Kevin Gleason takes surprise Sepang pole
Kevin Gleason took the first ever TCR International Series pole position for WestCoast Racing. The American driver took full advantage of a further last minute weight reduction of 30kg for his Honda Civic TCR, beating SEAT rivals Andrea Belicchi and Stefano Comini, both from Target Competition.
Belicchi had actually led the field in the first segment of qualifying, with FP2 pace setter Ferenc Ficza ahead of Gianni Morbidelli, who took the Honda nearer the top after yesterday’s struggles. However the top five runners included four Leóns, confirming that the Spanish cars seemed to be the ones to beat, with Craft-Bamboo Lukoil team-mates Sergey Afanasyev and Jordi Gené in fourth and fifth respectively.
Liqui Moli Team Engstler’s Lorenzo Veglia was 13th and knocked out of the session, ahead of the struggling Igor Skuz in his Campos Racing Opel Astra, with Yu Siu Fung well behind him and much slower than the 107%. Proteam’s Diego Romanini and Campos’ Jordi Oriola were only able to perform an installation lap.
In Q2 Gleason surprised the field and just narrowly made it to be 0.02s quicker than Belicchi, with Comini a further tenth slower.
Franz Engstler came fourth in his Audi TT ahead of René Munnich and Gianni Morbidelli, both for WestCoast Racing and Honda. Early stars of the weekend Afanasyev, Pepe Oriola and Ficza were not able to capitalize on their good showings from yesterday, with Jordi Gené in tenth.
As per regulations, the Spaniard will be on pole position alongside Zengo’s Ficza for Race 2, making it an all-SEAT front row. Oriola and Afanasyev will start right behind them on Sunday.
Team Engstler’s Mikhail Grachev and Target Competition’s Michael Nykjaer were 11th and 12th respectively, and will not benefit from the reversed grid.
The first TCR race will start at 15.30 local time, lasting 10 laps or 25 minutes.