Freshly-crowned TCR Italy champion Roberto Colciago claimed a surprise pole position at the end of a breath-taking and closely-fought Qualifying session at Sepang.
At the wheel of his Honda Civic, run by Target Competition, Colciago consistently moved up the time-sheet and eventually posted an impressive lap of 2:15.021 in the dying moments of the session.
This demoted Pepe Oriola to second after the young Spaniard had led throughout the entire session, improving the provisional fastest lap twice: 2:15.799 and 2:15.086.
Actually, in the first half of the 30-minute Qualifying session, the top five drivers were extremely close: Oriola, James Nash, Kevin Gleason, Gianni Morbidelli and Mat’o Homola were all covered by less than two tenths.
Then Oriola’s second provisional fastest lap opened a deep gap between him and his pursuers. A gap that was filled little by little as far as the other drivers improved in turn.
Jean-Karl Vernay climbed to a provisional second position (2:15.296), ahead of his teammate Stefano Comini (2:15.311), Morbidelli (2:15.476), Nash (2:15.646), Colciago (2:16.675) and Homola (2:15.923).
Eventually, as the session was drawing to a close, Colciago hit the target and won pole, beating Oriola by 0.048 seconds; Mikhail Grachev jumped into third with a last lap of 2:15.155 and Homola moved up to fifth (2:15.310) behind Vernay.
The twelve fastest drivers were all covered by the same second. Team Thailand’s Tin Sritrai qualified in a brilliant tenth position, well ahead of the other TCR Asia drivers and winning pole position on the reverse grid for Race 2 in the process.
Rafaël Galiana was the only driver who missed the qualification maxima as he could not post a decent lap time due to lack of engine power.
Race 1 will start this afternoon at 17:45 local time (11:45 CET) over a distance of 11 laps or 25 minutes; live streaming at www.tcr-series.com and www.tcr-series.tv.