Photo: TCR South America

Yann Ehrlacher gets his third TCR World Tour pole in greasy La Pedrera qualifying

TCR World Tour points leader Yann Ehrlacher put his Lynk & Co 03 TCR on pole for the third time this year in a greasy qualifying session at La Pedrera in Argentina.

There were drops of rain in Q1, but it did not have too much impact on the pace with the fastest lap only 1.372 seconds slower than the best from practice.

As in practice, BRC Racing’s Mikel Azcona was the first to get up to pace and his second lap, a 1:51.394, kept him on top until over halfway through the first segment of qualifying.

He was shuffled down to fifth as Cyan’s quartet of drivers all went faster, with Ehrlacher setting a new 1:50.188 benchmark, then improvements from Squadra Martino’s Néstor Girolami and Scuderia Chiarelli’s Pedro Cardoso knocked him down to seventh.

His own team-mate Norbert Michelisz was next to beat him, but he finally responded with a 1:48.540 lap that returned him to first place. Michelisz improved to rise to second place, 1.448s off the pace, then there was little change in the top ten until the action dialled up in the last two minutes.

Cyan’s Thed Björk went second fastest, 0.11s off Azcona, with Comtoyou Racing’s Frédéric Vervisch and Coba Racing Team’s Diego Nunes improving to third and fourth.

Björk was down to fourth with 14s to go as a flurry of improvements came in. Azcona lowered the pace to 1:46.763, Cyan’s Ma Qing Hua went second fastest with a 1:47.423 and Vervisch improved in third. Comtoyou’s Rob Huff climbed to fifth, and Cardoso improved in sixth ahead of W2 ProGP’s Raphael Reis, PMO Motorsport’s Matías Milla and Cyan’s Santiago Urrutia.

Outside the top ten were Michelisz, Girolami and Ehrlacher, with the latter looking like he would not make Q2. With two seconds remaining Urrutia went sixth fastest, and after the chequered flag his team-mates improved. Ma stayed second, Ehrlacher went from 13th to third and Björk stayed fourth.

Michelisz made it up to eighth, and Urrutia found himself back down in 11th while Girolami was 16th. But Girolami had started his last lap mere moments before the clock struck zero, and when he came back around he crossed the line in 1:47.524, putting him in third place.

Rain started to fall more for Q2, with the air temperature as low as 8°C and cars sliding sideways everywhere, still running on slicks.

Ehrlacher was fastest on the first laps, a 1:53.872 putting him 0.231s up on Michelisz, with Urrutia 0.998s back in third.

Azcona moved into third on the second laps, setting a 1:54.246 while Huff went fourth fastest with a 1:54.817. There were no changes in the laps that followed, with the track getting less grippy, and Ehrlacher secured pole.

Cardoso was the top TCR South America driver in ninth, 4.685s off the pace but 2.853s faster than Reis in tenth. Girolami was a huge 8.481s slower than Ehrlacher in 11th place. Post-session, Ehrlacher said he was on “slick tyres, no time to change” as the rain got worse.

Update: Raphael Reis was excluded from qualifying for failing to meet the minimum ride height, thus promoting Girolami to tenth and the reversed grid pole position for Race 2.

Race 1 takes place at 15:10 local time/20:10 CEST today.