Photo: TCR Media

Kevin Gleason grabs last gasp pole in Austria ahead of Morbidelli

Kevin Gleason took his second pole position of the 2015 TCR International Series at the Salzburgring, qualifying ahead of WestCoast Racing Honda team-mate Gianni Morbidelli as the two surged ahead of Target Competition’s Stefano Comini in the final moments of qualifying.

The objective for the first part of qualifying all about getting into the top 12, and with a reduced 15 car grid this weekend, there wasn’t a lot of strategy that needed playing out when collisions and technical issues pretty much defined who was going to be in the top 12 early on.

Fernando Monje was still struggling in his Campos Racing Opel Astra, after engine installation issues in Free Practice 1, and a puncture in Free Practice 2. Team-mate Markus Östreich was over two seconds slower than his nearest rival, while Zsolt Szabó ran into difficulty in the Zengo Motorsport SEAT, crashing out his SEAT León at Turn 11 before setting a competitive time, effectively confirming who the top 12 will be without them having a need to set a lap.

Andrea Belicchi emerged fastest in the Target Competition SEAT in Q1 while many drivers chose to spend most of the session in the pits, finishing ahead of team-mate Stefano Comini, with Mikhail Grachev third in the Liqui Moly Team Engstler SEAT.

Markus Östreich made one final push to improve at the end of Q1, but lost control of the rear of his Campos Racing Opel at Turn 11, sliding into the tyre barriers rear-first and ended up 13th and outside of the top 12 that progress through to Q2.

In Q2, Stefano Comini’s best time came on his first lap, thanks to the tow provided by his two Target Competition team-mates. Comini set a time of 1:27.107, while Kevin Gleason was second fastest after his first run with Pepe Oriola third in the Craft-Bamboo SEAT third, before Gleason and Morbidelli took one last run at pole position with Gleason giving his Italian the tow.

Even though Morbidelli benefitted from the slipstream, the 30kg of success ballast worked against him, but both still were able to go faster than Comini and secure a WestCoast Racing Honda 1-2 after the chequered flag was waved, with Gleason the only driver into the 1:26s, setting a time of 1:26.915.

Stefano Comini wound up third and the leading Target Competition SEAT ahead of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Pepe Oriola in fourth, with his team-mate Jordi Gené fifth.

It was a double pole celebration for WestCoast Racing Honda with Igor Skuz setting the tenth fastest time and will therefore benefit from pole position for race two ahead of Target Competition’s Michel Nykjaer.

The first race is due to start at 12:35 CET on Sunday.