After a dozen years as part of the FIA rallycross scene, the TouringCar category has its last event as an FIA European Championship at Holjes this weekend. Conceived as a replacement for the two-litre, front-wheel drive category that ran as Division Two from 1999 to 2008, TouringCar first appeared as the ‘Rallycross Cup’ in 2007. Frequently in that first year Belgian veteran Jos Sterkens was the only driver to appear but, as a firm believer in the concept, he went to every round to promote the idea of the two-litre, rear-wheel drive racers.
“Billy No Mates” – Jos Sterkens (Fiesta Mk6) often drove by himself in 2007 and was a strong advocate of the TouringCar concept.
The series continued as the ‘Cup’ in 2008 when Michael De Keersmaecker (BMW 120) became the second champion – and the only driver to have won both this and the Super1600 titles.
For the 2009 season the category got full FIA European Championship status, assuming the Division Two name and title as the Group N cars were retired (the first time since 1993 that the championships had been without Group N cars of some form). Knut Ove Borseth switched his attention from Norwegian Supernational to take the title in a Fiesta Mk6.
An event winner in the old Group N Division Two, Derek Tohill progressed into the TouringCar era, learned about rear-wheel drive, and came out on top of a tense 2010 championship battle to take the title in his Fiesta Mk7 – the first (and so far only) Irishman to win an FIA rallycross title.
The TouringCar name had unofficially been applied to the class almost from its inception, and was formally adopted in 2011 when all the FIA categories moved to descriptive nomenclature (Division One becoming Supercar and Division One-A becoming Super1600). Seven of the ten events were won by Norwegian Lars Oivind Enerberg, the young racer taking the first five events with his Fiesta Mk6 before a mid-season hat-trick of victories by Roman Castoral (Opel Astra). A brace of wins at the end of the year then gave Enerberg his first title.
Having made his debut in mid-2011, Anton Marklund produced a perfectly measured mix of event wins and consistent placings to claim the 2012 championship in his Fiesta Mk7. Perhaps the category’s most successful graduate, Marklund has since raced Supercars at World and European level and won the FIA European Supercar title in 2017.
As IMG arrived in rallycross as the commercial rights holder for the FIA championships, TouringCar gained its now familiar pink identifying tag. Five drivers won events in 2013, but Tohill and his Fiesta Mk7 notched up four victories from the nine events to take the title for a second time.
As Supercar gained World Championship status in 2014, TouringCar ran at the nine events within Europe. An event winner in 2013, Daniel Lundh (Volvo C30) claimed the title in a season that was also notable for producing the first female win in the category; Camilla Antonsen (Fiesta Mk7) winning the final round in Germany.
For 2015 the three European championships were switched to shorter calendars. Just four drivers had started all rounds in 2013 and 2014, that increased to 16 full-time competitors in 2015 when the TouringCar championship was fought out over five events in arguably its most competitive season so far. Fredrik Salsten (Citroen DS3) won three times to claim the title.
There were again five events in 2016, and five different event winners among 12 full timers. The title went all the way to the last race of the year where round three winner Ben-Philip Gundersen (Fiesta Mk6) emerged as the champion, pipping round one winner Magda Andersson (Fiesta Mk7) to the title. Philip Gehrman, Fredrik Magnussen and David Nordgaard also won events.
In 2017 numbers in the championship slipped; just nine drivers starting in all five events. The future of TouringCar had been under discussion several times, but with naumbers again dropping and only five non-Nordic drivers among the 20 seen over the five events, the FIA decided to call time on the European Championship for TouringCar. During the year it announced that 2018 would be the final season, and consist of a shortened three-event schedule. Gehrman (Fiesta Mk7) took round one before Lars Oivind Enerberg (Fiesta Mk6)hit his stride and took three event wins and put his name to the championship for a second time. Gundersen won the final round.
And so to the final year for TouringCar at FIA championship level, Fredrik Salsten returned in his DS3 to beat a 16-car field in Belgium. Daniel Holten (Fiesta Mk7) stepped back to TouringCar and was best of 18 starters in Norway and the last event for the class attracted a capacity 20-car field (plus one reserve) at Holjes. It is likely that the category will be adopted by RallyX Nordic in 2019.
PS, 04 July 2018: In the last FIA event for TouringCar. Salsten and Lundh went out early with engine problems. Points leaser Steve Volders did not get beyond the semi-finals and there were three potential champions on the grid for the last six laps. Daniel Holten was out early with a damaged car. Fredrik Magnussen won, but second place was enough for Sivert Svardal to secure the title by a single point, the only Mazda RX8 driver to take the crown. But then…
PPS, 15 July 2018: The FIA publishes revised results for the confirming that Svardal, Ole Morten Tangen and Kenneth Johansen had all been disqualified from the Swedish event after failing fuel tests. The resulting recalculation of results means that Steve Volders (Fiesta Mk7) is the champion. So, in the end, TouringCar went full circle with its first and last champions both from Belgium, a little ironic given that the over reliance on Nordic drivers was a reason for its demise.
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