The fifth season of the TCR Asia series will conclude at the Bangsaen Street Circuit this weekend, where Luca Engstler is looking to secure back-to-back titles, whilst his team-mate Diego Moran is the only man who can stop him.
Engstler looks odds-on to seal a second successive title, the young German having won six of this year’s eight TCR Asia races, with only Ecuadorian Moran having also stood on the top step of the podium, with two wins.
However, the narrow Bangsaen street circuit presents a significant challenge to the drivers, with Engstler having never previously won on the circuit. Indeed the track has previously proven to be something of a jinx for the points leader, with 2017 champion Kantadhee Kusiri also failing to taste success on the Thai circuit despite lifting the crown that year.
Engstler arguably doesn’t need to win in Thailand, as he holds a 30-point lead over Moran, with 25 available for a race win and a further 5 for taking pole position.
With 65 points thus up for grabs, the title race is still open between the two Hyundai team-mates, although it is now realistically only a two-horse race, although third-placed Pepe Oriola, 57 points adrift, still has a mathematical chance.
“Of course I’m thinking about the championship,” said Engstler on the first day of the event. “But I just want to focus on the first race and in the end we see what comes out – we’re in Bangsaen, so anything can happen!”
Whilst Engstler is the favourite for the title as a result of his dominance on paper, Moran has kept himself in the title fight through consistency. Whilst Engstler retired from the second race in Sepang earlier in the year due to contact with Oriola, Moran has finished every race this year, accumulating valuable points.
Spaniard Oriola, meanwhile, will be seeking to end the season on a high. After switching to Hyundai machinery at the start of the year, as well as moving to the Asian series after years on the international stage, he has yet to record a win in the series.
With four second-place finishes to his name, Oriola knows that it is time to now show he can win in Asia in the same machinery as Engstler.
“We’ve had a number of second placings in the Series, so I’m pretty keen to have a win for the team before the season ends,” admitted the 25-year-old.
Having shared the grid with the TCR China series for the last three events, TCR Asia will once again hold its own on the race track this weekend. Local racer Jakraphan Davee returns to the grid for the first time since the season opener in Sepang, giving the locals someone to get behind.
Qualifying gets underway at 08:30 local time (02:30 BST, 03:30 CEST) on Saturday, followed by race one at 11:00 (05:00 BST, 06:00 CEST0. The season finale takes place on Sunday at 12:45 local time (06:45 BST, 07:45 CEST).