After being launched in 2008 as a popular one-make Touring Car Series alongside the FIA World Touring Car Championship, where SEAT were a leading front runner, the SEAT Leon Eurocup has always attracted some of the best drivers from across the globe, who are looking to climb into Touring Cars or make a name on the International stage. Since its relaunch in 2014 after SEAT closed down Motorsport activities in 2011, the brand new TCR based SEAT Leon Cup Racer has produced a new collection of drivers, aiming to crown themselves a champion in a competitive international series.
In its third year under the new specification, the championship would visit seven circuits over 2016 and after starting at Estoril, Portugal for round one, round two saw twelve drivers visit the famous Silverstone circuit, with Norwegian Stian Paulsen the series leader after taking victory in race two in Portugal. Carrying a total of forty-four points into Silverstone, Paulsen held a four point advantage over closest rival, Mikel Azcona, who in the PCR Sport backed SEAT, recorded victory in the opening race of the 2016 season, before recording fifth in race two. With a competitive field of international talent, two British drivers would be looking for the home crowd to get behind them at Silverstone, driving for Zest Racecar Engineering and Wolf Racing. In the Zest Racecar Engineering prepared SEAT and looking to score his first points of the season on home soil was Lucas Orrock. The former Volkswagen Cup competitor had a difficult weekend at Estoril with a DNF in race one and twelfth in race two, effectively lying thirteenth in the series on zero points. In terms of the other Brit in the field, former Renault Clio Cup competitor Alex Morgan was in his second season of the SEAT Leon Eurocup and ended 2015 with one win at the Nurburgring and fifth in the overall standings. For the 2016 season though Alex started his campaign within the points in both races and held a total of fourteen points coming into his home round. With both drivers on familiar territory, it would be interest to see how they got on against the competition and set themselves up for the rest of the campaign.
Three winners from Three Races
The opening race for the SEAT Leon Eurocup at Silverstone took place on Saturday afternoon, whilst all of practice and qualifying had occurred on the Friday. With track conditions perfect and the sun shining in Northampton, Niels Langeveld lined up on pole position for the BAPORO team, with the No.1 SEAT of Mikel Azcona alongside in second. With Championship leader Stian Paulsen down in eighth and being 1.156 seconds off the pace in qualifying. On row four of the grid, Paulsen would find himself having to overhaul the Brits in front him, who on home soil qualified well in third and sixth. With experience of the Silverstone and in his second year, Alex Morgan bagged himself a row two spot for the Wolf Racing team, whilst Cambridge’s Lucas Orrock lapped the Silverstone circuit just over a second slower than Langeveld to line up sixth.
When the lights went out, Langeveld got a lighting start from the front row to lead the field into Corpse corner, with Azcona slotting into second. As Alex Morgan battled hard to hold onto third off the line, an awesome start from Stian Paulsen brought the championship leader from eighth to well within the top five, however this wasn’t without a bit of the contact. The driver who unfortunately lost out in it all on the opening lap was Briton’s Lucas Orrock, who went three wide through the corners and collected some rear end damage. This dented the momentum of Orrock, who dropped back and into the clutches of the drivers behind.
As the race went on, Langeveld came under pressure from Azcona who pushed hard in second, whilst Championship leader Stian Paulsen moved into third and gapped the drivers behind. As a battle raged over fourth between Morgan and Beirao Da Vei, Orrock was within a pack that included Lucile Cypriano and Julien Briche over sixth position, with the three running side by side for a lot of the laps. As the three came down to Brooklands by the halfway mark of the race, Orrock was tipped up onto two wheels after contact with Julian Briche. The incident affected both cars, however for Lucas the rear wheel damage from the first lap slowly got worse as a result and this dropped him away from a good finish. The Brit tried to fight on but could feel the car sliding around on him and losing grip fast.
On the final lap of the Silverstone circuit, Niels Langeveld had pulled out a comfortable margin over Azcona to record his first win of the 2016 season, by a margin of 2.987 seconds. With Paulsen holding third position, a podium was secured subject to any dramas. Third to Azcona though saw Paulsen lose the championship lead to the Spaniard Azcona ahead of race two and would potentially set up a cracking race two. Just outside the podium places, Alex Morgan had a titanic tussle with Beirao Da Vei over fourth place, with the two running nose to tail and Morgan desperately looking for a way pass for fourth. Morgan had to settle for fifth at the flag, however post-race Beirao Da Vei was hit for a penalty for track limits and fell to seventh, promoting lady racer Lucile Cypriano into fifth, who had dropped back on the battle fourth in the closing stages. For the other Brit on the grid, Lucas Orrock unfortunately suffered from multiple hits to the rear of the car, limping back to the pits and taking the flag within the pit lane, resulting with a eleventh place finish. The Zest Racecar team went to work for hours afterwards to repair the car and get Lucas prepared for race two, which would take place on the Sunday morning.
SEAT Leon Eurocup – Round 3, Silverstone – Top Five:
- Niels Langeveld (No.10 – BAPORO) = 11 Laps = 24:33.223
- Mikel Azcona (No.1 – PCR Sport) = +2.987s
- Stian Paulsen (No.34 – Paulsen Racing) = +9.618s
- Alex Morgan (No.5 – Wolf Power Racing) = +13.428s
- Lucile Cypriano (No.9 – JSB Competition) = +15.020s
Paulsen takes Controls as the Dust is raised
For the second and final race of the weekend, the results from qualifying were reversed and as a result, Julian Briche lined up on pole position. After qualifying eighth, Stian Paulsen had a good grid position for the second race, however when the lights went out, a lot of the cars came together and this completed shuffled the field. After winning the opening race on Saturday, Niels Langeveld ended up going from hero to zero, as he had a coming together with the pole sitter and retired on the spot. Julien Briche limped round to the pits after the incident and retired not long after, leaving Stian Paulsen to lead the field.
With the pack shuffled from carnage on the opening lap, Lucas Orrock found himself in third place and chasing down Pol Rosell who held second. With the two running bumper to bumper on the third lap, Orrock went for a pass at Village and tried to go side by side, collecting the rear end of Rosell and in the processing breaking the wishbone on his own car. Rosell would drop way down the order as a result, however Orrock pulled to the side and ended the weekend unfortunately with zero points, after showing signs in the race of having good pace and looked on for a podium finish.
With one Brit out of the race, it was down to Alex Morgan to lift the home crowd and after charging through the field, found himself on the rear end of Lucile Cypriano, who was also closing in on the battle for second between Beirao Da Vei and Della Motta. In typical Touring Car fashion, four drivers were swapping positions over and over again, before Della Motta fell to fourth and left Morgan and Cypriano to go to war over third position. At nearly every corner the position of third wasn’t secured, before finally Alex Morgan got the better of Lucile Cypriano and then set his sights on Lourenco Beirao da Vei.
At the chequered flag, Stian Paulsen collected his second win of the year by well over four seconds and regained his championship lead, after a comfortable drive out front. After the dust had settled from the earlier contact, Paulsen securely controlled proceedings on a circuit where he had won before (2015) and broke away from the field to record another win. Whilst Paulsen had driven clear, the battle for the final podium spots was only clarified on the final lap, when Alex Morgan couldn’t get the better of Lourenco Beirao da Vei and then had to defend off Lucile Cypriano for third. With Lourenco Beirao da Vei collecting another second place finish for the PCR Sport team at Silverstone, there was delight for the home crowd with Morgan securing a place on the podium in third, after what was an entertaining tussle throughout the whole race. Lucille Cypriano would take fourth after a stunning drive from way down the grid, whilst Facundo Della Motta completed the top five, after closing in on the battle ahead to be within half a second of Cypriano at the flag.
SEAT Leon Eurocup – Round 4, Silverstone – Top Five:
- Stian Paulsen (No.34 – Paulsen Racing) = 11 Laps = 24:46.729
- Lourenco Beirao da Vei (No.20 – PCR Sport) = +4.818s
- Alex Morgan (No.5 – Wolf Power Racing) = +5.149s
- Lucile Cypriano (No.9 – JSB Competition) = +5.607s
- Facundo Della Motta (No.44 – BAPORO) = +5.963s
With four rounds of the SEAT Leon Eurocup now completed, the drivers and teams face five trips across Europe to finish the fourteen round season. Next stop is the famous Marseille circuit of Paul Ricard, situated in the heart of France and recognised as one of the fastest tracks in Europe. With rounds five and six in France on the 4th and 5th June, the series will then switch to Mugello in Italy on 16th and 17th July before having a lengthy break over the month of August. With the championship resuming in September, the Red Bull Ring in Austria will play host to rounds nine and ten and is new to the calendar since the rebirth of the SEAT Leon Eurocup. Rounds eleven and twelve will see the Eurocup return to the venue which began the rebirth of the championship back in 2014, the Nurburgring, on the 17th and 18th September, before the championship completes its 2016 season on home territory in Barcelona, Spain on the 5th and 6th November, where the champion will be crowned.
For more information about the SEAT Leon Eurocup and to keep up to date with the championship standings and results, please visit www.seat-sport.com/eurocup
For more of our photos from the Seat Leon Eurocup action at Silverstone, please visit our photo album here.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs for Collierhousehold Motorsport