It was a sad moment when the checkered flag dropped in Bathurst back in 2012, at the final race of the fourth VTM season. The days of the Touring Car Legends mod, that formed one of the most important championships and formed TPS to the league that it is now, seemed to be over.
But nothing lasts forever, not even a TPS announcement that rFactor and Touring Car Legends are outdated, and VTM is back. On rFactor, with the Touring Car Legends mod. With the race format, tracks and cars from VTM season 2, one of the true classic seasons in TPS history: VTM Classic.
TPS’s own, taller version of Bernie Ecclestone, Ryan Callan, made the plans in a small room with dimmed light in the basement of the TPS headquarters. According to rumours, Toby Davis, who announced his retirement from TPS not too long ago and left in anger, was spotted there, negotiating with Callan. But at the end of the day, we will never know. Callan announced the league and it was certainly a surprise for many drivers.
11 different cars are available to choose from, 11 different cars will be on the grid, and over 40 drivers have signed up. These drivers include two TPS champions and several race winners. None of them has won the VTM title yet though, so everyone will be hungry.
Even back in season 2, the Volvo seemed to be an unlikely car to win the championship in. While it offers good cornering abilities, it has the aerodynamic effect of a fridge and very low top speed. And so a lot of it was down to the skills of Peter Duivelaar, who proved to be exceptionally consistent even on tracks where the Volvo was weaker than it’s opponents. Evgeny Volkov also did a few strong races, but this season, both drivers have decided not to return.
In fact, only one Volvo is in the whole field, driven by Finnish hotshot Juha Tuunainen. “The Juha” is famous for his hotlapping pace, but never got a podium in his TPS career. He will drive the red car with #19.
Second place was taken by Rover and Ben Crooks. The Rover excells with its excellent turn-in with pretty much no understeer at all, its high drag and decent tyrewear. Even on the straights the car can more or less keep up with the faster and heavier machines. The downside is the extremely tricky handling out of the corners.
And Ben Crooks returns! We haven’t seen much recently of the guy who was regarded as one of the best drivers in TPS three years ago. When he was seen most recently in the V8 Supercars, it didn’t seem like it was the same driver behind the wheel. Crooks certainly has to catch up a bit if he wants to repeat the results from season 2.
The star in the Rover is Erik Tveit though. Tveit spent half of season 2 sliding on the roof of his car, but he has matured to one of the top drivers in the meantime. A challenging season in VTM5 with the DRM cars should not distract from the fact that Tveit is a master in the Rover now, and for many he is one of the main favourites in the #4 Demontweeks car.
Alongside Tveit, youngster Lars Brugman returns to TPS, trying to find his promising pace from VV8S again. Brugman is in the classic #20 Steve Soper livery that Adam Eggbeer drove in Season 2. Matt Richards, who showed in VTM5 in the Capri that he has improved dramatically, will drive selected races in Kjell Stenbeck’s former Eurodefi car.
One of the most popular cars, once again, is the Ford Sierra. Many drivers (in other cars!) complained about the Sierra being overpowered. And in fact, the Sierra has good topspeed, oversteery but well controllable handling and is pretty much an all-rounder for the championship. The downside is high tyrewear and bad brakes, and in fact, a Sierra driver has never won the championship.
The one who was closest was definately Toby Davis. Toby finished 3rd in season 2 which was a breakthrough for him, before he lost the championship in dramatic fashion in season 3 at Bathurst. Season 4 was disappointing and a bit later, Toby even retired from TPS, but now he is back to clinch the crown that he missed so closely 2 years ago. As usual, Toby will drive the #21 Kaliber car.
Alongside him, in the #7 Labbatt’s car, it is Chris Butcher. Chris also has plenty of experience in these cars. Back in season 2, he was leading quite often in the early stages of the races thanks to his brilliant starts, but he never managed to take a win. He managed that in season 3 at Norisring though. Butcher himself certainly thinks it’s possible to win the title, but in the opinion of the author, there have been better chances that Butcher has missed.
Further Sierra drivers include Season 2 race winner Tommi Ojala, who is a dark horse again in his Bastos Sierra, and routineer Gary Lennon, who takes the Sierra for the first time in his VTM career. David Jundt will be back in the Texaco livery, but only for a part-season campaign. Finally, VTM routineer Jeff Dobbing makes his return to TPS in the Peter Brock Sierra.
Another car that has proven to be quite popular throughout the seasons in the Alfa Romeo 75. Gregory Degreef was one of the stars of season 2 and took two victories, while William Levesque showed good pace in season 3. The Alfa is quite a bit slower in a straight line than cars like the Sierra, and with its Turbo it is also not easy to drive, but it has excellent brakes and good cornerspeeds.
Jay Adgie, one of the most solid and experienced drivers, returns to TPS in his black and yellow Alfa and he will be joined by Joonas Raivio, who showed in the V8s that he has the potential to become one of the greatest. Joonas returns to simracing after spending the last year serving for the Finnish military. Other drivers include “bad boy” and VCC race winner Oscar Hardwick, TPS newcomer Paul Minnarr, and of course Tony Matthews and Andy Bonar, who will go in the same car again after a very good season in the DRM Toyotas.
A car with similar pace, but different driving behaviour is the BMW M3. The only car with a 6-speed gearbox has never had breakthrough success in VTM, but with the nice handling and iconic design it has always been a popular choice.
Mate Orban has always been fast in historic touring cars, but since he joined Optimum SimRacing, he has become a true all-rounder. Surprises are possible from the Hungarian in the Marlboro car. Another driver who can surprise (and certainly did so in the Clios) is Belgian Andy Vandevelde, who has improved dramatically over the last two years. He will make his VTM debut in the black and yellow LUK car.
Long-time teammates Anders Nilsson and Kjell Stenbeck will drive the season in M3s too. In addition, Sebastian Rosemeyer and Simon Shepherd decided to join after their decent DRM seasons, and TPS regular Daniel B?ck decided to sign up in another M3.
The older BMW model, the 635, was one of the most solid cars in season 3 and 4 with podiums for Strauß, Raivio, McGregor and Burlaka. This season, the weight and tyre situation is not in its favour, so there is a smaller amount of 635s in the field.
Bruno Sousa Ferreira decided to stick with his blue #29 car from season 4, and he will be joined by veteran Lukasz Demolin, who drives the white #30 car.
Another car that has struggled with this seasons performance balancing (but is a little bit underrated in the authors’s opinion) is the Toyota Supra. Remember, this was the car that brought Degreef to his season 1 title, and Taulborg to his season 4 title. Easy handling and good tyrewear characterize the car. And there is only 1 driver, Hungarian Mate Rakosi, who picked the car.
The Mercedes 190 is also regarded as an easy car, however when you watch the season 2 highlight videos and see Kelvin van der Linde sliding through the corners, this might not be entirely true. Pacewise the car is comparable to the M3 or the Alfa, and behind the wheel there are two returnees. Bradley Vanian is one of the main guys behind Optimum SimRacing, but his own simracing career has been stagnating recently. He will be joined by Kris Vickers, who returns to TPS after a very long break.
Now, let’s increase the power a little bit. Who needs brakes, handling or tyre conservation when you can go over 250 kph on the straight and sideways into every corner? That’s what it’s like in the Ford Mustang, and only 2 drivers decided to join in the American beast. Jonatan Acerclinth is one of the most experienced drivers in TPS, and recently he picked up a lot of momentum in the Mini championship. Tim Straub on the other hand is still pretty much a newcomer, and has chosen a huge challenge with his car choice.
A similar car, although a bit more tamed, is the Holden Commodore. Anders Nilsson had some spectactular races in season 2, while Jesper Taulborg did everything right in season 3 and clinched the title.
This time, the Holdens will be led by Rasmus Salo, race winner in season 3 at Salzburgring. At some point, Rasmus looked like a future champion after making the move to THR, but he hasn’t quite made the improvement he needed. With a familiar car though, we can expect a lot from the Finn, who is a pretty tough rival on track. Alongside him, Rhys Gardiner makes an unexpected return to TPS. The Australian, who suffers from being in a completely different timezone than anyone else, decided to ignore his retirement and return for this league.
Also returning is Ole Marius Myrvold in the pink Holden, who has become a fan favourite over the years. There will be another routineer with Lee Palmer, who has a lot of VTM races under his belt.
This can’t be it, right? Where are all the stars from season 5 with the DRM cars? The answer is simple and surprising: In the Nissan Skyline. A car that has largely been ignored by the drivers throughout the years is now the most popular one on the grid. The car is not easy to drive with the high turbo boost effect, but the high topspeed and decent tyrewear mean it’s a force to be reckoned with.
Maybe it is just logical that many DRM drivers don’t want to miss the turbo kicking in brutally, and therefore take the Skyline. Robert Wiesenmüller has been the star of the early part of the VTM season, before technical issues and pushing a little bit too hard meant that he lost out to Taulborg in the end. Wiesenmüller worked a lot on his all-round abilities, so the fact that he has not so much experience in the Group A cars might not hurt him so much.
The star of the second half of the season was Ross McGregor. Four wins for the Scotsman, always against Taulborg in the same car. Only some bad rounds meant that McGregor couldn’t get the title. Unlike Wiesenmüller, McGregor has a lot of experience in the cars and this time goes into the season as one of the outright favourites.
Fellow Scotsman John Munro had his breakthrough win at Österreichring in the Ford Capri, and he will drive the blue Calsonic Skyline. On his day, Munro can be unbeatable when the circumstances are right, but he doesn’t quite have the all-round pace yet, so it remains to be seen how quickly he can adapt to the cars. His pre-season pace looks very promising though.
Then there is Danish Dynamite: Claus Nyring and Peter Henneberg are following the footsteps of Taulborg and Lauritzen, and in the Minis they have proven that they are very fast. The VTM cars are completely different though. Additionally, Pedro Amaral and Ethan Bass have also chosen the Nissan, looking to land a surprise.
And then, there is one of the shooting stars in simracing. Adrian Holm has just started a winning streak in the Clios, was extremely successful outside TPS and now he will make his VTM debut in the black Winfield car. Holm has never been close to winning a TPS title really, but his talent and dedication certainly put him amongst the best drivers.
These are the cars and drivers, now let’s take a look at the tracks.
The season kicks off at Spa-Francorchamps, and the iconic Belgian circuit should not advantage any car in particular. Toby Davis has usually been strong here, however the Nissans look fast in pre-season testing and McGregor scored his first TPS win here in the last season with the DRM cars. Also, the light cars could surprise here as well, given that Degreef won back in season 2 in the Alfa.
Next stop is Suzuka. There was no pre-season testing in Japan, but back in season 2, the track was good for the mid-paced cars. Might this be the first oppurtunity for Erik Tveit?
Then we go to Vitus Park for the first of the sprint rounds. Toby Davis won his first race there in the Sierra, but everyone has to be very careful here to keep it on four wheels. The track showcases the possibilities if someone would lift the motorsports ban in Switzerland and build a track in the Alps, without caring about safety standards whatsoever.
Laguna Seca is next, and the night sprint races will be the biggest chance for all Alfa, Mercedes and M3 drivers. The Nissans and Holdens will struggle a lot on the track, while for the Rovers and Sierras, a surprise is certainly possible.
Afterwards we go to Pukekohe for more sprint rounds. All the cars that didn’t perform well at Laguna Seca will have their oppurtunity here. The Holdens should be good, the Nissans too, but maybe Tveit can fend them off in his Rover.
Back to endurance race length, but still high speed at Salzburgring. Salo got his first win in the Holden here, Tveit got his first win in the Rover, Wiesenmüller scored a perfect weekend in VTM5. The Austrian circuit is one of the most popular tracks of the calendar and will certainly provide good entertainment.
Round 7 of the championship is Brands Hatch, a track that hasn’t been used in TPS that often. But back in season 2, it was the venue of a brilliant strategy battle between Toby Davis and Ben Crooks. It should be very hard to predict on this track which cars we will see at the front.
Then it’s time for Trois-Rivieres. Tommi Ojala will look back in delight, as this was the place of his first and only race win in TPS. The tight and twisty street circuit features one of the tightest corners in TPS history, and the fact that it is a night race doesn’t make it easier for the drivers.
The final race of the championship will be held at Bathurst as usual. The infamous mountain provided lots of drama throughout the VTM seasons; especially Toby Davis won’t have the best memories of the Australian circuit. With such a close and competitive field, it seems very likely that the title will be decided down under again.
The VTM engines will roar again on Wednesday, June 25th at Spa-Francorchamps. Qualifying is at 19:00 GMT (20:00 UK / 21:00 EU) and the races will be broadcasted live at www.touringproseries.com/broadcast.