Since the TCR International Series was launched, back in 2015, Gianni Morbidelli has always been one of the reference drivers. This until 14 months ago, when his luck changed and he was no longer able to fight for the top positions.
Now, the former F1 racer is back at the front, claiming his first pole position since the one at Imola, 14 months ago. His first since him and the WestCoast Racing team have switched to the Volkswagen Golf.
Today Morbidelli was consistently among the fastest drivers, if not the fastest of the pack, throughout the second Practice and the Qualifying, setting a pace that nobody was able to match. His next obvious goal is getting back to the winner’s circle in tomorrow Race 1.
To do this he will have to keep at bay Jaap van Lagen (Leopard Racing Volkswagen) and Daniel Lloyd (Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT), who qualified second and third, achieving their best results since they have joined the championship.
The Qualifying results also said that this track suits better the Golf and León rather then the other models. None of the Alfa Romeo and Audi drivers managed to advance to Q2, while Roberto Colciago (8th) and Mat’o Homola (10th) were the only Honda and Opel drivers to qualify in the leading group.
Homola will start from pole position on the reverse grid for Race 2, with Jean-Karl Vernay alongside him. While Attila Tassi – the current championship leader – will line up 13th on the grid for both races.
The first race will start tomorrow at 12:30 local time (live streaming at www.tcr-series.com and www.tcr-series.tv).
Qualifying 1: Morbidelli leads a Volkswagen 1-2-3
Volkswagen drivers of three different teams set the first three fastest laps with Morbidelli (WestCoast racing) ahead of van Lagen (Leopard Racing) and Engstler (Junior Team Engstler).
Tassi was the first to top the time sheet with a lap of 1:33.181 that was improved by Oriola’s 1:33.082 and then by Morbidelli’s 1:33.009. Oriola was the first to go under the 1:33 mark, but his provisional fastest time of 1:32.838 was disallowed for track limits. It was Vernay, then, who jumped on top with a lap of 1:32.829, but Morbidelli raised the bar to 1:32.064, with Lloyd second (1:32.801).
The segment was disrupted once by the red flag, with twelve minutes left on the clock, to sweep the gravel off the track after Møller spun at the chicane.
When the session resumed, Engstler posted a new provisional fastest lap of 1:32.024, which was soon improved by Morbidelli’s 1:31.421 and van Lagen’s 1:31.553.
The following drivers went through to Q2: Morbidelli, van Lagen, Engstler, Oriola, Lloyd, Vernay, Altoè, Nash, Homola, Colciago, Huff and Paulsen.
Among those who did not make the cut were the point leader Tassi, the Alfa Romeo duo of Borković and Kajaia, the Audi duo of Vervisch and Comini. The latter spoiled his chances with a mistake on his last attempt.
Qualifying 2: Morbidelli beats van Lagen
Oriola posted a 1:31.954 on his first lap out, but Morbidelli improved immediately to 1:31.908, with van Lagen moving up to second (1:31.914).
Oriola responded with a new provisional fastest lap of 1:31.834, but Morbidelli was even fastest in 1:31.426 that nobody was able to beat.
Van Lagen improved to 1:31.669 to secure second position ahead of Loyd (1:31.714), Huff (1:31.821) and Oriola.
On their last attempt, Vernay managed to climb to ninth, securing a front spot on the reverse grid for Race 2, while Engstler outbraked himself and went straight at Turn 1.
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