Photo: TCR Europe

Mikel Azcona fastest in FP1 as TCR Europe season kicks off

Volcano Motorsport’s Mikel Azcona kicked off the 2021 TCR Europe series season with the fastest time in the opening practice session at the Slovakiaring.

The 2018 champion, driving in the latest generation of the Cupra León Competición, set a best time of 2:27.774 to end up just over three-tenths of a second quicker than the PSS Racing Honda Civic Type-R TCR of Franco Girolami.

Girolami had been the early pacesetter as the track conditions evolved but Azcona was the man to beat come the end of the session, the Spaniard continuing his impressive end-of-season form from 2020 in the new campaign.

“It’s the best way to start the season,” Azcona told TCR TV after the session.

“I am very happy, very proud of the team. We were here two weeks ago, testing and making a lot of kilometres with my team-mate.

“The lap was great, the beginning of the session I was helping Evgenii [Leonov] so after three or four laps I decided to push a little bit and I had two good slipstreams on the main straight and also on the back straight so it helped me a lot.”

Girolami’s early benchmark of 2:11.436 was largely untroubled as the field got a feel of the Slovakiaring circuit, new to TCR Europe and for most of the drivers.

Comtoyou Racing’s Tom Coronel was Girolami’s closest challenger, just over a tenth of a second in arrears, while another Audi of Klim Gavrilov (VRC Team) was a strong third before Azcona’s fastest time.

Coronel and Gavrilov’s times were, however, good enough to remain inside the top four by the end of the session.

Completing the top five on his return to TCR Europe for the first time since being handed a ban following a paddock incident at Monza in 2019, was Dušan Borković in the second Comtoyou Racing Audi RS 3 LMS.

The Serbian looked comfortable on track and racked up 11 laps of the 5.935km circuit to set a time just 0.837 slower than Azcona.

Dániel Nagy marked his return to Cupra power with the sixth fastest time, his first outing for Zengo Motorsport. He finished ahead of Nicolas Baert’s Comtoyou Racig Audi, while Mat’o Homola – in an older spec Hyundai i30 N TCR – was eighth.

Rounding out the top ten in FP1 were Team Clairet Sport’s Teddy Clairet in the Peugeot 308TCR, ahead of Czech newcomer Jáchym Galáš in his Janík Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR.

It was a low-key series debut for the new Hyundai Elantra TCRs in Slovakia, with Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Niels Langeveld the best placed in 15th, 2.152s behind Azcona.

Felice Jelmini was 18th, just ahead of defending TCR Europe champion Mehdi Bennani and fellow SLR team-mate Sami Taoufik.

Second practice is scheduled to start at 15:55 CET.