Photo: TCR Europe

Nicola Baldan claims his first TCR Europe pole at Zolder

Nicola Baldan ended a long wait for his first TCR Europe pole at Zolder, topping both segments of qualifying.

The track was immediately busy in Q1, but then most of the field only did outlaps before returning to the pits. The first flying lap was a 1:39.745 from ALM Motorsport’s Ruben Volt, set eight minutes into the 20-minute period drivers had on track, then shortly after there was an incident at turn 12 involving Santiago Concepcion and Levente Losonczy.

It proved non-disruptive, and race control deemed it only worth investigating after qualifying, and Volt was bettered by team-mate Ignacio Montenegro who set a 1:39.209.

Monlau Motorsport’s Franco Girolami was next to top the times, lapping sub-1:38 as team-mate Viktor Davidovski jumped up to second and Comtoyou Racing’s Baldan briefly went third fastest before SP Competition’s free practice pacesetter Aurélien Comte bettered him.

On Baldan’s next lap he lowered the pace to 1:37.709, and Comte was just 0.008 seconds slower in second place. Volt and SP’s Giovanni Scamardi went fourth and fifth, while Girolami and Davidovski headed to the pits.

The others ended their first runs a few minutes later, and Davidovski started his second run with a 1:37.458 to take top spot. Volt and Comte improved in third and fifth with two minutes to go, then with 100s left on the clock Balda set a 1:37.368. He was fastest for less than a minute, as Comte beat him by 0.079s, but then Baldan was able to sneak in a 1:37.128 just before the chequered flag waved to move back ahead.

MA:GP’s Viktor Andersson went fourth fastest after that, completing a top covered by 0.405s.

All 12 drivers progressed to the 10-minute Q2, and Girolmai laid down a 1:37.045 as the first benchmark. That was swiftly beaten by a 1:36.955 from Baldan, and halfway through he improved to 1:36.470. Volt and Girolami improved at the same time, with Volt setting a 1:37.004 to provisionally put himself on Race 1’s front row.

Baldan’s lap proved unbeatable, and Comte ended up as his closest rival. On successive laps he improved, occuping sixth place, fourth and then second when he posted a 1:36.902 with two minutes to go.

Montenegro qualified fifth, ahead of Andersson, early pitter Davidovski and Scamardi.

The first race of the weekend starts at 16:15 CEST.