For the first time in history, Romania will have its own structure in international GT Racing as the national-branded structure based on Willi Motorsport club will be called “Endurance Team Romania”, also spotting the flag colors.
The launch event took place at the Toyota dealership in north Bucharest, where the national press had its first opportunity to get in contact with the stakeholders of the team. The core project for the first year will be to attend three 12-hour races with a stable quartet of drivers.
Rallies and hillclimb races kept going after the fall of Communism in Romania, whilst circuit racing has been hit hard when legislation no longer allowed street racing. Only after the inauguration of Motor Park Romania, the first dedicated racing facility in the country, at the end of 2014, there was a renaissance of touring car racing. This year, an endurance series was also born and the protagonists quickly set their sights on going abroad as well.
Four drivers have gathered under the Endurance Team Romania banner, purchasing a Toyota GT86 CS-V3 that complies with the regulations of the Hankook 24h Series by Creventic. Their aim for 2017 will be to participate in the three 12-hour races that are run only by daytime at Mugello (Italy), Red Bull Ring (Austria) and Imola (Italy).
Sergiu Nicolae – vice-champion of the national touring car series (Logan class) in 2015, two race wins in Romanian endurance and three podiums (Am class) in SRO European GT4 Series;
Ștefan Unchiașu – third in the national touring car series (VW Lupo class), two race wins in Romanian endurance;
Fabrizio Broggi – experience motorcycle racer, four-wheel racing experience in TVR Tuscan Challenge (UK);
Mihai Costin – multiple race winner in SCCA-sanctioned endurance events in Florida (USA).
Fabrizio Broggi was unable to attend the event due to a recent injury sustained in Jerez, while Mihai Costin’s absence was due to the preparation of the Florida winter preparation program. Sergiu Nicolae and Stefan Unchiasu will join him this week in the US for a first testing session at Homestead (Miami), followed by the SCCA races at Sebring and Road Atlanta.
During the launch presentation there was a connection with the past of Romanian circuit racing, as heralded racer Victor Nicoara thrilled the audience with stories from another era. Meanwhile, Adrian Mitu showcased a live painting session using coffee, using the GT86 model as inspiration. At the end of 2017, his artwork will be auctioned for charity, together with precious sporting memorabilia.
Victor Nicoară (ex-driver)
Racing on a circuit gives you a formidable feeling. Back in the day, we were saying:”Who saw you race?” We had a huge crowd in Romania: a club like Resita, where important figures supported the sport, aroudn 30-40.000 paying spectators gathered on the streets. We really cherished those memories, together with our families. I want to give some advice to the future team: they should really stick to the training schedule, they must learn all the car’s symptoms. There is no other way to succeed!
Cătălin Manea (Motor Park Romania circuit owner)
We have initiated the Motor Park project fueled by our passion for the sport, hoping that one day we will witness events like this one. It really means a lot to me – in Romania, we can see a sport growing when most others are suffering. The authorities should also see this and support the new wave. All our chores fade when we have such results. Best of luck!
Viorel Nicolae (manager Endurance Team Romania)
For so many years, this has only been a dream for me and now we are actually building it. The 24h Series is one of the most important championships in the world of endurance – a large battlefield and a very high standard. Some may say that we made too much of a big step, too high or too quick. I say that the GT86 is a very docile entry-level car, perfect for our current level. Our first victory would be to finish the Mugello race and our strategy will be really risk-averse, as our drivers already have the experience to obey such indications.
We chose the GT86 after my experience in the US, where I converted a stock model into a racing one together with my teammate Mihai Costin. That one is quite similar to the specs that the CS-V3 has. I fell in love with it right away – the Toyota has some great potential, it is well-balanced. Definitely the right choice for the team that we formed now, it gives us maximum reliability and really good aerodynamics.
Sergiu Nicolae (driver)
We will start 2017 with the American winter preparation, the highlight being a 14-hour race in Sebring with my teammate Stefan. Afterwards, we come back to Romania and we keep on testing for the spring races in Mugello and Red Bull Ring. The national races we did the last two years were a solid base, as there is a major difference between sprints and endurance events. We must find our pace, always keeping an eye on preserving the car intact. We worked a lot to improve pit-to-car communication with our race manager. It is now time to move further up the ladder!