Photo: TCR Europe

Argentinians lead the way in Austria during TCR Europe’s Salzburgring practice

Argentinian talents Ignacio Montenegro and Franco Girolami were the fastest drivers in TCR Europe’s free practice sessions on Austria’s high-speed Salzburgring track.

While the venue is normally known for its sweeps that test tyres as much as drivers, during the two half-hour practice sessions on Saturday afternoon the big challenge was wet weather which made for a slippy track surface.

Monlau Motorsport’s Girolami topped FP1 by just 0.004 seconds over ALM Motorsport’s Montenegro. At the halfway point of the session the gap was 0.054s, with Girolami having set a 1:33.898. SP Competition’s Aurélien Comte was third, 0.249s behind.

Five minutes later Girolami improved to 1:33.709 to grow his gap at the top to 0.243s, while MA:GP’s Viktor Andersson jumped up to fourth place.

Montenegro lapped just 0.004s slower than Girolami’s benchmark a minute after that, and neither driver was able to improve thereon in the session. Goat Racing’s Felipe Fernández went fifth fastest with eight-and-a-half minutes remaining, with ALM’s Ruben Volt climbing to sixth two minutes later.

Comte improved to 1:34.101 but stayed in third, and at the end of FP1 Volt improved to 1:34.322 but did not move from sixth place. Comte found even more pace after the chequered flag, and got within 0.268s of Girolami but again failed to improve his position.

Between Andersson and Volt was Goat’s Santiago Concepcion, and the top nine was covered by 0.947s. Comtoyou Racing’s Nicola Baldan missed pre-event testing and was slowest of all in FP1, 4.236s off the pace.

Montenegro was the early pacesetter in FP2, a 1:34.589 putting him 0.146s ahead of Girolami. Eight-and-a-half minutes in red flags waved as Fernández, who had just gone fastest in the first and second sectors, had an incident in the third. Moments before that he had also been demoted from fourth to fifth place by Concepcion.

The stoppage lasted 12 minutes, and the session clock was paused during that period, and after the restart Girolami took top spot from Montenegro by 0.678s and Monlau’s Viktor Davidovki went third fastest.

Montenegro crossed the line nine seconds later and reclaimed first place by 0.343s with 1:33.568 lap. Comte was third once again, and halfway through the session he reduced his gap to the top down to 0.449s as Davidovski was shuffled down to sixth by ALM’s Levente Losonczy and Concepcion.

With nine minutes to go Montenegro found more pace and gew his advantage to 0.676s, with the 1:33.235 lap he set ending up being the fastest of practice.

Girolami cut the gap to 0.536s, then to 0.354s with four minutes left of FP2, but could improve no further so had to settle for second. Comte briefly lost third to Concepcion but set a 1:33.621 to reclaim the position and end practice 0.386s off the top.

Concepcion was 0.652s slower than Montenegro in fourth, with 0.027s covering him, Losoncy and Fernández. Volt was slowest this time, 5.906s off the pace, but his best lap from FP1 put him 10th in the combined classification.

Qualifying starts at 17:30 CEST.