Girolami crowned Champion of Europe: Spectacular finale in Catalunya.

October 20, 2022

Written by: Chris Hosie

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The 2022 TCR Europe series came to the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain for the final round of the season. A champion would be crowned this weekend. But first, let’s have a quick recap of the previous event on the TCR calendar.

After a single race shoot out in Germany. The stars and cars of the TCR Europe series headed to Monza in Italy. It was a very action packed weekend as the TCR contenders were supporting the International GT Open championship. Which, subsequently, was supported by the EuroFormula Open and GT Cup Open. Franco Girolami claimed the winning honours in race two of the weekend. With John Filippi winning the weekends first race. Italian TCR star, Marco Butti, took a clean sweep in the rookie class and Felipe Fernandez claims a clean sweep in the Diamond cup.

Saturday in Spain dawned foggy, very foggy in fact, causing a slight delay to proceedings. The TCR stars were once again supporting the GT Open paddock. With all three premier championships settling their title fights this weekend. GT Open, EuroFormula Open and GT Cup Open were all to be settled. Also in attendance was the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine. This was their penultimate event of their 2022 campaign. 

But, enough talk with regards to single seaters and GT cars. This was TCR Europe’s weekend too. The championship was decided as soon as qualifying was completed. Franco Girolami became the 2022 TCR Europe champion after a great qualifying effort. The Argentine driver, no doubt delighted to have won, what was, a very competitive and exciting season.

That season wasn’t over yet. Two more races were to follow and the first took place under a, now, pristine Spanish Sun. Jack Young started on Pole for the penultimate race of the season. Behind him was international touring car superstar, Tom Coronel. Isidro Callejas and Franco Girolami, the newly crowned champion, lined up on row two. WTCR star Frederic Vervisch lined up fifth alongside Nicola Baldan. Jachym Galas, Pepe Oriola, John Filippi and Michelle Halder rounded out the top 10.

Mike Halder, boss of Halder Motorsport was 11th for race one. Sergio Lopez was P14 with Marco Butti behind him in P15. The multicoloured Cupra of Giacomo Ghermandi was 21st alongside Britain’s Josh Files. He, initially, qualified 10th but got sent to the back thanks to an engine change penalty.

The 12 lap race got underway in terrific style for young taking the lead from the off and holding the vastly experienced Coronel at bay in the the first corner. Thankfully everyone else made it past the first few corners without any issues or collisions. As the first lap went on, the drivers squabbled for space. Vervisch and Callejas battled for fourth place with the Spaniard getting one over on the Belgian. There was a scary moment for Evgeni Leonov, he lost control for a terrifying moment and almost smashed into two cars. After missing them by inches, his Cupra went speeding off into the Gravel. He would rejoin but at the very end of the field. At the end of first lap, the top six was: the Honda of Young, in the lead, the Audis of Coronel and Girolami, the Cupra of Callejas, Vervisch in his Audi and the Hyundai Elantra of Galas.

As the race proceeded it was full of moments. Especially on lap 2 as Michelle Halder was sent into a spin by a rather aggressive Felipe Fernandez. He Michelle would continue but Fernandez would retire two laps latter with issues on his Audi. The Elantras in the top 10 were battling each other as Mike Halder passed Filippi for a spot in the top 10. 

Other notable moments included Pepe Oriola having to give P7 back to Baldan. After an overtaking infringement at turn 1. Josh Files was soon on the heels of Filippi. After a few more laps he would be up to ninth. Further back Ghermandi was in a battle with Lopez for 17th. Both Brightly coloured Cupras chasing each other in a dazzling battle. Also in a battle for position was Marco Butti. He was pressuring Filippi for 12th place.

Back at the front Young was being pressured by Coronel for, virtually, the whole race. Meanwhile, Girolami was fighting to maintain third ahead of Callejas and Vervisch. The latter then overtaking the Spaniard to move up to fourth.

However, by the last lap, Jack Young had done enough to hold off the charge from Tom Coronel. He would take victory in race one with Coronel and Girolami rounding out the podium. Vervisch, Callejas, Galas, Baldan and Oriola would round out the top eight. Josh Files would end race one with a splendid ninth place, having started 22nd at the start.

Race 2 would take place on the Sunday and it would prove to be one of the most exciting and dramatic TCR Europe races of all time. The top 10 grid for this race consisted of John Filippi, who would start on pole position. Pepe Oriola would line up second with Galas and Baldan completing row 2. Row three saw Vervisch and Files line up together. The remainder of the top ten were filled by Girolami, Callejas, Coronel and Young.

The race got underway in exhilarating style with Filippi and Oriola neck and neck down to Turn 1. With the Frenchman winning out as the other top contenders went, virtually, five wide behind the battling front row. As the Frenchman started to assert his lead, Vervisch battled with Oriola and took second away from the Spaniard with a slick move round the out side of turn three. Everyone got three the first few corners cleanly too. Despite some contact further back.

Oriola then got back second, while Coronel, Young, Files and a hard charging Callejas. By the end of the lap, Filippi was still leading but then, he got bogged down coming out of the RACC chicane. It was three wide for the lead coming out of the last corner with Girolami taking the lead. As the second lap started, Filippi got into a three wide fight for second. Vervisch took second with Oriola taking third. Demoting the Cupra to fourth.

Then things got worse for the Frenchman. He got caught up in an 11 car fight for fourth by turn 5 and was overtaken by Files. The two made contact sending the British star off and launching Coronel to fourth. Filippi then got hit by one of the Halder motorsport Honda’s and that was the end of that.

The safety car was called on lap 3 and caused an extension to the race distance. This time to 13 laps. On lap 5 the race got underway again and would see a great getaway. Further back, Oriola and Coronel battled for third. Also in a fearsome fight we’re Mike Halder and the Hyundai of Files. The former taking fifth from the Brit only to be demoted back to sixth at the start of lap 6. This brought Callejas into the mix and an epic battle for between the German and Spaniard as they fought ferociously for sixth. This, subsequently brought along a battle between Galas, Young and Michelle Halder as they started the seventh lap.

Oriola pulled off with a failure on his Elantra as the field started the seventh lap of the race. Then, another safety car came out. This time, to retrieve the stricken Elantra of Oriola. That wasn’t the only Hyundai in trouble, another Elantra had one of its underside door trim prices fly off on the start/finish line. Which, subsequently, flew into the pit area. Thankfully, no one was hit by it.

With the race distance now at 14 laps. The race resumed on lap 9. Seeing Coronel move past Vervisch for second. In a fantastic overtake. As the race entered its final laps, the action got close and, in some cases, clumsy. Jack Young got forceful with Files in the second half of the lap. Sending the Brit down to eighth after being a very competitive fifth. Vervisch got into a battle with Mike Halder, who was now fourth, and was hoping to end his season with a podium. Meanwhile, further back, the RC2 Jr Audis of the Fernandez twins had a twin excursion in  the gravel pit of the final corner. As, back upfront, Young was now challenging Kiim Gavrilov for fifth. The Irishman making it past the Russian in the final couple of laps.

But, no one could touch Franco Girolami. He lead the race with a very commanding fashion and crossed the line to win the final race of the 2022 season. Coronel took second and with it second place In the title race. Vervisch taking third, despite being hotly pursued by the Hondas of Mike Halder and Young. Callejas, Butti, Baldan, Viktor Davidovski and a recovering Jachym Galas round out the final top 10 of the season. Coronel would take the fight for second in the championship with Files, Callejas, Gavrilov, Young, Baldan, Mike Halder, Galas and Filippi rounding out the final championship standing. Franco Girolami, the clear and dominant championship of the 2022 TCR Europe series.

So, that’s it folks. Not only the end of a fantastic weekend but also, an incredible season. A season that has been full of drama, excitement and emotion. As some of the worlds finest touring car stars battled over 13 closely fought races to see who would, ultimately, become TCR European champion. In the end it was Argentina’s Franco Girolami, who showed the field who was boss in an history championship season. A season that will, surely go down in the annuls of TCR Europe History.


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