Jessica Bäckman 8th in TCR Europe race 2, as Michelle Halder recovers to P13
Updated: Aug 24
In the TCR Europe second race at Paul Ricard, Jessica Bäckman had her first top-10 of the season, finishing P8 after a mixed weekend at Le Castellet, as Michelle Halder had an exciting start to her continental campaign with a P13 finish.
The opening weekend of the European TCR series saw two female racers on the grid: Swede Jessica Bäckman, racing for Target Competition in her Hyundai i30 N TCR alongside her brother Andreas - and Michelle Halder, making her series debut for ProfiCar Team Halder in a Honda Civic Type R TCR.
The weekend of Jessica and Michelle was full of turns of events: Bäckman had a great qualifying, as she topped Q1 and was seventh at the end of a very competitive Q2. She then fought at the top-end of the field for most of Race 1, before being crashed out by an errativ move by Pepe Oriola on the main straight, which damaged her left-rear wheel.
On the other hand, Michelle had a tougher qualifying as she was P20 after encountering traffic. The young German was then on the move in Race 1, moving up the order until almost reaching the top-10 in her first weekend of the continental touring cars championship.
In the second race, contested in another very warm Sunday at Le Castellet, south of France, Jessica Bäckman lined up alongside her brother Andreas on the second row, slotting in in fourth. Michelle Halder was 17th on the starting grid, while her brother and teammate Mike was leading the field on reverse-grid pole.
When the lights went out, Mike Halder had a slower start than Toufik in second - protagonist of an incredible getaway. His sprint, though, was deemed to be a jump start, and the Moroccan driver received a drive through penalty. The Bäckmans were fast in the opening corners, but Jessica found herself on the outside of a three-car battle going into Signes on lap 1. She had to lift and was passed by a couple of competitors, dropping to sixth. Teddy Clairet advanced into third in one of the fast peugeot 308 TCR, while Jimmy Clairet was back into the pits with technical troubles. Teddy then battled hard with Girolami for the runner-up position - the two banging wheels in more than an occasion.
Michelle Halder was soon up to 15th place and spent the whole race in trying to advance up the order with entertaining fights with Homola and Oriola. She moved up to P14 as Tom Coronel pitted with issues and retired.
Bennani, trying to recover from ninth on the grid, managed to overtake Jessica Bäckman, leaving the Swede under the pressure of Julien Briché. The driver of the #24 Peugeot made contact with Jessica and gained the position, only to lose it soon after as he straight-lined the chicane.
Further up, Teddy Clairet was busy defending from the attacks of Andreas Bäckman, thus allowing Mike Halder to build a safe margin in the lead. Jessica also caught up with that battle, but had her mirrors full of the fast charging Daniel Lloyd, winner of yesterday's first race. The Brit made a bold move at the last corner and passed Bäckman, who also had to surrender seventh place to Target Competition's teammate John Filippi.
On the final lap, an exciting battle for third all the way down eighth place saw Teddy Clairet clinching a podium spot, with Andreas Bäckman leading Mehdi Bennani and Daniel Lloyd across the line.
Victory went to Mike Halder after an oustanding and flawless drive.
Briché, tenth at the finish line, was penalized with a 5-second time penalty for not respecting track limits and dropped to P14. The penalty meant that Michelle Halder was 13th - again completing a stunning first round in the TCR Europe in the the points-scoring positions.
"I had again a good start, I gained some positions." - said Michelle .
"This race was pretty much the same as the first one, with good speed and a lot of battles. I am just very happy about our first weekend in the TCR Europe."
Jessica Bäckman was eighth, finishing a promising weekend with less points than expected but with plenty of hopes for the remainder of the season:
"The weekend started tough for me, but I am very proud of myself and the team that we managed to come back so strong in to the qualifying and set the fastest lap time in Q1. In Q2, I also showed that I am one of the fastest and I feel that I have taken a big step when it comes to qualifying performance this year compared to last year. Saturday's race was of course a big disappointment when I had to retire."
"In Race 2 I took valuable points for the championship, so now we are reloading for the next race in a few weeks’ time and we will be back fighting for more."
As TCR Europe now heads to racetracks less-influenced by straight line speed, the 21-year old Swedish racer should be able to return high up the order, where she proved to belong.
The next round will be at Zolder in three-weeks time.