Photo: TCR Europe

Hyundai pace strong despite lack of slipstream says Mehdi Bennani

Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani said he is happy with Hyundai’s qualifying performance for the opening TCR Europe race of the weekend despite failing to optimise a pre-arranged slipstream strategy around Spa-Francorchamps.

Team-mate Felice Jelmini claimed his maiden TCR Europe Series pole position by over four-tenths of a second, as Hyundais occupied four of the top five positions, with Mat’o Homola’s older-generation Janík Motorsport i30 N TCR third fastest.

Defending champion Bennani said that, while the gap to Jelmini was too great to beat, the times shown by the the pair plus Sami Taoufik and Niels Langeveld give them a lot of confidence for the race.

“We were all very close at the start of Q2, we tried for all four Hyundais together to see if we could get some slipstream but at the end the gap was too big between us,” Bennani said.

“At the end we are P2 and my teammate Jelmini is P1 and so I want to say congratulations to him.

“Also it was a very good job by all the team, by Niels  and also from Sami as he was P2 in Q1. I followed Sami at the start of Q2, I’m curious to see what he is doing; he is learning very quickly and the potential is there.”

Team-mate and polesitter Jelmini admitted that he made a mistake on his penultimate lap before securing the pole in a car he described as “amazing”.

“I had to abort my first quick lap in Q2 after I made a mistake at Eau Rouge and I cut the corner, so I had to save the tyres to push again. The feeling with the car was good and I tried to do another good lap,” Jelmini added.

“We changed the set-up a little bit after the previous races and now I feel better in the car in terms of confidence. I made a few mistakes during my lap but I’m happy. Pole position is good every time!”

“The car was amazing today – we started work yesterday to find the right set-up and I felt so good from the very first laps in Qualifying. I have to say a huge thank you to the team, I’m so happy.”

As for the race itself, Bennani is bullish about his chances but also wary of potential slip-ups while fighting against his team-mates.

“Sometimes it’s not helpful to be alongside your teammate on the grid as you have exactly the same strategy, but normally we are clean with each other and so hopefully we will have a clean race,” he said.