Published on April 1st, 2019 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Pepe Oriola Joins Solite Indigo Racing for TCR Asia
The fifth season of the TCR Asia Series will return to where it all began in 2015, with the opening round of the 2019 season scheduled for Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia over April 5-7, the new season will feature an array of new teams, and the return of one with a world class driver in one of its two entries.
Solite Indigo Racing made a cameo appearance during the 2018 TCR Asia Series Korea round with drivers Charlie Kang and Hoon Hyun Cho, Kang the standout on his way to claiming the inaugural TCR Korea Championship title last year, whilst Kim Jinsoo claimed a win on his TCR Korea debut with the team, during the final round of that first season.
For 2019 though, the Hyundai customer racing team wanted to step up from the national championship into the leading regional series for TCR cars, and in the process, bring with them a driver who could not only take the fight to three-time champions Engstler Motorsport, but also pave the way for Solite Indigo Racing to build a strong foundation on the global stage. That driver – 2015 TCR International Series runner-up, Pepe Oriola.
A sensation from that very first TCR International Series event – which coincidentally began at Sepang in 2015 – Oriola is a nine-time winner at the very highest level of TCR competition, the Spaniard finishing sixth last year in WTCR before his team withdrew from the 2020 championship. That setback for Oriola allowed the TCR Korea champions to bring the youngest ever winner of an FIA event, into the fold for the season ahead, and provide the Korean Hyundai customer outfit the perfect platform to attack for the TCR Asia Series title.
Over the last 12 months Hyundai have emerged as one of the powerhouses of TCR competition globally, having claimed the WTCR title last year with Gabriele Tarquini, and more recently the inaugural TCR Malaysia title for reigning TCR Asia Series champion Luca Engstler, the German teenager having claimed five round wins in the six round title race, all of which were contested at Sepang International Circuit.
For 24-year old Oriola who will be off the global TCR grid for the first time since its inception in 2015, TCR Asia presents a great opportunity to work with a new manufacturer and a new team, and build his profile in Asia ahead of what is expected to be a return to WTCR duty next season.
“This is a new adventure for me and one I am very happy about,” Oriola told ‘Touring Car Times’. “The Hyundai is a very strong car and has the support of a committed manufacturer behind it, so I am confident that we have a strong season ahead in TCR Asia.”
Oriola’s 2019 team-mate will be South Korea’s Kim Jinsoo a rising star in his home country, Kim will enjoy a significant advantage in having one of the most experienced drivers in the history of the category alongside as his team-mate.
The Solite Indigo Racing team also carries some serious weight in the garage, a competitor who has also tasted success in TCR Asia, Recardo Bruins, one of Korea’s most successful drivers now calling the shots from pit lane in his role as team principal for the Solite Indigo Racing operation, a role he reprises after guiding them to victory in both the Team’s and Drivers’ championships during the inaugural season of TCR Korea.