Photo: TCR Media

Pepe Oriola takes pole position in Thailand by one-thousandth of a second

TCR International Series points leader Pepe Oriola secured pole position for the Thailand round of the TCR International Series, setting a time of 1:43.634 on his first lap to grab pole away from WestCoast Racing Honda driver Gianni Morbidelli.

Oriola, driving with no success ballast this weekend after a tough weekend last time out in Sochi, Russia, outpaced Morbidelli’s second lap time. The Italian had already had to dig deep on his second run to find time to get ahead of Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay, who had gone quicker on his first lap.

Morbidelli had one more chance to improve, and found more time in this Honda to set a 1:43.635, just a thousandth of a second off of Oriola’s time.

In the first part of qualifying, Mulsanne Alfa driver Petr Fulín looked set to get knocked out of the top 12 with just a few minutes to go after a quick lap from B3 Racing’s Attila Tassi. The Alfa Romeo driver then headed back out to try and improve in the final minutes, as WestCoast Racing’s Rafaël Galiana spun and burst both of his front tyres in the process at Turn 4.

Fulín went on to jump to tenth on his final lap, knocking Engstler’s Davit Kajaia out of the top 12 after the Georgian driver had stopped earlier on with a broken driveshaft.

There’s a question outstanding over whether Fulín improved his time under yellow flags with Galiana’s car stranded just off the track, however the Czech driver didn’t set a time in Q2 and so will start 12th for both races.

The Subaru WRX STi of Luigi Ferrara qualified in 19th position as the Top Run Motorsport team made their return to the championship.

Behind Oriola, Morbidelli and Vernay will be Stefano Comini, who immediately loses is championship lead to Oriola with the Spaniard scoring five points for pole.

The front row for race two will be an all-Russian affair, with Mikhail Grachev setting the tenth fastest time for WestCoast Racing and with Sergey Afanasyev ninth fastest for Craft-Bamboo Racing.

Race 1 is scheduled for 12:35 local time on Sunday.