Published on August 29th, 2018 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Kusiri and Engstler Share TCR Asia Victory in Korea
The fourth stop on the 2018 TCR Asia Series calendar saw a return to Korea International Circuit on the extreme southern tip of the Korean Peninsula, a world-class circuit that would pit the TCR Asia regulars against Korea’s best as they contested the very first event of the new TCR Korea national championship.
The event had originally attracted a number of additional entries to the field, but despite the best laid plans of the organisers, mother-mature had other ideas, typhoon season leaving a handful of cars circling the East China sea on a cargo ship that was unable to dock ahead of the storm that hit the region in the leadup to the weekend. In the end, one additional car made it for China Touring Car star Alex Hui, but that didn’t arrive until Sunday morning..
Ultimately the weather did affect the on track action, but not before Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Luca Engstler had broken Tin Sritrai’s 2016 qualifying lap record by more than a second in testing, the German teenager – hot off victory in TCR Germany the week prior – lowering the mark to a 2:20.723 before the rain returned ahead of qualifying.
Most of the teams turned laps during the pre-event test day which allowed for almost three hours of track time, but few could match Engstler’s pace which was an ominous sign for the weekend ahead.
Ultimately reigning champion Kantadhee Kusiri – on his return to TCR Asia – claimed the top spot in both legs of qualifying, up by a staggering three seconds in Q1, the Thai star using his exceptional car control to claim pole for the opening race, whilst Engstler was a measured second, understanding that in the championship race, the former title holder was not eligible for TCR Asia points, giving the young German the top points towards the championship.
Third overall was points leader Mitchell Cheah, the Malaysian driver enjoying the support of home-town hero and experienced KIC campaigner Alex Yoong, the former F1 star helping to fast-track Cheah’s experience on the new circuit.
Reigning TCR Thailand driver, Chariya Nuya qualified fourth as one of a number of ‘invitational’ drivers who would not score Series points, including compatriots Kusiri and Nattachak Hanjitkasem.
Byung Hui (Charlie) Kang was the first of the TCR Korea entrants, the part-time racer using his extensive KIC experience to put the new Indigo Racing Hyundai i30 N TCR on the third row alongside Elegant Racing’s Kelvin Wong, the Macanese driver the first of the TCR Asia Cup entries.
Experienced GT driver Andrew Kim was second for TCR Korea, the Brand New Racing Volkswagen driver using his great experience of his home circuit to good effect as he worked to get on top of the dynamics of the front-wheel-drive two-litre turbo powered machine, which is vastly different to the big powerful rear-wheel-drive GT cars he is used to, Kim seventh overall alongside the second of the Elegant Racing Cupra TCRs of Alex Liu.
Sadly for Hong Kong’s Lo Sze Ho, he missed Friday’s unofficial sessions, but was quickly up to speed by Saturday morning’s two official practice sessions, but found himself with plenty to do when the rain came, the Honda driver qualifying on the fifth row, although conversely, that would put him off the front row for the second reverse-top-ten grid – unfortunately, a DNF in race one, meant he would not get that chance..