Photo: TCR South America

Yann Ehrlacher tops first practice at La Pedrera circuit dogged by dogs

TCR World Tour leader Yann Ehrlacher comfortably set the pace in the first practice session at La Pedrera in Argentina.

It was Squadra Martino’s Néstor Girolami who was fastest at first, posting a 1:47.968 as his opening effort. Nobody could get close to that until eight minutes into the half-hour session when Cyan Racing’s Ehrlacher went 1.058 seconds faster than him. His team-mate Santiago Urrutia slotted into third place, 1.132s off the new benchmark time.

BRC Racing’s Mikel Azcona had been second but was shuffled down to fourth, and soon he was at the bottom of the top ten as Comtoyou Racing’s Rob Huff went second fastest, Cyan’s Ma Qing Hua put in a sub-1:48 lap to get into third and several other drivers also bettered Azcona’s 1:48.971.

Having been rapid out of the blocks, Girolami went straight back into the pits and did not come out again until a third of the way through the session. After 12 minutes he posted a 1:46.512 to return to first place by 0.398s.

Few improved their pace in the minutes after that, although Azcona hopped back up to third with a 1:47.086, and it was not until the final seven minutes that the track became busy again.

Azcona set a 1:46.814 to get into second place, and a minute later Cyan’s Thed Björk jumped from outside the top 15 into fourth with a 1:47.256 in his Lynk & Co 03 TCR.

Ehrlacher then lowered the pace by a huge margin, setting a 1:45.391 to go more than a second clear of Girolami. Azcona managed to match Girolami’s time, and with three minutes to go Urrutia set a 1:46.463 to take second place but with a deficit of over a second to Ehrlacher still.

It was not until after the chequered flag that Ehrlacher’s advantage was trimmed further, with Azcona getting within 0.744s of the pace. Hua jumped from 11th to fifth with a 1:46.762, with the top eight (completed by Huff) covered by 2.060s.

Squadra Martino’s Ignacio Montenegro was the top TCR South America driver in ninth, a further 0.241s behind Huff and only 0.007s ahead of Toyota Team Argentina rival Bernardo Llaver who improved after the chequered flag.

Scuderia Chiarelli’s Pedro Cardoso was only 0.112s slower than Montenegro in 11th, with the top seven TCR South America drivers covered by 0.389s.

There was a red flag stoppage during the session, and in shakedown, caused by dogs. The second practice session is at 08:30 local time (ART) on Saturday.