Published on March 12th, 2017 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Kusiri Claims Pole for TCR Asia Series Opener in Malaysia
Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s rapid new recruit Kantadhee Kusiri has continued to dominate the timesheets during his TCR Asia Series debut at Sepang International Circuit, the young Thai star ultimately sealing pole position in both legs of qualifying, to take the top spot from new team-mate Diego Moran.
The day had started with the final practice session in cooler conditions just after 11:00am where Team Thailand’s Tin Sritrai and Moran went head-to-head for the top spot before Kusiri put in a blinding lap as the clock wound down to zero, his 2:16.516 the fastest of the weekend, although still half a second shy of Sritrai’s 2016 qualifying best of 2:16.006.
From the opening lap of qualifying it was clear that no records would fall in the 34 degree humid conditions – the circuit touching 55 degrees as the cars rolled out, times in the opening qualifier more than two seconds slower than the cooler morning session.
Local hero WS Lai proved the value of infinite laps of Sepang to top the charts early, taking his new R Engineering Honda Civic TCR to the top spot with a 2:19.953, but Kusiri hit back almost immediately to better the mark to a 2:18.629.
Tin Sritrai started to improve, but was clearly suffering an issue, the #9 Volkswagen spending time in the pits with the team investigating a gearshift issues that kept him from successfully down-changing under heavy braking.
In the end Kusiri improved to a best of 2:18.629, whilst Lai’s Honda team-mate Abdul Kaathir – the leading Cup driver – set an impressive 2:19.186 to take second, Kusiri’s team-mate third with Audi Hong Kong’s Jasper Thong an impressive fourth.
Sadly both Alex Liu (Empress Sports Team Seat Léon) and Douglas Khoo (Viper Niza Racing Seat Léon) both failed to make it into Q2, Khoo frustrated at being unable to capitalise on his impressive form from final practice which saw him classified fourth.
Kusiri wasn’t hanging around in Q2, the new Liqui Moly Team Engstler recruit charging to a 2:17.359 on his first lap to put pole position out of question, the Thai driver ultimately nine tenths of a second quicker than WS Lai, with team-mate Diego Moran third. Kaathir made it two Liqui Moly Volkswagen’s and two R Engineering Hondas on the front two rows, with Sritrai battling around to a frustrated fifth.
Audi Hong Kong rookie Jasper Thong claimed sixth, frustrated by a lack of pace in the testing third sector, whilst Eric K was seventh in the leading Seat. Sadly for SK Tong, the Phoenix Racing Asia driver ended his second qualifier in the turn one gravel trap after running in too deep under brakes on his first hot lap.
Frustratingly though prior to the official release of the results, both R Engineering Hondas were excluded from the session after a parc-ferme infringement, elevating Moran to a front row start alongside his team-mate, with Sritrai now classified third and Jasper Thong – the leading Cup driver – fourth.