Published on September 5th, 2019 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Engstler and Oriola Battle Over Top Spot in Bangsaen Practice
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 for the TCR Asia Series 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 afterno