Photo: TCR Media

Nicki Thiim grabs first pole of the season for Engstler in Portimao

Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Nicki Thiim grabbed pole position for the Portuguese round of the TCR International Series, the first for the Engstler squad in the series and the first for the Audi TT in the fourth event of the calendar.

Nicki Thiim was fastest in the first part of qualifying, with the Dane following up his practice form, but the battle was all about being in the top 12 for Q1. Mikhail Grachev was trying his hardest to get into Q2 in the SEAT León Racer which had only just arrived from Italy, but was unable to go any faster than 14th in the session.

Target Competition’s Michel Nykjaer was under threat in the latter stages of the session, before the Dane was able to put in a lap just after the chequered flag waved to go sixth fastest and demote the other Engstler SEAT of Lorenzo Veglia to 13th.

Veglia however found time on his final run and went 12th, knocking Campos Racing’s Oscar Nogués down to 13th and out of Q2.

Nogués team failed to notice the late improvement from Veglia and sent their driver out in Q2, which earned the Spaniard a black flag in the session.

On their first runs, Thiim went fastest of all in the Audi TT, improving even further on his second lap to grab pole position with a time of 1:53.863.

Jordi Gené was Thiim’s closest rival in the Craft-Bamboo Lukoil SEAT León in second, almost eight tenths of a second behind, with Pepe Oriola third in the second-highest placed of Craft-Bamboo’s cars, with Lorenzo Veglia taking his career best qualifying with fourth in the Engstler Motorsport SEAT.

Kelvin van der Linde was fifth fastest in Engstler’s other Audi TT despite missing both practice sessions, with Gianni Morbidelli sixth for WestCoast Racing Honda, series leader Stefano Comini seventh in the Target SEAT, Sergey Afanasyev eighth in the third-best placed SEAT of Craft-Bamboo, and with Target’s Michel Nykjaer and WestCoast’s Kevin Gleason completing the top ten, with Gleason therefore securing pole position for the second race tomorrow.

The first race is scheduled to take place at 12:35 WEST / 13:35 CET on Sunday.