The opening day of action for the TCR Asia Series at the Bangsaen Grand Prix saw an almost complete spectrum of conditions, from a warm dry circuit to kick off the day in practice one, to heavy rain at the start of the second - delayed - session that ultimately ended with a late rush on a drying circuit.
In the end the results were somewhat predictable with points leader Luca Engstler and fellow Hyundai driver Pepe Oriola separated at times by mere hundredths of a second - Bangsaen rookie Oriola taking top honours in P1, before Engstler fired back with an outstanding lap late in session two to claim the advantage heading into Saturday morning’s twin qualifiers..
Typically the sessions were plagued by the odd incident, Zack Gao finding the limits of adhesion at turn two on his opening lap of the Chonburi circuit, whilst in the second session David Lau came to grief at turn one in slippery conditions, the TeamWork Motorsport Audi taking a fair hit in the left front, the team working hard to repair the car overnight ahead of qualifying.
They weren’t the only ones, the points leader too coming to grief during the opening session after running off at turn two whilst finding the limit of the brakes. He grabbed the handbrake to flick the spin the car 180 degrees, but the right rear suspension failed forcing him to limp back to pit lane towards the end of the session, the reigning Teams’ Champions repairing the car though immediately afterwards.
Sadly for Adam Khalid, his opportunity to turn valuable laps in his battle for the honours of top Asian driver in the field suffered a setback with a gearshift issue in the #4 Volkswagen Team Oettinger Golf, the crew replacing the unit between sessions as a precaution, but with little time to effect the change, a residual issue sidelined the Malaysian in P2, however the team confirmed that Khalid would be okay for qualifying.
Behind the battling European stars, Eurasia’s Daniel Miranda impressed again with a mature approach to his first ever street race, the Philippines driver sixth fastest in P1, and incredibly, third fastest in the slippery conditions in P2 - a session that was shortened after David Lau’s mid-session contact with the barriers.
Miranda’s impressive effort was shadowed by local star and reigning TCR Thailand Champion Jakraphan Davee, title contender Diego Moran and TCR Asia Cup front-runner Roland Hertner, all four within a second of each other paving the way for an enthralling qualifying session.
For Luca Engstler’s team-mate and title rival Diego Moran, the Ecuadorian was not too phased about his pace in the wet conditions, having been a big mover early in the second leg (after the red flag for David Lau), he was delayed late in the session by traffic but admitted he was happy with his pace, Engstler reminding everyone that it’s usually qualifying and the race that Moran excels at, not practice..
In the battle for TCR Asia Cup honours, title rivals Roland Hertner and Douglas Khoo shared the top spot in each session, Khoo happier in the dry than the wet having very nearly fallen into the same trap that caught David Lau, the Malaysian admitting it was touch and go as to whether he’d be able to avoid the barriers - by that stage he elected there wasn’t much to learn from the treacherous conditions, so he backed things off as the clock wound down.
For Bangsaen rookies Zack Gao (Eurasia Motorsport Hyundai) and Kim Jin Soo (Solite Indigo Racing Hyundai), they too put in some impressive laps to work themselves to within reach of the points leaders, Soo setting the fifth fastest time in P1 to put Daniel Miranda on notice that he might have a challenge for the Asian drivers’ title come Sunday afternoon.
The teams have an early start on Saturday with qualifying from 8:30am, whilst the penultimate round of the 2019 championship will come at 11:00am local time (ICT). Both qualifying and the opening Bangsaen race will be streamed LIVE on Facebook, check www.facebook.com/TCRAsiaSeries for details.
What the driver’s had to say..
1. Luca Engstler [GER] - Liqui Moly Team Engstler Hyundai i30 N TCR
“Honestly, today I took it quite easy because I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself because it’s only practice. We checked some setup changes but the car felt good, even in the rain, so I think we’re well prepared for qualifying tomorrow. I wasn’t surprised to see Pepe [Oriola] on P1 in practice one, he’s the god of street racing - look at how he was at Macau, he was the one to beat but I feel comfortable for qualifying tomorrow, I see a big improvement in our setup today. Of course I’m thinking about the championship, but I just want to focus on the first race and in the end we see what comes out - we’re in Bangsaen, so anything can happen!”
20. Daniel Miranda [PHI] - Eurasia Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR
“It took me quite a bit to get familiarised with the track, and in practice two it started to drizzle, then rain, so it was a bit difficult for me, but I just focussed on keeping calm and finishing the session. This is my first year in TCR and my first street race, so this weekend I came in wanting to be fit because it’s going to be a tough race, so it’s about being physically and mentally prepared. Being top five in TCR Asia isn’t easy against such a quality field of drivers, so I’m really thankful for being able to finish on the podium a couple of times in my debut year, and to be in a position to go after the title of Top Asian driver is what I’m focussed on this weekend.”
23. Diego Moran [ECU] - Liqui Moly Team Engstler Hyundai i30 N TCR
“I was of course taking my time to get used to the car again and to get used to the track. Luckily for me I feel very comfortable in the car in the dry. We have some changes to make that worked well on Luca’s car, but I feel very happy with the outcome because I know there is still an opportunity to improve. I was certainly careful in the wet because one error here could end your weekend. So tomorrow the aim is to go as fast as I can, and qualify the car at the front.”
65. Douglas Khoo [MAL] - Viper Niza Racing Cupra TCR
“It was disappointing that we didn’t have two dry sessions because I felt very comfortable in the car in the dry, and after that close call in the wet second session I wasn’t prepared to push too hard, so I’m certainly hoping qualifying and the races are dry. It’s nice to be back in the car and always nice to be at Bangsaen, despite the fact I have a mixed relationship with the event, but we’ll be pushing hard tomorrow as the TCR Asia Cup title is on the line, and whilst Roland [Hertner] has a good lead, nothing’s impossible!”
74. Pepe Oriola [SPA] - Solite Indigo Racing Hyundai i30 N TCR
“I like street circuits, so I was really looking forward to the day. I managed to do a few laps with a scooter ahead of today, and watch a few videos, but we managed to dial the car in pretty quickly. We’ve had a number of second placings in the Series, so I’m pretty keen to have a win for the team before the season ends.”
1. 74. Pepe Oriola [SPA] Solite Indigo Racing Hyundai i30N TCR - 1:42.433
2. 1. Luca Engstler [GER] Liqui Moly Team Engstler Hyundai i30N TCR - 1:42.535
3. 33. Jakraphan Davee [THA] Alpha Factory Racing Team by Pulzar Cupra TCR - 1:43.748
4. 23. Diego Moran [ECU] Liqui Moly Team Engstler Hyundai i30N TCR - 1:44.110
5. 97. Kim Jin Soo [KOR] Solite Indigo Racing Hyundai i30N TCR - 1:46.659
6. 20. Daniel Miranda [PHI] Eurasia Motorsport Hyundai i30N TCR - 1:47.462
7. 30. Hua Yang Gao [CHN] Eurasia Motorsport Hyundai i30N TCR - 1:47.700
8. 65. Douglas Khoo [MAS] Viper Niza Racing Cupra TCR* - 1:48.579
9. 3. Roland Hertner [GER] Volkswagen Team Oettinger Golf GTi TCR* - 1:48.900
10. 36. David Lau [HKG] TeamWork Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS TCR* - 1:53.444
11. 4. Adam Khalid [MAS] Volkswagen Team Oettinger Golf GTi TCR - 1:59.035
1. 1. Luca Engstler [GER] Liqui Moly Team Engstler Hyundai i30N TCR - 1:58.824
2. 74. Pepe Oriola [SPA] Solite Indigo Racing Hyundai i30N TCR - 1:59.623
3. 20. Daniel Miranda [PHI] Eurasia Motorsport Hyundai i30N TCR - 2:00.305
4. 33. Jakraphan Davee [THA] Alpha Factory Racing Team by Pulzar Cupra TCR - 2:00.508
5. 23. Diego Moran [ECU] Liqui Moly Team Engstler Hyundai i30N TCR - 2:00.618
6. 3. Roland Hertner [GER] Volkswagen Team Oettinger Golf GTi TCR* - 2:01.466
7. 97. Kim Jin Soo [KOR] Solite Indigo Racing Hyundai i30N TCR - 2:03.123
8. 30. Hua Yang Gao [CHN] Eurasia Motorsport Hyundai i30N TCR - 2:06.148
9. 65. Douglas Khoo [MAS] Viper Niza Racing Cupra TCR* - 2:06.608
10. 36. David Lau [HKG] TeamWork Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS TCR* - 2:07.792
11. 4. Adam Khalid [MAS] Volkswagen Team Oettinger Golf GTi TCR - 5:31.409
BANGSAEN GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT;
Bangsaen Street Circuit, Chonburi (Thailand)
Track length: 3.700-kilometres
Circuit first opened: 2007
Number of times TCR Asia Series has competed at Bangsaen previously: 2 [2017/2018]
TCR Asia Series lap record (qualifying): Kantadhee Kusiri (Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR): 1:42.124
TCR ASIA SERIES AND THE BANGSAEN GRAND PRIX;
The TCR Asia Series will return to Bangsaen for the third time in succession, this time as the host of the season finale. Of the four races contested on the Chonburi beach circuit, the champion elect hasn’t won a single race, with the points leaders traditionally facing dramas on the tight, 20-corner venue where any minor contact has major consequences.
For Liqui Moly team Engstler they come into the final event of the season as points leaders for the fourth year in succession, with only reigning champion Luca Engstler or team-mate Diego Moran capable of taking the teams fourth drivers crown, and with Moran having stood on the podium once each in 2017 and 2018, he may well start favourite..
TCR ASIA SERIES AND THE BANGSAEN GRAND PRIX..
2018 TCR Asia Series - Rnd#5 (15-laps) - 14 July
Pole position: Luca Engstler (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswgen Golf GTi TCR) - 1:43.443
1. 59. Pattarapol Vongprai* - Vattana Motorsport Honda Civic TCR# - 15-laps
2. 96. Leewattanavaragul* - Morin Racing Team by Sunoco Seat Leon TCR# +0.767
3. 33. Jakraphan Davee* - Alphafactory by Pulzar Seat Leon TCR# +5.200
4. 3. Alex Liu - Elegant Racing Team Seat Léon TCR +11.526
5. 30. Kelvin Wong - Elegant Racing Team Seat Léon TCR +19.606
6. 8. Luca Engstler - Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR +25.578
* TCR Thailand
2018 TCR Asia Series - Rnd#6 (15-laps) - 15 July
1. 28. Lo Sze Ho - Maximum Racing Honda Civic TCR - 15-laps
2. 32. Diego Moran - Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR +2.673
3. 29. Mitchell Cheah - Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR +5.513
2017 TCR Asia Series - Rnd#7 (7-laps) - 1 July
Pole position: Kantadhee Kusiri (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswgen Golf GTi TCR) - 1:42.124
1. Tin Sritrai (Team Thailand Honda Civic TCR)
2. WS Lai (R Engineering Honda Civic TCR) +7.417
3. Pasarit Promosmbat (RMI Racing Team Seat Leon TCR) + 8.424
2017 TCR Asia Series - Rnd#8 (11-laps) - 2 July
1. Tin Sritrai (Team Thailand Honda Civic TCR)
2. Diego Moran (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswgen Golf GTi TCR) +1.507
3. Nattanid Leewattanavaragul (RMI Racing Team Seat Leon TCR) +1.659
Rnd#9/#10 - 2019 TCR Asia Series
Bangsaen Grand Prix Circuit, Chonburi, Thailand
Schedule (ICT - GMT +7)
Saturday, 31 August, 2019
08:30am - TCR Asia Series Qualifying#1 (20-mins)
08:55am - TCR Asia Series Qualifying#2 (10-mins)
11:00am - TCR Asia Series - Race#1 (15-laps)
Sunday, 1 September, 2019
12:45pm - TCR Asia Series - Race#2 (15-laps)