TCR South America’s season opener at Autódromo Oscar Cabalén in Alta Gracia saw the 18-year-old Ignacio Montenegro and the 57-year-old Walter Hernández sharing race victories.
Montenegro in his Squadra Martino Honda Civic Type R muscled his way past pole sitter Raphael Reis’ W2 Pro GP CUPRA Leon Competición to win the first race. In the second race, Hernández drove his PMO Motorsport Lynk & Co 03 to a comfortable victory despite a late safety car intervention had erased his 3.8-second lead.
Race 1 – At the start Reis led from the pole from Montenegro and Galid Osman, while Bernardo Llaver and Fabián Yannantuoni came together, with the latter retiring. A few laps later, there was contact between Fabio Casagrande and Juan Ángel Rosso, with Rosso limping to the pits.
The battle for the lead between Reis and Montenegro became red hot from lap 6, while in lap 7 Llaver overtook Fabricio Pezzini for P4. After shadowing the leader for a few laps, trying to find a gap, Montenegro dived to the inside of Reis in lap 10 and passed.
In the following laps, with Reis struggling with worn tyres, Montenegro was able to increase the gap and eventually took the flag by a margin of 3.8 seconds. Reis and his teammate Osman completed the podium ahead of Llaver, while Rafael Suzuki finished fifth after passing his teammate Pezzini. Enrique Maglione provided the icing on the cake for Squadra Martino, as he was classified 11th and won the Trophy.
Race 2 – Casagrande and Hernández shared the front row of the reversed grid; Casagrande made a better start, but during the first lap he dropped to sixth as he was passed by Hernández, Pezzini, Rosso, Yannantuoni and Suzuki. Rosso overtook Pezzini and moved into second, while in lap 2 Casagrande and Reis made contact and went off while fighting for P7. They both rejoined, but eventually Reis retired.
As the leading pair pulled away, Pezzini struggled to keep the rest of the field behind, with Montenegro passing Llaver for P6 in lap 6. Between laps 7 and 10, Hernández increased his pace and his lead over Rosso grew from one to 2.5 seconds. In lap 12, Montenegro passed Suzuki for P5; two laps later Pezzini seemed in trouble and during lap 14 he was passed by Yannantuoni and Montenegro, dropping to fifth.
In lap 15, Maglione pulled up with a front-wheel puncture and the safety car was deployed with six minutes to go. The race resumed for the last couple of minutes, Hernández pulled away again, while Rosso was passed by Yannantuoni and Montenegro. Rosso found himself sandwiched between Pezzini and Suzuki, with the latter moving up into P4, while Rosso dropped further to finish 14th.
Hernández took the chequered flag with a 1.2-second margin, while Yannantuoni and Montenegro finished second and third ahead of Suzuki and Pezzini. However, after the race, Yannantuoni was excluded for a ride height infringement. The Trophy was won by the ninth-classified Pablo Otero in the PMO Racing Peugeot 308.
Montenegro emerged as the first leader of the standings, 21 points clear of Hernández.
The second event of the season will be on 15/16 April at Rosario.
Alta Gracia – Race 1
1. Ignacio Montenegro (Squadra Martino, Honda Civic Type R Fk7), 16 laps
2. Raphael Reis (W2 Pro GP, CUPRA Leon Competición), 3.837
3. Galid Osman (W2 Pro GP, CUPRA Leon Competición), 5.023
Alta Gracia – Race 2
1. Walter Hernández (PMO Motorsport, Lynk & Co 03), 19 laps
2. Ignacio Montenegro (Squadra Martino, Honda Civic Type R Fk7), 1.759
3. Rafael Suzuki (PMO Motorsport, Lynk & Co 03), 2.273
1. I. Montenegro, 77 pts; 2. W. Hernández, 53; 3. G. Osman 53
Picture: TCR South America