, while Czech driver Roman Castoral scored an even more impressive result coming home third after beating local hero Robin Larsson in their semi-final. Larsson himself had a troubled run throughout the heats and had been surprisingly beaten by Castoral in the semi-final’s. A puncture in the final removed him from winning contention, a last lap scrap with Torlief Lona for fifth place was not where he had hoped to be. Lars Oivind Enerberg won heat one on the back of his victory at his home round in Norway. He was fastest in heat two for a time, but was excluded from the race for a technical infringement. His Fiesta would not be seen on track again for the rest of the weekend.

The win in Sweden gave Tohill a strong grip on the championship with three rounds to go capitalising over the three Nordic events when Larsson had run into trouble. After a summer break the championship headed to France for round seven, to legendary Loheac. Tohill and Larsson came together on the first corner of the first heat, destroying both their times. From then on Tohill made the event his own, fastest in every race, winning the final ahead of surprise season star Daniel Lundh and Roman Castoral, who again finished third. Roger Enlund made the trip down from Sweden and finished fourth. Koen Pauwels looked to be Tohill’s strongest challenger in the heats, and looked on for a podium until contact with Larsson in the final put them both out of contention for a good result and giving Tohill another leap towards his second title. With that in mind, and knowing that the traditional last round in Germany can often spring surprises, Tohill entered round eight in Austria with a clear objective, to finish the business of winning the championship before the final event in Germany.

Top at the Intermediate Classification, Tohill won his semi-final, and the final to win the title for the second time. The final wasn’t straightforward, Larsson and Tohill made contact on lap one. A race long battle followed, Tohill regaining the lead as he excited the joker lap on the final corner. Larsson finished second, his first visit to the podium since round two in Portugal and leaving the Swede thinking what might have been had luck been on his side. Roman Castoral finished third, the experienced Czech once again hunt until the end. Daniel Lundh’s event was almost over in heat one, contact with a stack of tyres checkued his Volvo onto two wheels, only just not rolling over. Only great work from his team got him back on track, the effort was repaid with a fourth place finish. Pauwels finished fifth while David Nordgaard again retired with mechanical problems.

Robin Larsson contested his last TouringCar event in Germany, the Swede announcing plans to graduate to Supercar the previous weekend in Austria. Indeed, Larsson’s Skoda would be taken from the Estering by it’s new owner on Sunday evening. Without the pressure of trying to fight for the title, and knowing that he was moving on, Larsson delivered the sort of performance that many had been waiting for all year. Fastest throughout the heats, he won his semi-final and dominated to the final with ease. Second place went to Anders Braten,  the young Norwegian scoring a personal best result heading into the winter months. Ole Habjorg finished third, his first podium since 2012 coming after a race long battle with Lars Rosendahl. 2013 Champion Derek Tohill ended up second at the Intermediate stage, and won semi-final two to share the front row of the grid with Larsson. Tohill’s race didn’t last long, the Irish driver incurred damaged from contact on lap one that eventually caused him to retire, it was not to be the lap of honor he had hoped for. Roman Castoral had a torrid event, coming off worst in first corner contact in the early heats. Heat three would go worse for the Opel Astra man, getting fired off into the barriers. He and his many spontaneous helpers including many from rival teams worked hard to repair the extensive damage. He finished fourth in semi-final two; a rare non-appearance in the final.

As the curtains drew on the championship in Germany, Tohill had achieved his goal of winning a second title and had duly announced that his next appearance would be in Supercar. Larsson had a frustrating year, but Supercar too is where he really wants to be and he left Germany satisfied that he had dominated an event for one last time, while Castoral almost finished second in the title race again, had it not been for a disastrous event in Germany. Surprise of the season was Daniel Lundh. Consistently fastest behind far more experienced drivers, with some of those moving on for next season Lundh has a real chance of fighting for the title.





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