Qualifying – Morbidelli on pole, Oriola closes the gap
24 October 2015
On his first outing at the wheel of the JAS Motorsport-built Honda Civic TCR Step 2, Gianni Morbidelli managed to claim pole position at Buriram’s Chang International Circuit.
Three hours of track time – between yesterday’s test and today’s free practices – were enough for him and WestCoast Racing to make the most out of the new car. Which enabled him to top both qualifying legs.
Pepe Oriola had to settle with second on the grid for the first race, but this result meant that he closed the gap from Stefano Comini in the Drivers’ standings from 11 to 7 points.
As for Comini, who is still struggling at the wheel after the surgical operation to his left knee, he qualified ninth, winning a front row position on the top-ten reverse grid for Race 2 alongside Hugo Valente’s Opel Astra.
Local drivers Munkong Sathienthirakul impressed on his first appearance in the series, making it to Q2 and eventually getting close to squeeze among the top-ten.
The first race starts tomorrow at 12.35 (06.35 CET), followed by the second race at 14.05 (08.05 CET). They will be streamed on the internet back-to-back from 13.20 local time (07.20 in Central Europe).
Qualifying 1: WestCoast duo tops the timesheet
It took only one lap to Gianni Morbidelli for emerging as the fastest in the first part of the session. The Italian clocked a time of 1:43.855 that nobody was able to beat. His teammate Kevin Gleason qualified second fastest on his last lap (1:44.015), demoting Sergey Afanasyev (1:44.015) to third.
All title contenders managed to advance to Q2: Pepe Oriola fourth, Stefano Comini seventh and Jordi Gené eighth.
Mikhail Grachev placed the best of the Volkswagen Golf in ninth, ahead of Hugo Valente’s Opel Astra. Local driver Munkong Sathienthirakul ranked twelfth, the first TCR Asia competitor to win a place for Q2.
Robb Holland and Alain Menu were still struggling with the issues plaguing their cars. The American was placed in an encouraging 15th place in the early stages, but had to pit for repairs and this prevented him to improve; eventually he was demoted to 21st. Menu, instead, sat in the pit for most of the session while the team was working on the car; finally he was able to join in time to clock only one flying lap that placed him in 15th.
The session was disrupted once by the red flag, but only for a few minutes, to recover Filipe de Souza’s SEAT beached onto the gravel trap at Turn 3.
The following drivers advanced to Q2: Morbidelli, Gleason, Afanasyev, Oriola, Münnich, Hezemans, Comini, Gené, Grachev, Valente, Veglia and Sathienthirakul.
Qualifying 2: Morbidelli beats Oriola for the pole
Just like in Q1, Morbidelli did not waste time, nor tyres and claimed pole position with a single flying lap of 1:43.423.
Gleason clocked a 1:43.792 that provisionally placed him in second position, but the American was demoted to third by Oriola who completed a lap of 1:43.601 just before the ten-minute leg expired.
Valente qualified in tenth and won pole position on the reverse grid for Race 2 and will have Comini alongside him.
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