Tom Coronel made his intentions for this weekend’s two TCR Europe races at Le Castellet abundantly clear when he set the fastest time in the first Free Practice session at the French circuit. The Comtoyou Racing driver set a lap time of 2:13.714 early in the session and that time wouldn’t be beaten, with the Drivers’ Championship leader ending FP1 ahead of his teammate and leading Rookie Kobe Pauwels. TCR Europe debutant Sacha Bottemanne ended the session in third place in an SP Compétition CUPRA, ahead of Ruben Volt’s ALM Motorsport Honda FL5 and John Filippi in a Comtoyou Audi RS 3 LMS.
The first competitive lap time was set by Filippi with a 2:15.295, ahead of Viktor Davidovski (2:15.876), Marco Butti (2:16.210), Levente Losonczy (2:16.581) and Lewis Brown (2:16.604). On the next lap, Filippi improved with a 2:14.748, as did Brown with a 2:16.291. Kobe Pauwels then went fastest with a lap of 2:14.643 while Butti set a lap of 2:15.672 to go P3 behind Filippi and Aurélien Comte set a time of 2:16.455 to go P6 in the SP Compétition CUPRA. Tom Coronel then became the first driver to beat the 2:14 barrier, going quickest with a 2:13.714. His young teammate Pauwels then improved his best time (2:14.185) with Viktor Andersson going P6 in the MA:GP Lynk & Co 03 (2:16.031).
Going into the second half of the thirty-minute session, both Losonczy (2:15.880) and Brown (2:15.887) improved their best laps to go P6 and P7 respectively ahead of Andersson. Ruben Volt then went P4 with a lap of 2:15.332 in the ALM Motorsport Honda Civic Type R FL5 before Comte’s teammate Sacha Bottemanne went third fastest with a 2:14.676 and Bolt improved with a 2:14.706.
With around six minutes remaining, Pauwels improved with a 2:14.059 to move to within 0.345 of Coronel. Losonczy then set a time of 2:15.096 to move up to P7 behind Nicola Baldan with under three minutes left on the clock and Brown moved up to P8 with a 2:15.355 inside the last minute of the session. There were no other improvements and so Coronel – the winner of Race 1 at Le Castellet last season – ended FP1 ahead of Pauwels, Bottemanne, Volt and Filippi.
Tom Coronel (fastest): “Directly on the first lap I banged it in there! I think the form is good, but of course I know the track very well after 34 years of racing. I even remember doing Opel Lotus here, although of course sometimes the track changed a little bit. But yes, I feel good speed here.
“Last year with the FIA Games here we won the race, we were unbelievably fast. Also last year when we won the European race here, somehow, it suits my driving style. Also, I concentrated on this one with the weight; I had to lose the weight from the last race in Hungary, I could just put the lap time in. I’m happy, it seems like a good beginning. I feel really confident here, I didn’t do any track walk, I didn’t look at any lap, I didn’t do anything, I didn’t even know when to shift. That said, my mind is still working and when I was in the car, I just did it.”
1. Tom Coronel (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS) 2:13.714
2. Kobe Pauwels (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS) 2:14.059
3. Sacha Bottemanne (SP Compétition, CUPRA Leon Competición) 2:14.676
4. Ruben Volt (ALM Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R FL5) 2:14.706
5. John Filippi (Comtoyou, Audi RS 3 LMS) 2:14.748
Free Practice 2 takes place at 17.31 CEST this afternoon while Qualifying is scheduled to start at 11.35 CEST tomorrow and Race 1 at 19.05. Race 2 is then scheduled for 12.10 on Sunday. Both races will be streamed live on tcr-series.tv and the TCR TV app together with the TCR TV YouTube channel.