Uruguay’s Urrutia and Casella make two poles on home ground
19 August 2023
Santiago Urrutia secured pole position for his home race at the joint event of the Kumho TCR World Tour and TCR South America in Uruguay, with his fellow countryman Juan Manuel Casella emerging as the fastest in the South American series, qualifying a brilliant seventh overall.
“It feels really good. I'm super happy to be on pole, it feels fantastic in front of my home crowd. It was quite difficult but enjoyable to be at home and in pole position. We need to do the same tomorrow, but the car is feeling good, the team have been excellent, and the crowd are behind me, so I will give it everything, and hopefully we can have a strong race one,” said Urrutia.
“It was a very good qualifying for me. First in TCR South America, and P7 in the Kumho TCR World Tour with these international stars which I’m honoured to be racing against. They are all strong and experienced, and this is only my second year in the category, so to be on the same track together with them is a pleasure,” Casella echoed.
The Qualifying delivered a perfect result for Cyan Racing Lynk & Co that placed two cars on the grids for both tomorrow’s races. Thed Björk was second fastest, less than a tenth of a second behind Urrutia, while Ma Qing Hua and Yann Ehrlacher happily settled in tenth and ninth positions filling the front row for the reversed grid for Race 2.
With Q1 split into two groups, 15 cars headed out in each part of the session and Lynk & Co drivers led the way in the two segments. The current points leader Ehrlacher set the fastest lap of 1:20.413 in Group A, beating Mikel Azcona (1:20.545) and Néstor Girolami (1:20.810). Then local hero Urrutia topped most of the Group B session with the time of 1:20.300, until he was demoted at the final moments by teammate Björk, who was the first driver into the 1:19s with a lap of 1:19.917; Norbert Michelisz was third fastest (1:20.361).
In the two groups, all nine of the TCR World Tour drivers made it through to Q2, while it was an intense fight for the transfer positions between TCR South America drivers, with Casella the only one to make it through from Group A. From Group B, guest star Esteban Guerrieri was the fastest of the South American competitors to get through to Q2 along with series points leader Ignacio Montenegro, who knocked Galid Osman out just at the end of the session.
In the 10-minute Q2, Urrutia was quick to set a banker lap 1:20.116, while Björk went just two-thousandths of a second slower after his first run. The pair led the rest of the session, with Michelisz initially their closest challenger. The chief battle in the top 12 was to see who would come out on top of the three TCR South America drivers, and half-way through the session, Casella improved to put his car in seventh place, ahead of three of the TCR World Tour stars. Montenegro made a late improvement to get ahead of Guerrieri, but that would only put him 11th on the grid, with Ma qualifying 10th just behind teammate Ehrlacher. Girolami set a final flyer to put his new Honda Civic third on the grid, deposing Michelisz in the final few moments. Frédéric Vervisch was the best-placed of the Audi cars in fifth, just ahead of teammate Rob Huff.
Race 1 is due to start Sunday morning at 09:10 local time (14:10 CEST), with live streaming on tcr-series.tvand YouTube.
El Pinar – Qualifying overall
1. Santiago Urrutia (Cyan Racing, Lynk & Co 03 FL), 1:19.800
3. Néstor Girolami (ALM Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R FL5), 1:20.118
El Pinar – Qualifying TCR South America
1. Juan Manuel Casella (Squadra Martino, Honda Civic Type R FK7), 1:20.733
2. Ignacio Montenegro (Squadra Martino, Honda Civic Type R FK7), 1.21.209
3. Esteban Guerrieri (Bratton Bessone Team, Toyota Corolla GRS), 1:21.356
Championship points – TCR World Tour
1. Y. Ehrlacher, 195 pts; 2. N. Michelisz, 185; 3. M. Azcona, 168
Championship points – TCR South America
1. I. Montenegro, 263 pts; 2. R. Reis, 213; 3. B. Llaver, 208
Picture: TCR South America/Lucas Martínez
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