Photo: TCR Europe

Yann Ehrlacher prevails for pole in messy TCR World Tour qualifying at Spa

Yann Ehrlacher found clean air in his Lynk & Co 03 TCR to claim TCR World Tour pole at Spa-Francorchamps in a messy qualifying session.

While some drivers sought to get a tow to aid their straight-line speed, others slowed in the final sector to ensure they would have plenty of space in front of them when they began their next flying lap. The outcome was a messy and quick-fire qualifying where it was unclear who would take pole until the very end.

Comtoyou Racing’s practice pace-setter Kobe Pauwels was first on track in Q1, but it was team-mate John Filippi who set the early benchmark laptime.

He was shuffled down to fourth once more cars headed out, with Tom Coronel setting a 2:30.028 to head Ehrlacher and Thed Björk.

The top two pitted and Björk got sandwiched into fourth place by his Cyan Racing team-mates Santiago Urrutia and Ma Qing Hua, then deleted laptimes started to change the order in the final minutes.

Filippi went fastest with just under two minutes remaining, and Hua bettered his team-mates to move up into fourth.

The chequered flag waved and Rob Huff went seventh fastest, only to drop back to tenth once his final lap was deleted for track limits abuse. That was still enough to progress to Q2, while Comtoyou team-mate Frédéric Vervisch struggled to 15th place on the grid for both of this weekend’s races and a success ballast-laden Viktor Andersson was three seconds off the pace in 20th.

“Just no pace,” said Vervisch afterwards. “Need to try to understand why, and hopefully it gets better for the race. For sure it’s a very difficult position to start.”

Pauwels was first on track again in Q2, and was joined by Néstor Girolami but he then headed back to the pits after doing an outlap. It meant there was a long gap between Pauwels setting his first timed lap and anyone else posting a laptime, particularly as the desire to find clean air led to cars queueing up in the final sector and ruining the efforts of those who were on a timed lap as they went off at Turn 18 in avoidance.

Tom Coronel and Filippi were the next drivers to set laptimes, with the latter losing two seconds in the messy final sector, and they only recorded those times in the final two-and-a-half minutes.

On his next lap, Coronel collided with BRC Racing’s Mikel Azcona at Les Combes and they both went off – meaning the lap would not count for either – and it was not until the final 36 seconds of qualifying that more drivers put times on the board.

Ehrlacher set a 2m29.470s to put himself on pole over Pauwels, Urrutia went fourth fastest and Hua set a lap good enough for sixth place, then was promoted to fifth as Urrutia’s laptime was deleted for a track limits violation.

The chequered flag waved and Huff was first to meet it, rising to third ahead of an improving Björk. Coronel improved his pace but actually lost positions as Girolami got within 0.507 seconds of Ehrlacher to go second fastest.

Coronel gained back one spot as Björk’s last lap was deleted, meanwhile the other Cyan Racing cars of Hua, Urrutia and Ehrlacher were still on track. Hua ended up finding his team-mate in the way at the end of his lap but still went second fastest, while Urrutia solidified fifth place and Ehrlacher did not improve but still claimed pole.

Girolami and Pauwels will share row two of the grid for Race 1, with Pauwels the fastest of the drivers entered for TCR Europe points this weekend, and Urrutia and Huff will fill row three.

Azcona had his last lap deleted too, meaning he and Björk finished Q2 without a laptime to their names.

The first race of the race weekend at Spa starts at 15:30 CEST today.