Luca Engstler clinches second TCR Asia title as Diego Moran wins opening race
Luca Engstler mathematically clinched his second successive TCR Asia title with second place in the opening race in Thailand, as Team Engstler team-mate Diego Moran took the win.
Moran started from third on the grid but inherited the lead following dramas for front-row starters Luca Engstler and Pepe Oriola.
Engstler finished second to team-mate Moran after spinning at Turn 2 on the opening lap, while Oriola ended up sixth following a drive through penalty for a jump-start.
A high-speed crash involving Daniel Miranda, Kim Jin Soo and Jakraphan Davee caused significant barrier damage, with officials electing to declare the result with ten laps completed.
Engstler got a decent getaway off pole position and led into the first corner from Oriola and Moran. Coming through Turn 2, Engstler spun and was nearly collected by several cars, which struggled to find a way past the stationary Hyundai i30 N TCR.
Davee, Douglas Khoo, Roland Hertner and David Lau all had to wait until Engstler got going again before they could rejoin the rest of the field which the subsequent safety car ultimately compressed.
Oriola led off the restart but was quickly handed his drive through for jumping the start, handing the advantage to Moran and the recovering Engstler.
Reigning series champion Engstler had dropped to seventh but fought his way back up the order to third, which became second following Oriola’s penalty.
The narrow confines of the Bangsaen street circuit made it hard for Engstler to find a way past the Cupra of Kim Jin Soo but the German squeezed down the inside of Turn 13 to grab the position under braking.
He then set about trying to find a way by team-mate Moran, when the safety car came out again.
Soo had been defending hard from the Hyundai i30 N TCR of Miranda coming into the Turn 11 chicane, but the South Korean driver ran wide on exit and clipped the outside wall, rebounding into the path of Miranda.
Soo was hit in the rear by Miranda and then heavily at the front by Davee’s Hyundai. Miranda’s car briefly caught fire, but it was quickly extinguished and all three drivers were unharmed.
The race was initially neutralised by the safety car but substantial damage was done to the inside retaining barrier, causing race officials to call an end to proceedings.
Race 2 at the Bangsaen circuit is scheduled to take place tomorrow at 12:45 ICT.