The TCR Asia Series will return to South Korea for the first time in two seasons this weekend as it joins the maiden event for the new TCR Korea Series with an 18-car field that promises to deliver some outstanding racing.
The TCR Asia title battle has never been closer, with the top four drivers separated by just 21-points - less than the value of a round win - with Malaysian sensation Mitchell Cheah continuing to hold point despite a tough weekend on the streets of Chonburi in Thailand last time out.
Liqui Moly Team Engstler has all three of their drivers in the championship battle with Luca Engtsler 12 points behind his team-mate but just nine clear of round four winner Diego Moran, but the three Volkswagen drivers have to contend with Maximum Racing’s Lo Sze Ho, the Hong Kong-based Honda driver claiming the win last time out at Bangsaen and he sits just three points from the series lead.
They will have no shortage of rivals though, including reigning TCR Asia Series champion Kantadhee Kusiri who returns - not with his championship winning Engstler team - but with the team who claimed the event win last time TCR Asia was at KIC, Malaysia’s Viper Niza Racing.
Then, it was local hero Roelof Bruins who starred - interestingly with the #1 on the door (2015 TCR Asia champion Michael Choi having retired at the end of the maiden season) - proving the worth of local knowledge, which is where the TCR Korea debutantes could have an impact.
Bruins showed that track experience can be of use, especially using the long KIC straights to advantage, something which the TCR Asia regulars will need to discover quickly, with very few of them having past experience of the Korean circuit. One who does however is Douglas Khoo who formed part of the field last time out and will be looking to use that experience to tackle the TCR Asia Cup regulars for valuable points this weekend.
Bruins might not be entered in the field, but his presence will be in the pits, the Dutch-Korean driver managing the Indigo Racing team - for which he competes in GT cars within Asia - from pit lane, keeping a close eye on drivers Charlie Kang and Cho Hoon Hyun, both of whom will campaign the new Hyundai i30 N TCR.
Kang is no stranger to the i30 N TCR having campaigned the car in this year’s Nurburgring 24 Hour event, the journalist and part-time racer helping the Korean manufacturer to fourth in class, gaining valuable experience behind the wheel in the process, that - alongside his KIC experience - could make him one of the wildcards for the TCR Asia Series regulars to negotiate as they look to build their championship hopes.
With experienced GT regular Andrew Kim also entered in the field in an E-Rain Motorsport Volkswagen, the locals - alongside reigning champion Kantadhee Kusiri - will provide plenty of competition for the championship contenders, although many of them will not be TCR Asia point-scorers for the weekend, something the TCR Asia teams will need to remember in the heat of battle.
WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR
The 2018 title battle is on in earnest and you could expect Korea to provide some insight into the way the final round is likely to play out. Like KIC, Shanghai is a long open international class circuit where the emphasis is on the driver, so look to Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Luca Engstler to get his championship back on track this weekend, especially off the back of his maiden TCR Germany victory last time out at Zandvoort just a week ago.
Don’t discount Mitchell Cheah though, the points leader was the round winner at home in Sepang - the other of the Herman Tilke designed F1 circuits on the calendar - where he showed he could match his young German team-mate for pace. He’ll also have the experience of Alex Yoong in his corner this weekend in an effort to counter Engstler’s pace.
Then there’s the unkowns..
Hong Kong’s Lo Sze Ho has been getting more progressively comfortable in the Maximum Racing Honda, and he was a winner last time out in Bangsaen after a wheel-to-wheel battle with the trio of Engstler Volkswagens. He also enjoys strong experience at Shanghai, so will present the three Liqui Moly Team Engstler drivers with plenty to think about, especially as he comes into KIC just three points off the Series lead.
Throw in the experienced Diego Moran and the returning Kantadhee Kusiri who has had limited laps in a touring car since his championship victory last season, reigning TCR Thailand champion Chariya Nuya and local hero Andrew Kim and you have plenty to keep an eye on.
As for the six local drivers, they are relative unknowns although they do have local knowledge on their side, KMSA Motorsport Hyundai driver Kang DongWoo a regular on the podium in production cars in Korea, and like his compatriots, will enjoy strong crowd support, especially in the home grown marque.
The teams will get their first laps of the Korea International Circuit at speed during opening testing on Friday, ahead of official practice and qualifying on Saturday. Sunday will feature both 14-lap races, the first at 10:45am, the second at 2:00pm, both of which will be featured LIVE on the TCR Asia Series Facebook page.
Details of the streams and broadcast times will be available through social media; www.facebook.com/TCRAsiaSerieswhere there will also be news, video clips, images and updates. You can also get involved in the conversation on www.twitter.com/TCRAsiaSeries
Media images from across the event will be available via the TCR Asia website; http://asia.tcr-series.com/index.php/multimedia/photogallery
KOREA INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT
Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Jeolla (South Korea)
Track length: 5.620-kilometres
Circuit first opened: 11 October, 2010
Number of times TCR Asia Series has competed at KIC previously: 1 
TCR Asia lap record (qualifying): Tin Sritrai (Honda Civic TCR): 2:21.137
(race): Andy Yan (Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR): 2:22.402
TCR ASIA SERIES AND SOUTH KOREA
The TCR Asia Series kicked off season 2016 in South Korea where the field was joined by local star Roelof Bruins, the Korean driver using local experience of the former Formula 1 facility to qualify the Viper Niza Racing Seat strongly, then fight through to comfortably win the opening race.he backed up in race two to again be a podium finisher, whilst top qualifier Tin Sritrai used the round to mark himself as one of the drivers to watch in the 2016 season.
HOW THINGS PLAYED OUT LAST TIME AT KOREA INTERNATIONAL..
2016 TCR Asia Series - Rnd#1 (14-laps) - 15 May
Pole position: Tin Sritrai (Team Thailand Honda Civic TCR) - 2:21.137
1. Roelof Bruins (Viper Niza Racing Seat Leon TCR)
2. Andy Yan (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswgen Golf GTi TCR) +1.527
3. Henry Ho (Champ Motorsport Honda Civic TCR) +5.312
2016 TCR Asia Series - Rnd#2 (14-laps) - 15 May
1. Tin Sritrai (Team Thailand Honda Civic TCR)
2. Andy Yan (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswgen Golf GTi TCR) +2.591
3. Roelof Bruins (Viper Niza Racing Seat Leon TCR) +3.503
TCR ASIA SERIES - SOUTH KOREA ENTRIES;
1. Kantadhee Kusiri (Viper Niza Racing Seat Leon TCR SEQ)
3. Alex Liu (Elegant Racing Team Seat Leon TCR SEQ)*
5. Clement Him (Maximum Racing Honda Civic FK TCR)*
8. Luca Engstler (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)
11. Alex Hui (Teamwork Brand New Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)
15. Chariya Nuya (BBR Honda Civic FK TCR)
16. Lee Do Hyeon (E-Rain Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR)*
20. Andrew Kim (E-Rain Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR)
28. Lo Sze Ho (Maximum Racing Honda Civic FK TCR)
29. Mitchell Cheah (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)
30. Kelvin Wong (Elegant Racing Team Seat Leon TCR SEQ)*
32. Diego Moran (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)
65. Douglas Khoo (Viper Niza Racing Seat Leon TCR SEQ)*
66. Nattachak Hanjitkasem (TBN MK ihere Racing Honda Civic FK TCR)
87. Kang Byung Hui (Indigo Racing Hyundai i30 N TCR)
97. Cho Hoon Hyun (Indigo Racing Hyundai i30 N TCR)
101. Kim Byoung Hyun (DreamRacer Racing Team Honda Civic FK7 TCR)
103. Kang DongWoo (KMSA Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR)
Rnd#7/8 - 2018 TCR Asia Series
Korea International Circuit, South Korea
Schedule (KST - GMT +9)
Friday, 24 August, 2018
9:00am - Practice (90-minutes)
2:10pm - Practice (140-minutes)
Saturday, 25 August, 2018
10:10am - Practice#1 (30-minutes)
12:00pm - Practice#2 (30-minutes)
3:30pm - Qualifying#1 (20-minutes)
3:55pm - Qualifying#2 (10-minutes)
Sunday, 26 August, 2018
10:45am - Race#1 (14-laps)
2:00pm - Race#2 (14-laps)
TCR Asia Series Driver’s Championship points (after six rounds of ten)
1. Mitchell Cheah (100-points), 2. Lo Sze Ho (97), 3. Luca Engstler (88), 4. Diego Moran (79), 5. Kelvin Wong (71), 6. Alex Liu (52), 7. Douglas Khoo (37), 8. Abdul Kaathir (22), 9. Clement Him (16), 10. Akash Nandy (13), 11. Ivan Szeto (6)
TCR Asia Series Cup Driver’s Championship points (after six rounds of ten)
1. Kelvin Wong (143-points), 2. Alex Liu (101), 3. Douglas Khoo (86), 4. Clement Him (29), 5. Ivan Szeto (18)
TCR Asia Series Team’s Championship points (after six rounds of ten)
1. Liqui Moly Team Engstler (243-points), 2. Elegant Racing Team (131), 3. Maximum Racing (122), 4. Viper Niza Racing (40), 5. R Engineering (37)
TCR Asia Series Car Model of the Year Championship points (after six rounds of ten)
1. Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR (243-points), 2. Seat Leon TCR (159), 3. Honda Civic TCR (145)