29th June 2018

Josh Files, TCR’s MVP

British racer Josh Files is one driver who has been successfully plying his trade in the world of tin-tops, with the 2017 season being his busiest so far.  Alex Goldschmidt delves a bit deeper into how the Norfolk driver became involved in the TCR racing scene, which has now seen him pick up three titles over the past two years, and become a driver in demand

Many drivers from our shores have made a name for themselves in various different categories over the past few decades, but there is one driver that is very much in demand – Josh Files. Before he first got his experience of a TCR racer at the 2015 TCR International Series finale at Macau, the 26-year-old came through the Renault Sport racing scene, picking up the 2013 UK Clio Cup and Clio EuroCup titles in the process.

Files would partner up with now Hong Kong-based Brit Dan Wells in the former Portuguese colony, each driving an Opel Astra TCR around the 6.2-km Circuito de Guia. The former was not initially impressed by the Astra itself, with the three-door hatchback being far from what he initially thought a TCR car may perform like. However, a meeting with a team that had just won the International Series Team Trophy changed his outlook.

“I wasn’t looking into TCR in any massive detail,” Files admitted, revealing that Target Competition’s Andreas and Markus Gummerer had actually approached him to test with them. “I learned about it from a chap called Michele Rangoni, who was at the time racing Clio Cup Italia. He asked me to race for him there, which I did in 2014 with Rangoni Corse, finishing third overall. I heard about TCR because of him, and so when TCR International got up and running the year after, I followed it and got the chance to go to Macau’.”

So when the Briton headed off to work with Target Competition for the first time, he knew that the team’s intentions of being successful were not being taken lightly. “All their equipment and trucks were brand new, along with former-DTM engineer Albert, who is no fool, when it comes to strategies,” explained Files, who has been given the nickname “Feile” by the South Tyrol-based outfit, which is also emblazoned the doors of his Honda Civic Type-R TCR.  “It showed that they had success in everything that they have done. They do throw money at it to make sure that they win. I jumped at the chance to join them, as the opportunity was too good to miss.”

“There are quite a few big names set to go into it, along with some really big names talking about it, giving it real consideration, if they do go in, it’ll be a big shock to many”

This Brit then joined the ranks of the ADAC TCR Germany Series for the inaugural 2016 season with Target Competition, opting to go for the Honda Civic. From that moment, Files has shown his calibre in a truly international field. He is the only driver to have won drivers’ titles in TCR Germany so far, as well as taking a clean sweep of victories to secure the TCR Middle East driver early in 2017 with
Lap 57 Motorsports.

With regards to the TCR programme’s ever-increasing expansion going further afield, news broke back in July that TCR UK would be joining the party for 2018. This was not a surprise to Files, who said that he knew it was happening a year in advance of the news being confirmed, even with no real game plan being put into action by TCR UK, which will be run through the British Racing and Sports Car Club.

“It wasn’t really a shock, but having said that, I didn’t know at the time what their plans were, the package they were planning to put together, etc,” said Files, who feels that TCR UK will be “a hit,” along with working its way towards being a direct competitor to the British Touring Car Championship
in due course.

“What they are doing with it now, making it its own series and being a stand-alone, top bill championship in its own right is absolutely the right direction to go. There are quite a few big names set to go into it, along with some really big names talking about it, giving it real consideration, if they do go in, it’ll be a big shock to many.”

Josh Files was quick to point out that a lot of BTCC-dedicated fans feel that the emergence of TCR UK is going to be “useless for our championship”, but I can see his chain of thought on how TCR UK can make a hefty impact on its début season. The BTCC will have to work harder to keep its spot at the top of the high-profile, tin-top ladder here in the UK.

“To be honest, I think they are going to have to adopt the TCR regulations, but not necessarily in the near future – maybe in about three to four years’ time,” said Files. “They’ll more than likely take on the TCR regulations and merge with TCR UK, thus becoming the BTCC, because the cars are getting faster and faster and they are also three times cheaper than the BTCC cars to buy.

“They’re already as fast, if I’m honest, and because I’ve driven some BTCC cars, I can say that I don’t really like them, whereas ours are so much nicer to drive. Everyone whom I have spoken to that has driven both has literally said ‘Wow!’ about the TCR car, as they feel it is a real racing car. The concept is right and it is the best way to go, touring car-wise, and there are plenty of manufacturers that have come in.”

Cost in motorsport is on the increase. Five manufacturers already involved in the BTCC, are putting in some considerable money, which is stopping good, young talent from graduating in the championship. This means that they are having to look elsewhere for competitive drives. Although Files’ thinking, seeing the potential of his experiences using TCR machinery, is that there could be a noticeable shift in the way TOCA may have to adapt to ensure its survival.

Files also has a good association with UK racing outfit Team Pyro, who helped him in the Renault Sport UK Clio Cup and Eurocup between 2011 and 2014. He still works with the Leicestershire-based outfit, having been involved more in a supporting capacity to those coming through the ranks, but has no real thoughts about making a one-off appearance with the team in TCR UK.

“It’s not something that we have actually talked about, especially as I’m not one for bringing budget to go racing, which is something I flatly refuse to do. Pyro is talking to some high-level drivers, who are looking to go into TCR UK in the Hondas, so I don’t think that they’ll need me to race the car for them. I’ll be there in a supportive capacity again, as there has always been a role for me there, helping to set up the cars.”

Apart from his adventures in Germany and the Middle East, this hard-charging Brit has also taken part in the TCR Europe Trophy, along with a last-minute call-up to help Norbert Michelisz’s M1RA outfit at the final round of this year’s TCR International Series finale in Dubai.

When Josh Files came into MotorsportDays, he was en-route to Adria International Raceway to race for Target Competition in the TCR Europe Trophy. So this gave him an opportunity to talk about working alongside Giacomo Altoé, with the pair running the same machinery. Altoé had been a mainstay in the 2017 TCR International Series season with both WestCoast Racing and M1RA, before the 17-year-old decided to withdraw from the last two weekends of the season in China and Dubai.

This is a challenge that Files is relishing: “I’ve known Giacomo for a while, so it’s not like he’s new to me, but it will be the first time that we have raced together in the same team,” he said, admitting that he was looking forward to seeing how the young Italian would do against him. “It’s the first time for a long while, where I’ve actually gone into a race weekend, knowing that I’m going to be learning something from my team-mate. In Germany, my team-mates have been learning from me.
It’s quite exciting, as I’ll be learning from Giacomo, as his dad owns the facility at Adria and I’ve not raced there before.

“I think he’s going to teach me a thing or two about Adria and I’ll probably end up doing the same regarding the Honda, which means we could end up being a very strong pairing as team mates, and I think that we can push each other quite hard.”

Adria did not disappoint. Files came up against the sternest of competition with the likes of tin-top legend Gabriele Tarquini in the new Hyundai i30N >> TCR around the Italian circuit, but he still took a victory in race one, before hitting the overall podium in third at the end of the weekend.

The recent International Series finale also saw the Brit behind the wheel of a familiar friend, thanks to M1RA also using the Honda Civic TCR throughout the season. Files was suffering with gearbox and power steering issues during the weekend, but made a fantastic start in the final race of the season around the  3.589-km circuit from 13th on the grid.

Driving the #95 Civic, he was able to take advantage of several on-track altercations, including a hefty hit from Pepe Oriola on Tarquini in the early laps of the final race of the season. Thanks to sheer determination and persistence, he finished behind race winner and outgoing champion Stefano Comini and WestCoast Racing’s Gianni Morbidelli to round off his 2017 season on high.

So what’s next for this talented Brit? Files remains open-minded on what might happen, but admitted that although there are a few options that may come to fruition, he can still see himself staying within the TCR realm for at least the next couple of seasons: “It’s hard, because of my refusing to bring any budget into racing, so it ultimately depends on whether there is someone out there who is willing to put forward the money to have me. Besides that, I still have a very good relationship with both Andreas and Markus [at Target], who are apparently working on something, but I don’t know what that is, as they don’t tell me much.”

To highlight Target Competition’s modus operandi, Files revealed that he didn’t know about going to Adria for the TCR Europe Trophy until the week before the event!

“I’m working on a few things in the direction I’d like to go, and I’m more than likely going to stick with the TCR concept for the next couple of years, as it is still expanding and still growing. It also depends on the future for World Touring Car Championship, where that is going. I think that in the next couple of years, TCR may become FIA-approved, which would enable them to allow works manufacturers’ programmes. I’d like to stay in TCR for the next two to three years, just to see where it goes. I’d like to become one of those household touring car legends.

“I’m working towards a TCR International Series programme, but i’m also fine to remain in Germany, as I think that the German championship is still the hardest to race in, and one of the best. It only gets better. There are many options appearing at the moment, so it is just a matter of time before I make a decision about what I’m doing next year.”

“I’d like to become one of those household touring car legends”

It won’t be long before Josh Files makes his next move within motorsport, which could move him further forward in what has already been an impressive career thus far. Whether he stays in Europe, or goes “International” for 2018, is anyone’s guess, but with the amount of success he currently has as a triple TCR champion, one phone call from the right people might make that very possible.