2018 TCR Middle East Series Review: Dubai…

The middle two rounds of the 2018 TCR Middle East Series took place at the Dubai 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 and Luca Engstler shared wins at Abu Dhabi

2018-2018 Abu Dhabi Race 1---Race 1 start_01

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.

2018-2018 Abu Dhabi Friday---10 Giacomo Altoe_05

In Race 1 Altoè converted his pole position into a victory. The Italian driver sprinted at the start 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 maintained the second place, although he was closely chased by the Liqui Moly Team Engstler duo of Engstler and Florian Thoma who delivered a thrilling fight for the third position.

In the second race TCR returnee Lorenzo Veglia crossed the line first. He led for most of the race ahead of Thoma and Engstler, but the final laps were red-hot. On lap 15 Thoma clashed with Veglia and took the lead ahead of Engstler.

However, two laps later the young Swiss 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 Giacomo Altoè and Homola.

2018-2018 Abu Dhabi Race 1---8 Luca Engstler_02

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.

Giacomo Altoè is the series’ first leader with 45 points, while Engstler is second, only one point adrift. Homola lies third with 33 points.

Giacomo Altoè to have maximum Success Ballast

The allocation of Success Ballast for the second race meeting of the TCR Middle East International Series follows the championship standings.

2018-2018 Dubai Race 1---10 Giacomo Altoe_07

Giacomo Altoè, who won the opening race in Abu Dhabi and is currently on top of the Drivers’ classification with 45 points will carry the maximum ballast of 30 kilos on board of his Audi RS3 LMS.

The 20 kilos for the second best scorer will be on Luca Engstler’s Volkswagen Golf GTI, as the young German won Abu Dhabi’s Race 2 and is currently second in the standings, one point behind Altoè.

Mat’o Homola – third with 33 points – will be given 10 kilos of ballast.
As a result, the running weights of the first three cars will be: Altoè’s Audi DSG 1285 kg (1250 + 5 BoP + 30 ballast); Engstler’s Golf SEQ 1285 (1285 – 20 BoP + 20 SB); Homola’s Golf DSG 1235 kg (1250 – 25 BoP + 10 SB).

Luca Engstler wins pole position with an amazing lap

Luca Engstler completed a lap of Dubai’s International Circuit with the amazing lap time of 1:44.454 that gave him pole position for Round 3 of the TCR Middle East international series.

2018-2018 Dubai Race 1---8 Luca Engstler_07

The young German drove his Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTI car to smash the 1:45 barrier, while all his competitors remained above that mark. His performance was even more remarkable when considering the 20 kilos of Success Ballast he has to carry.

With a last gasp effort Giacomo Altoè was able to post the second fastest lap of 1:45.127, but still with a gap of nearly seven tenths from Engstler. The Italian too was fighting against the weight, carrying 30 kilos of ballast on board of his Audi RS3 LMS.
This result placed Engstler and Altoè as joint leaders in the standings on equal points.

2018-2018 Dubai Race 1---13 Kai Jordan_02

Kai Jordan confirmed his consistent progress and qualified in a brilliant third position with the time of 1:45.271, just ahead of Danny Kroes (1:45.369) and Mat’o Homola (1:45.411).

Florian Thoma (1:45.670) ranked sixth, with Jordi Oriola and Giovanni Altoè behind him having clocked the same lap time (1:46.316).

Costas Papantonis qualified tenth and will be on pole position on the reverse grid for Race 2 – just like in Abu Dhabi last week – and will have Martin Ryba alongside him.
Lorenzo Veglia could not post a decent lap time due to a broken rear suspension; he will be forced to start from 11th in both 14-lap races.

Drivers’ quotes after the Qualifying session

2018-2018 Dubai Race 2---Luca Engstler

Luca Engstler (pole position): “It was a crazy lap! I knew it was good and I expected to see a 45.0 or maybe a high 44. But when I saw 44.4, I couldn’t believe my eyes! The set up we chose was perfect for qualifying, the car was balanced and performance was not affected by the ballast. But now we have to find something different for the races, because this set up would be too tough with the tyres over the distance. Dubai is really my favourite track: I won last year in TCR Middle East – my first ever Touring Car race – and two weeks ago in the 24 hours.”

2018-2018 Dubai Race 1---10 Giacomo Altoe_02.jpg

Giacomo Altoè (2nd fastest): “I’m quite pleased as it was an unexpected result. We had struggled in the practice sessions and eventually decided to try something different and it paid off. My qualifying lap was really on the limit! I was amazed by Luca’s performance; he has been incredibly quick and it seems that the ballast is not causing him as many problems as it does to us. For sure the ballast will be a factor in the races, in terms of tyre and brake wear. We have to find how to manage them in the best possible way.”

2018-2018 Dubai Friday---13 Kai Jordan_01

Kai Jordan (3rd fastest): “I’m very happy. My goal was to qualify between third and fifth and I did third. I couldn’t expect anything better than this. We have worked a lot to change the set up from the beginning of the first practice and we finally found a configuration that suits my driving style. I have managed to be faster lap by lap and to reduce the braking spaces. Now, my next goal is to finish on the podium again…”

2018-2018 Dubai Friday---24 Danny Kroes_02.jpg

Danny Kroes (4th fastest): “Fourth was not a bad result for my first Qualifying in the Audi. However, I have lost a couple of tenths in my fastest lap, otherwise I could have been second. Now I will try to be on the podium in the first race.”

Team Engstler duo makes a clean sweep as Luca Engstler and Florian Thoma share race victories

The Liqui Moly Team Engstler emerged as the ruling force from the second race meeting of the 2018 TCR Middle East International Series at the Dubai Autodrome.

2018-2018 Dubai Race 1---39 Florian Thoma_04.jpg

After winning pole position on Saturday with Luca Engstler, the German team dominated both races with Luca himself and Florian Thoma. And it was not by chance, because these were the team’s fourth and fifth consecutive victories at Dubai, following those in last year’s TCR Middle East opening event (by Luca and Brandon Gdovic) and that obtained two weeks ago in the 24H Dubai (again by Luca, Thoma, Jean-Karl Vernay and Benjamin Leuchter).

Such a brilliant streak of wins proved that this racetrack has no secrets for the team’s crew that knows how to set up their Volkswagen Golf cars here, even in spite of the Success Ballast.

In fact, none of the other drivers was able to stay on Engstler’s and Thoma’s pace. Not even Giacomo Altoè who struggled for the whole weekend with the 30 kilos of Success Ballast that significantly affected the performance of his Audi RS3 LMS.

2018-2018 Dubai Race 1---44 Lorenzo Veglia_04

Both races provided some fighting. Lorenzo Veglia elbowed his way through the field in Race 1 and recovered from 11th on the grid to third at the chequered flag. He seemed to be able to improve that record in Race 2 as he crossed the line second, but was then hit by a penalty for a race incident, just like in Abu Dhabi’s Race 2 when he was stripped of the victory.

In the second race Mat’o Homola survived a final lap full of contacts to collect a well deserved second place, while Giovanni Altoè failed to claim his first podium result after he got the worst of the battle.

The title fight has now taken a clear shape as a two-way battle between Engstler (89 points) and Giacomo Altoè (75), with Homola in third position (64) waiting for them to make a false step.

Race One: Luca Engstler in a league of his own

2018-2018 Dubai Race 1---Race 1 start06

Luca Engstler dominated the third round of the TCR Middle East International Series, inflicting a six-second gap to Giacomo Altoè. Lorenzo Veglia completed the podium.
Engstler made good use of his pole position and sprinted to the lead.

His Volkswagen Golf car fitted with new front tyres, the German youngster was able to set a very fast pace in the first laps, creating a gap that Altoé was not able to fill.

Thinking about the championship, the Italian focused on bringing his car to the second place and keeping a rampant Veglia at bay. The latter made up of yesterday’s disappointing qualifying result that relegated him to 11th on the grid. He got past four or five cars at the start and then recovered up to third overtaking Kai Jordan and Mat’o Homola.

Race Two: Florian Thoma imitates his team-mate

2018-2018 Dubai Race 2---Race 2 Start

After Luca Engstler’s authoritative win in the first race, his teammate Florian Thoma provided the icing on the cake for the Liqui Moly Team Engstler by claiming victory in Race 2 in a similar way.

The Swiss was able to start well from the third row of the grid, took the lead from Giovanni Altoè on the first lap and then benefited from the fights behind him to pull away and score his first win in the series, his second in TCR after that in the opening event of last year’s ADAC TCR Germany at Oschersleben.

The battle for the second place was red-hot between Giovanni Altoè, Mat’o Homola, Lorenzo Veglia and Engstler. A series of clashes on the final lap ended up with Veglia crossing the line second, followed by Homola, Engstler and Altoè.

But Veglia was later demoted by a 30-second penalty for a previous incident with Costas Papantonis. Giovanni’s younger brother Giacomo was classified sixth after struggling to recover.

Quotes from the podium finishers in both races

2018-2018 Dubai Friday---8 Luca Engstler_08

Luca Engstler (winner of Race 1 and third in Race 2): “In the first race my car was absolutely brilliant! Compared to the others I had a big advantage: new front tyres that I had saved from yesterday’s practice sessions. This made me able to push during the first laps like in qualifying. In this way I created a comfortable gap and then I just had to control the race in the second half, taking care of the tyres and brakes.

The second race was a tough one. I was driving very aggressively in the first laps, fighting with Veglia. Then I said to myself that it was better to try and follow him, because he could open the way. And it worked. The car was good, but of course not as good as in the first race, because when you have to fight for the positions it’s completely different. For example, when I was trailing the cars in front of me the water temperature peaked over 100°. Eventually the third place was a great result for the title fight.” 

2018-2018 Dubai Friday---39 Florian Thoma_05

Florian Thoma (winner of Race 2): “I have to say that it was quite easy at the beginning, because I managed to overtake a lot of cars at the start and then took the lead very early. After that it was just normal driving until the end. I really have to give credit to the team for the incredible job they have done. They gave Luca and me two cars that were really faster than the others and did no give us any problems in both races. Now my goal is to finish the championship on the podium.”

2018-2018 Dubai Friday---10 Giacomo Altoe_06.jpg

Giacomo Altoè (second in Race 1): “From the beginning I was struggling a lot. I did my best to save tyres and brakes keeping a steady pace at the beginning of the race. However, with the 30 kilos of success ballast I couldn’t prevent them to wear significantly. All considered, second was a good result.”

2018-2018 Dubai Race 2---70 Mato Homola_01

Mato Homola (second in Race 2): “I tried my best to recover positions at the beginning of the race, but Giovanni Altoè was really driving fast. It was not possible to overtake him on the straight and I began to have some issues with the cooling of the engine. I tried several time to overtake him, but always avoiding to make contact. Then Veglia overtook me, but with all the clashes on the last lap, luckily I was classified second. I want to thank my team, and especially my mechanic Sergio. He did a great job. We cannot talk because he only speaks Italian, but he’s a nice guy and I really like him.” 

2018-2018 Dubai Friday---44 Lorenzo Veglia_02

Lorenzo Veglia (third in Race 1): “I took a great start and was able to pass three or four cars straight away. And then I managed to overtake some other drivers one by one without losing time. I had a very good pace and managed to closed the gap on Giacomo, but I couldn’t catch him up.”

The series will come to its end at the Bahrain International Circuit on February 23rd and 24th.

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 take note that all images used in this blog post are used courtesy of
WSC / TCR Middle East Series.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

 

 

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