The Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS of Jean-Karl Vernay will start the TCR Europe Race 1 at Monza from pole position after going fastest in both stages of Qualifying. Vernay, in fact, was the only driver to beat the 1:58 barrier in both sessions, with Mikel Azcona also beating the benchmark in Q2 and so the PCR Sport Cupra will start alongside Vernay on the grid.
Scoring four Qualifying points, the Spaniard moved up to the top of the standings, two points clear of Dušan Borković.
Behind the pair will be the two Hell Energy Racing with KCMG Honda Civic cars of Attila Tassi and Josh Files, with Row 3 of the grid consisting of the Comtoyou Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI of Maxime Potty and the Target Competition Hyundai i30 N of Borković. Thanks to the reverse grid for Race 2, the Sports & You Peugeot 308 of Francisco Abreu will start from pole.
Daniel Nagy, the winner of Race 1 at Assen – and currently in third place in the standings – failed to go through to Q2 and so will start both races way behind his rivals for the title, while Vernay’s strong showing in Qualifying and both of yesterday’s Free Practice sessions suggest that the reigning TCR International champion will move himself back into contention for the 2018 TCR Europe crown following this weekend.
There were few problems during the two sessions, although the Subaru WRX STI of Roberto Russo didn’t take part in Qualifying and Q1 was red-flagged when the sister car of Cosimo Barberini went off the track at the first Lesmo corner and had to be recovered.
Race 1 will start at 17:35 CET (live streaming at www.tcr-series.comand www.tcr-series.tv).
Q1 – Vernay beats Azcona by nearly half a second
The first stage of Qualifying began with an early Hyundai 1-2 from Borković and Peter Terting, with Vernay allowing everyone else to head out onto the track before he ventured out himself. Azcona went quickest with a lap time of 1:59.066, then immediately bettered that with a 1:58.257 before Vernay went P2 on his first flying lap. As the twenty-minute part of the session reached its halfway point, Vernay set the fastest time with a 1:57.820 and that time wouldn’t be beaten. Azcona, Files (1:58.873), Maxime Potty (1:58.994), Borković (1:59.134) and Francisco Abreu (1:59.306) meant the top six places were filled by six different brands before the session was halted with a little over four minutes remaining after a steering failure caused Barberini’s Subaru to go off the track. After the restart, Tassi went P3 with a lap time of 1:58.777, Files dropped to P4 despite a slight improvement (1:58.847) and Tavano went P5 (1:58.965). Championship contender Nagy didn’t go through to Q2.
Q2 – Vernay secures pole position by three tenths
Vernay again delayed leaving the pit lane until nearly everyone else had gone out and the tactic looked to have worked perfectly. Despite Azcona going fastest on his first flying lap with a time of 1:57.936, Vernay quickly bettered it by a little over one-tenth of a second (1:57.826) and then shaved off another two-tenths to end the session with a best lap of 1:57.626. Behind Azcona were the two Honda cars of Tassi (1:58.459) and Files (1:58.465) with Potty (1:58.863) just ahead of Borković (1:58.902). Abreu was tenth quickest with a best lap time of 1:59.468 and so the Peugeot will start the reverse-grid Race 2 from pole position.