The first two rounds of the 2018 TCR Middle East Series took place at the Yas Marina International Circuit on Saturday, so heres the TCR Guru roundup of all the action that took place in both Qualifying and the two races…
Giacomo Altoè wins pole position for the opening race
It was a thrilling Qualifying session at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit that saw Giacomo Altoè setting pole position by a very slim gap for the opening event of the 2018 TCR Middle East series.
The young Italian moved up to the top of the time sheet when there were only ten minutes left in the session. Altoè clocked a provisional fastest lap of 1:47.710 that was only 20 thousandths of a second faster than Luca Engstler 1:14.730.
A few moments later they both improved – Altoè to 1:14.569 and Engstler to 1:14.673 – locking up the front row for Race 1. Mat’o Homola (1:14.782) and Florian Thoma (1:14.851) ranked third and fourth, two and three tenths from the pole respectively.
Kai Jordan claimed a brilliant fifth place (1:15.021) ahead of a trio of drivers who were all covered by four hundreds of a second: Jordi Oriola (1:15.263), Giovanni Altoè (1:15.267) and Lorenzo Veglia (1:15.305). Alberto Vescovi was sixth, not far away (1:15.619), while Costas Papantonis was disappointed; in fact he was forced to stop early by an issue with the rear suspension that prevented him from repeating the times he had set earlier in Practice.
As a consolation he will be on pole position of the top-ten reverse grid for Race 2. A place that Martin Ryba missed by only four hundreds of a second.
Drivers’ quotes after the Qualifying session
Giacomo Altoè (pole position): “I’m over the moon. We have been able to show the great potential of our car. Everything worked perfectly and it was a great result, for the team and for myself. We have worked very well in setting up the car and this paid off as my pole position time was very impressive.”
Luca Engstler (2nd fastest): “It was really close. The team has done a very good job and I was confident I could set pole position myself. Unfortunately I made a small mistake in my fastest lap, otherwise I could have beaten Giacomo. But I’m very happy with the car and tomorrow I want to win the first race.”
Mat’o Homola (3rd fastest): “I’m happy. I was improving every lap, as I had to get used to the car that is very different from the one I drove last year. It is a good result, but because the gaps between the top four drivers are so small, I’m also a bit disappointed. In fact, taking away two tenths would have meant to be on pole.”
Florian Thoma (4th fastest): “I really tried my best, but it was not enough. I have lost something in the last sector and this cost me a couple of tenths. However, I feel good in the car and I’m confident for the races.”
Giacomo Altoè and Luca Engstler shares victories as a penalty deprives Lorenzo Veglia of a Race 2 win
The opening event of the 2018 TCR Middle East International Series delivered a couple of eventful races at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.
Giacomo Altoè (Audi RS3 LMS run by Pit Lane Competizioni) and Luca Engstler (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTI) emerged as the race winners and left Abu Dhabi as first and second in the standings.
Altoè claimed an authoritative lights-to-flag victory in Race 1 from a trio of Golf cars driven by Mat’o Homola, Engstler and Florian Thoma.
The second race was much more exciting with a tough battle for the lead between Lorenzo Veglia, Thoma and Engstler. The three made a few contacts that forced Thoma to retire with a broken suspension while in first position and then cost Veglia a 30-second penalty for hitting and passing Engstler on the final lap.
Race 1 – Giacomo Altoè wins from Homola and Engstler
Giacomo Altoè converted his pole position into a victory in the opening event of the TCR Middle East International Series at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.
The Italian driver sprinted at the start in his Audi RS3 LMS and never looked back, as he was able to keep Mat’o Homola’s Volkswagen Golf GTI at bay in the first part of the race before increasing his leading gap in the final laps.
Homola was able to maintain the second place, although he was closely chased by the Liqui Moly Team Engstler duo of Luca Engstler and Florian Thoma who also delivered a thrilling fight for the third position.
Behind them, Lorenzo Veglia overtook Kai Jordan for fifth.
Race 2 – Veglia beats Engstler after making contact
TCR returnee Lorenzo Veglia crossed the line first at the end of a closely-fought second race at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
After taking the front at the start, Veglia led most of the race ahead of Liqui Moly Team Engstler teammates Florian Thoma and Luca Engstler. The final laps were red-hot, with Thoma trying to find a gap; on lap 15 the young Swiss clashed with Veglia at Turn 7 and took the lead ahead of Engstler. However, two laps later Thoma was forced to retire with a broken suspension.
Engstler inherited the lead, but on the last lap he and Veglia made contact; the Italian got the better of the situation and crossed the line first, with a slim margin.
Kai Jordan finished a comfortable third ahead of Race 1 winner Giacomo Altoè and Mat’o Homola.
After the race, Veglia was given a 30-second penalty for hitting Engstler on the final lap. This dropped Italian from first to eighth, while Engstler inherited victory, with Kai Jordan and Giacomo Altoè promoted to second and third respectively.
Quotes from the podium finishers in both Races
Giacomo Altoè (Race 1 winner): “I’m super happy. I was able to make a good start and I had a very good pace to keep the lead for the whole distance. The car’s set up was perfect and everything went well. I tried not to push too much in the first half of the race to save the tyres, and this helped me to stretch my gap in the final laps.”
Mat’o Homola (second in Race 1): “I made a very good start, overtaking Luca. Maybe I could have tried to pass Giacomo as well, but I had some issues with the gearbox. Then I followed him, but his car was faster on the straight and in the quick corners. I was pushing like hell, hoping that he would make a mistake, but he didn’t. Second place in the first race is good.”
Luca Engstler (Race 2 winner and third in Race 1): “These were tough races. In the first one I had a lot of understeer and lost contact with Homola in the first half. And then I had to defend my third place from Thoma. In the second race I was in the lead, braked in the usual position, turned in and Veglia crashed into the back of my car. I’m a bit angry, because he didn’t say sorry, but I’m pleased that the Stewards decided to act.”
Lorenzo Veglia: “I was very pleased and satisfied. I didn’t think I could be so competitive on my comeback to TCR after two years of GT racing. It was a tough and thrilling race. At the beginning it looked easy, because I had a small gap, but then the two Engstler boys were on my back and it was difficult to keep them behind. We made a few contacts, but it’s part of the Touring Car game. I don’t think there was something beyond the rules.”
Kay Jordan (third in Race 2): “I made e very good start and jumped to third. This gave me a big boost to fight for the position and I was able to keep a good pace for the whole race. I’m an old man and finishing ahead of young and fast drivers like Giacomo and Homola was great, especially when you think that I hadn’t raced for six months due to a problem with a leg.”
Giacomo Altoè left Abu Dhabi as the first series’ leader with 45 point, while Engstler is second, only one point adrift. Homola lies in third position with 33 points. The championship will resume next week (26 and 27 January) at the Dubai Autodrome for rounds 3 and 4.
As per usual, I will be keeping things up to date on here with the blog as well as with the members of the TCR Talk International Facebook Group & the TCR Talk UK Facebook Group & The TCR UK Fans Group who will also be sharing their thoughts as well as any news from FIA WTCR, The TCR Europe Series, Regional & Domestic TCR Series and any news on the TCR UK Series that starts in 2018.
Please note that all images in this blog post are used courtesy of WSC / TCR Middle East Series
Until next time, all the best!