This season, the main Russian racing series SMP RSKG has received another portion of fresh rules, fresh iron and young blood, and it seems that the processes that are now taking place here are increasingly bringing Russian races closer to their European counterparts.
What the new season of the SMP RSKG is preparing for us
You can talk endlessly about what changes are taking place in the racing series, but racing is such a thing that the benefits of these changes cannot be appreciated until you see what is happening on the track with your own eyes. The first stage of the RSKG, which took place in Grozny last weekend, made it possible to make sure that domestic races are becoming more interesting to watch every season.
First of all, this concerns the senior class "Touring", which has been running according to international TCR rules since 2015, but this year it made a huge leap forward, collecting applications for participation from 26 pilots! Two of them dropped out just before the stage - during training for technical reasons and because of an accident, but 24 cars went to the start, and it was loud, beautiful and very fast.
Car fleet renewal
В этом сезоне в российском туринге появился новый автомобиль - Hyundai i30N, на котором в прошлом году Габриэле Тарквини выиграл чемпионат WTCR. Такие Hyundai купили сразу в две команды - один в TAIF Motorsport для действующего чемпиона Дмитрия Брагина, а второй - в «Лукойл Рейсинг» Тим для Ивана Лукашевича. Оба пилота машиной чрезвычайно довольны.
Ivan Lukashevich said the following: “The new Hyundai i30N is positively different in some design features of the suspension and differential, and this is very noticeable - not only from my feelings, but also from how it reacts to changes in settings. Plus, there is a very clear and understandable feedback: if with the previous Audi we often received not quite what we expected, then everything is for sure. TCR has a very clear vehicle leveling tool - BOP (Balance of Performance). We have been stung by up to 97% power this year, but our calendar has almost no long straight lines where power is needed - with the exception of Sochi Autodrom, and I hope the Hyundai i30N suspension will allow us to go faster. We also raised the ground clearance to 90 mm, and Hyundai is now the tallest car in the peloton,but in this one can also find a positive: it means that we can attack the curbs deeper.
In fact, two Lada Vesta Sport TCRs can be called a new car, driven by the pilots of the Lada Sport Rosneft team Mikhail Grachev and Kirill Ladygin. The fact is that this year the car has undergone several important changes, which now allow them to fight with rivals on "foreign cars" not only on equal terms, but even dictate the speed and rhythm of movement. Firstly, the new Vesta got a 1.8 turbo engine, and secondly, instead of the seemingly eternal rear beam, the car received an independent suspension. Plus new brakes, a modified front suspension, new aerodynamic elements, and all this allows you to shoot an average of 0.3 to 0.5 seconds in different situations.
Mikhail Grachev was very pleased with the car after the first stage: "Now we will be able to tune the cars a little better, a little thinner for each track, we will be able to tune separately for the entrance, separately for the exit from the turn - an opportunity that we did not have before."
As for the rest of the peloton, they continue to use cars from previous seasons: Audi RS3, VW Golf TCR, Seat Leon, Seat Cupra and even Honda Civic FK7.
At the same time, all the pilots note that the level of the pilots has grown significantly, and in qualification, at least the Top 10 are very close, within one second. For example, in the second race Gracheva and Dudukalo were separated by 0.008 seconds in the best lap - an excellent example. In addition - again the opinion of the majority of the pilots, with whom they managed to talk, that the machines on Biopi were equalized very correctly, everything went without any complaints. So now any factor will influence the balance of power, any hundredth of a second will count, and now the situation when someone alone will win all races in a row is impossible.
Mikhail Grachev: “Any weight will matter. For example, in the second race we had a reversible grid plus weight ballast after winning the day before; for me and Kirill Ladygin it was very tangible. In the second race Bragin became the best, so now he will receive the weight ballast, and next time someone else will win. There are more opportunities to fight for victory. "
In the Touring Light class, there have also been updates among car brands. This season the Ravon Racing Team is taking part in the class with two Ravon Nexia R3 sedans, which were prepared for the championship by the constructor Sergey Nuzhdin. Efim Gantmakher and Aydar Nuriyev will drive these sedans.
Changes in regulations
One of the newest introductions in the Touring class is superpole, where top-10 pilots distribute grid positions among themselves in the second qualification. This decision was also dictated by a large number of participants.
Another change is the appearance of a new classification within the "Touring" class. Last season, the SMP RSKG Trophy was held for non-professional pilots, this year it was replaced by the RAF Cup for cars with DSG, but since at the first stage there was no quorum for the Cup, only a separate offset was held. Basically, beginners go in this classification, so it was decided to encourage them in this way.
The emergence of young professionals
By the way, about the newbies. There are quite a few of them this season, but I would like to separately mention Ivan Chubarov, a 19-year-old athlete who joined the AKHMAT Racing Team after a long participation in karting and last year's championship in the KZ category immediately into the Touring class and got behind the wheel of the Seat Leon Cupra TCR DSG.
Vitaly Dudin, head of the AKHMAT Racing Team, invited him to the team: “I watched him for two years, saw his driving style, which I really liked, saw how he thinks on the track. As a coach with rich experience, I understand that guys with such karting luggage have an excellent foundation for their future career. First, I called Ivan to take part in local karting competitions, looked at the results, invited him to the team and immediately entrusted him with a powerful car in the top class. Well, why not? He is a master of sports, quickly grasps everything, learns quickly. This is not the first such example in our motorsport - take the same Klim Gavrilov. Vanya is just as talented. "
The appearance of young pilots immediately in the senior racing class is a very good omen. This means that racing teams can already afford to hire professional pilots to achieve high results and are beginning to hunt for talented young people who can compete at the top level - not in their free time from other work, but by devoting themselves entirely to motorsport.
To finish with an overview of the Touring, there is one more important thing to add. According to the head of the SMP RSKG Oleg Petrikov, the International Automobile Federation has approved the TCR Russia series this year. This means that now it is open to foreign participants who can take part in our stages and receive points for the official classification. This season, TCR Russia consists of five stages, which will take place on FIA-licensed circuits - Nizhny Novgorod Ring, Smolensky Ring, Moscow Raceway, ADM Raceway in Myachkovo and Sochi Autodrom.
The organizers of the Russian series sent out invitations to foreign athletes and teams, they are ready to assist both in obtaining visas and in passing through customs, and fully admit the appearance of foreigners at our stages.
But we all understand that, despite the experience and capabilities of our organizers in the delivery of foreign racers to Russia (this experience was repeatedly obtained during the stages of the European Truck Racing Championship), the history of the participation of pilots on their own equipment is rather difficult. It's another matter if they could rent cars on the spot - this would increase the influx of people who wish, but there is no free rental fleet in Russia yet.
New and new-old pilots
If we talk about new pilots, then not only Ivan Chubarov started this year for the first time. The largest number of newcomers went to the starts of the S1600 class - this is how the former "National" is called from the new season. They renamed it in order to bring all the documentation to a common denominator - after all, in the Ministry of Sports in all documents, this class was designated in this way.
Only in the AG Team there were two newcomers at once - Evgeny Mettsker, who comprehends the basics of racing skills from scratch under the sensitive and competent guidance of our racing star Boris Shulmeister, as well as Pavel Kuzminov, who left the last two seasons in the junior class.
By the way, Boris Shulmeister also returned to racing, and also in the AG Team, as a playing coach, but somehow he can't be called a newcomer. It's just that sometimes the new is the well-forgotten old.
Boris said that after the end of his contract as the head of the Mitjets series, he realized how much he missed racing, and at the first opportunity he got, he immediately realized his dream of returning to motorsport not as an organizer, but as an acting pilot.
“Before the start of the new season, we were looking for someone who could become our technical partner,” said Boris Shulmeister. - Initially, I had four options, then two remained, and of the two I chose AG Team. We agreed with Pavel Kalmanovich, who is the frontman of this team, conducted tests, and they fully confirmed our choice. "
Another "comeback" was Yevgeny Meites, who was taking a long break from motorsport for work. True, Zhenya returned back in 2018, but did not spend the season completely and, according to him, managed to roll in only to the last stages.
This year, Meites continues to perform in the Superproduction class on the Lada Granta car, which took part in the Lada Granta Cup many years ago.
“Of course, Lada Vesta, on which my rivals ride and with which I fought during both races, are cars of a completely different level, less demanding on aerobatics, much easier to drive, physically require much less energy. They are much easier to deal with. But before the season, they tried to equalize us, they gave us the opportunity to put other shafts so that we could show a comparable speed. And generally speaking, the result is very positive, and we are much closer to Vesta. If last year there was a difference of 1.5–2 seconds between us, now it has significantly decreased,”said Yevgeny Meites.
It should be noted separately that during both races in Grozny, Meites showed amazing results for a ten-year-old car and received two bronze awards, the first of which, unfortunately, was taken away as punishment for an absolutely amazing battle with Yuri Borisenko, which both pilots transferred from asphalt to grass …
4 million euros at the start in one class
Subaru BRZ returned to the Super Production class this year, winning the 2016 season. They were bought and rolled out by the Sofit Racing Team from Nizhny Novgorod, adding much-needed mass to the class. “Superproduction continues to compete in the combined standings with the Touring Light class - a total of 20 cars entered the start.
Unfortunately, while the number of pilots increased in the "Touring" class, in the S1600, mentioned above, it was significantly reduced. Remember, last seasons I talked about 30 cars in the "National"? Alas, those times have passed, in Grozny the starting grid of the class gathered only 18 participants, and the head of the series, Oleg Petrikov, fears that this number may also decrease.
- I believe that this is due to the financial situation of the athletes. The expenses are quite high, mostly private traders were driving in the class, but the prices for participation in this class averaged 2.5-2.7 million rubles, taking into account the car rental. For teams this is a small amount, but for private pilots it is a lot, and when you need to cut costs, first of all you have to start cutting the budget for an expensive hobby, - said Oleg.
Well, those pilots who have good financial support preferred to move to the Touring class, where the speed is higher, the fight is more interesting, the status is louder, and there are also TV broadcasts on the Match TV channel that are of interest to their partners and sponsors. So we can rather talk about the redistribution of the peloton by classes within the existing number of participants, and the fact is quite possible that, as a result, such a stratification will lead to a reorganization of the championship and the division into professionals and amateurs or professionals and beginners.
According to Oleg Petrikov, the cost of participation in the season in the Superproduction / Touring-Light class is from 5 million rubles, in the Touring - 11-15 million rubles per season. The cost of one car in the "Touring" class is approximately 160 thousand euros.
To be continued! In the next article I will tell you about the races themselves.