Abu Dhabi: Altoè and Engstler shares victories in TCR Middle East series opener at Yas Marina circuit

Abu Dhabi: Altoè and Engstler shares victories in TCR Middle East series opener at Yas Marina circuit

Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi – 19 / 20 January 2018

The opening event of the 2018 TCR Middle East International Series delivered a couple of eventful races at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.

Giacomo Altoè (Audi RS3 LMS run by Pit Lane Competizioni) and Luca Engstler (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTI) emerged as the race winners and left Abu Dhabi as first and second in the standings.

Altoè claimed an authoritative lights-to-flag victory in Race 1 from a trio of Golf cars driven by Mat’o Homola, Engstler and Florian Thoma.

The second race was much more exciting with a tough battle for the lead between Lorenzo Veglia, Thoma and Engstler. The three made a few contacts that forced Thoma to retire with a broken suspension while in first position and then cost Veglia a 30-second penalty for hitting and passing Engstler on the final lap.

Giacomo Altoè left Abu Dhabi as the first series’ leader with 45 point, while Engstler is second, only one point adrift. Homola lies in third position with 33 points.

The championship will resume next week (26 and 27 January) at the Dubai Autodrome for rounds 3 and 4.

Race 1 – Giacomo Altoè wins from Homola and Engstler

Giacomo Altoè converted his pole position into a victory in the opening event of the TCR Middle East International Series at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.

The Italian driver sprinted at the start in his Audi RS3 LMS and never looked back, as he was able to keep Mat’o Homola’s Volkswagen Golf GTI at bay in the first part of the race before increasing his leading gap in the final laps.
Homola was able to maintain the second place, although he was closely chased by the Liqui Moly Team Engstler duo of Luca Engstler and Florian Thoma who also delivered a thrilling fight for the third position.
Behind them, Lorenzo Veglia overtook Kai Jordan for fifth.

Key facts
Start – Giacomo Altoè uses his pole to take the lead, while Homola jumps from third to second ahead of Engstler
Lap 1 – Giovanni Altoè overtakes Jordan for fifth
Lap 2 – Jordan retakes fifth from Giovanni Altoè; Vescovi overtakes Oriola for eighth; Papantonis overtakes Ryba for 10th
Lap 3 – Giacomo Altoè leads, but is closely followed by Homola, Engstler and Thoma
Lap 4 – Oriola and Papantonis overtake Vescovi, moving up to eighth and ninth
Lap 5 – Homola sets the fastest lap in 1:14.997
Lap 6 – Veglia overtakes Giovanni Altoè for sixth
Lap 9 – Ryba pits and retires with a broken driveshaft
Lap 10 – Oriola is chasing Giovanni Altoè for the seventh position
Lap 11 – Veglia overtakes Jordan for fifth
Lap 13 – Oriola overtakes Giovanni Altoè for seventh
Lap 14 – Thoma tries to dive inside Engstler without success
Lap 16 – Giacomo Altoè stretches his leading gap to one second ahead of Homola
Lap 18 – Homola is chased by Engstler and Thoma
Lap 20 – Thoma tries again to overtake Engstler, but the latter keeps him at bay

Local entry Costa Papantonis from Mouritsa racing…

Race 2 – Veglia beats Engstler after making contact
TCR returnee Lorenzo Veglia crossed the line first at the end of a closely-fought second race at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.

After taking the front at the start, Veglia led most of the race ahead of Liqui Moly Team Engstler teammates Florian Thoma and Luca Engstler. The final laps were red-hot, with Thoma trying to find a gap; on lap 15 the young Swiss clashed with Veglia at Turn 7 and took the lead ahead of Engstler. However, two laps later Thoma was forced to retire with a broken suspension.
Engstler inherited the lead, but on the last lap he and Veglia made contact; the Italian got the better of the situation and crossed the line first, with a slim margin.

Kai Jordan finished a comfortable third ahead of Race 1 winner Giacomo Altoè and Mat’o Homola.
After the race, Veglia was given a 30-second penalty for hitting Engstler on the final lap. This dropped Italian from first to eighth, while Engstler inherited victory, with Kai Jordan and Giacomo Altoè promoted to second and third respectively.

Key facts
Start – Papantonis on pole moves before the green light; Veglia and Vescovi benefit from the situation to take first and second
Lap 1 – Oriola hits Papantonis who spins and rejoins at the back
Lap 2 – Thoma overtakes Jordan for third
Lap 3 – Engstler overtakes Jordan for fourth; Homola overtakes Giovanni Altoè for seventh
Lap 4 – Thoma overtakes Vescovi for second; Giacomo Altoè overtakes his brother for eighth
Lap 5 – Engstler overtakes Vescovi for third; Veglia defends his lead from Thoma
Lap 6 – Five drivers have a close battle for fifth: Jordan, Oriola, Homola and the Altoè brothers
Lap 9 – Jordan overtakes Vescovi for fourth; Giacomo Altoè overtakes Homola for seventh
Lap 10 – Vescovi runs wide and drops from fifth to eighth behind Oriola, Giacomo Altoè and Homola
Lap 11 – Papantonis is given a drive through for jump-start
Lap 12 – Veglia, Thoma and Engstler are in a bumper-to-bumper fight for the lead
Lap 13 – Giacomo Altoè overtakes Oriola for fifth
Lap 14 – The leading trio is covered by eight tenths only
Lap 15 – Thoma hits Veglia who runs wide and drops to third behind Engstler; Thoma is the new leader
Lap 16 – Homola overtakes Oriola for seventh
Lap 17 – Thoma pits and retires from the lead with a broken suspension; Engstler inherits the lead
Lap 18 – Giovanni Altoè overtakes Vescovi for seventh
Lap 20 – Veglia and Engstler make contact; Engstler runs wide, Veglia takes the lead and wins; Jordan completes the podium

Quotes from the podium finishers in both Races
Giacomo Altoè (Race 1 winner): “I’m super happy. I was able to make a good start and I had a very good pace to keep the lead for the whole distance. The car’s set up was perfect and everything went well. I tried not to push too much in the first half of the race to save the tyres, and this helped me to stretch my gap in the final laps.”

Mat’o Homola (second in Race 1): “I made a very good start, overtaking Luca. Maybe I could have tried to pass Giacomo as well, but I had some issues with the gearbox. Then I followed him, but his car was faster on the straight and in the quick corners. I was pushing like hell, hoping that he would make a mistake, but he didn’t. Second place in the first race is good.”

Luca Engstler (Race 2 winner and third in Race 1): “These were tough races. In the first one I had a lot of understeer and lost contact with Homola in the first half. And then I had to defend my third place from Thoma. In the second race I was in the lead, braked in the usual position, turned in and Veglia crashed into the back of my car. I’m a bit angry, because he didn’t say sorry, but I’m pleased that the Stewards decided to act.”

Lorenzo Veglia: “I was very pleased and satisfied. I didn’t think I could be so competitive on my comeback to TCR after two years of GT racing. It was a tough and thrilling race. At the beginning it looked easy, because I had a small gap, but then the two Engstler boys were on my back and it was difficult to keep them behind. We made a few contacts, but it’s part of the Touring Car game. I don’t think there was something beyond the rules.”

Kay Jordan (third in Race 2): “I made e very good start and jumped to third. This gave me a big boost to fight for the position and I was able to keep a good pace for the whole race. I’m an old man and finishing ahead of young and fast drivers like Giacomo and Homola was great, especially when you think that I hadn’t raced for six months due to a problem with a leg.”

2018 TCR Middle East Series – calendar

19/20 January – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi
26/27 January – Dubai Autodrome
23/24 February – Bahrain International Circuit

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