Tom Coronel is the 2023 TCR Europe Series champion. With a second- and a fourth-place finish in the final race weekend of the year at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the Dutch driver closed the season in style with the Audi RS 3 TCR of Belgian team Comtoyou Racing. « Just awesome, » a buoyant Coronel said after the success in the 34th year of his impressive racing career. « Thanks to everyone who made this possible: all my partners, led by Tricorp and Eurol, the team, Audi and everyone who supported me. There is no doubt that we will properly celebrate this! »
Coronel’s weekend got off to a rather difficult start due to a technical issue in Friday’s first free practice, after which he had to make do with fifth place. « The differential turned out to be locked, » he commented. « We made quite a few changes and also put different springs on the car. » Those efforts paid off as Coronel concluded second free practice with the fastest lap time, a second faster than in the earlier session. « With that, we knew we were on the right track and that the speed was there, » he commented.
This was evident during qualifying on Saturday morning, in which Coronel drove the second fastest time in the first heat and ended up fastest in the second and decisive heat with a time of 1m49.968s. That secured him pole position for the opening race of the weekend, which was held late Saturday afternoon. He also earned three points for the championship by securing pole position, increasing his lead to 13 points. Coronel’s young Belgian team mate Kobe Pauwels, also his rival in the battle for the championship title, had managed to qualify in second place, 0.194 seconds down, securing him a slot alongside Coronel on the front row of the grid.
At the start of the first race, Pauwels had a better getaway and took the lead, with Coronel closing in second. Although Coronel put heavy pressure on his teammate throughout the race, there was no overtaking. « At the start I had a bit of wheelspin, so I lost the lead and Kobe was able to take first place. On the first three laps in particular I tried everything, forcing Kobe to defend heavily, but then I also thought about the points and therefore did not take any unnecessary risks, » Coronel explained afterwards. He continued: « After the recent modification of the track, there are now two fast and long corners at the end of the lap, so you can’t be right behind your opponent, because then you lose all the downforce, so with that the slipstream doesn’t work either. But I’m happy with the result, it was a nice race, and I also got another trophy to take home! »
With a lead of eight points over Pauwels, Coronel started the second race on Sunday just after noon, also the final race of the championship season. For Pauwels, however, the race was over before it had even started, as he parked his car in the pits with a technical issue. As a result, Pauwels was no longer a threat to Coronel. The Dutchman already made up a few places in the opening phase of the race and steadily continued his progess. There was also fierce competition between the Comtoyou team-mates. A safety-car intervention due to Davidovski’s stranded car caused a small interruption, but when the race was released again, Coronel was able to continue the battles. He eventually crossed the finish line in fourth place.
Tom Coronel Tricorp Audi RS3 LMS TCR Europe Champion
What counted most, however, was winning the TCR Europe Series driver’s championship title, in which Coronel ended up with a total of 468 points. John Filippi still came second in the final standings, while the unfortunate Pauwels had to settle for third place in the drivers’ classification. Coronel celebrated the success together with partner Paulien and the children. The title in the TCR Europe Series is Coronel’s second overall touring car title after winning the Dutch championship in the two-litre class in 1992, but of course he has numerous other important titles to his name, including the Japanese Formula 3 and Formula Nippon titles, victory in the Marlboro Masters of Formula 3 at Zandvoort and several privateer driver titles in ETCC, WTCC and WTCR. « TCR Europe Series is one of the most enjoyable series I have raced in: good competition, a good atmosphere and this championship rounds it out, » Coronel said. « Now, I am looking forward to a new and spectacular challenge for next year. »