Giacomo Altoè claimed the first TCR pole position of the season in qualifying for TCR Middle East in Abu Dhabi, as the Audi driver saw off the Volkswagen of Luca Engstler for the top time.
17-year-old Altoè improved his time in the final ten minutes of the session to pip Engstler by 0.104 seconds, despite both drivers improving further at the end of the session.
“I’m over the moon,” said Altoè. “We have been able to show the great potential of our car. Everything worked perfectly and it was a great result, for the team and for myself.
“We have worked very well in setting up the car and this paid off as my pole position time was very impressive.”
“It was really close,” added Engstler. “The team has done a very good job and I was confident I could set pole position myself.
“Unfortunately I made a small mistake in my fastest lap, otherwise I could have beaten Giacomo. But I’m very happy with the car and tomorrow I want to win the first race.”
Third on the grid went to Pit Lane Competizioni’s Mat’o Homola, who is having his second attempt at TCR Middle East in 2018 after also taking part in the inaugural season in 2017. The Slovakian racer was just over two tenths off pole in his Volkswagen Golf GTi.
Engstler’s team-mate Florian Thoma was fourth fastest in his Volkswagen, a further half a tenth back from Homola.
TCR Germany regular Kai Jordan put his H&R Spezialfedern-entered Volkswagen in fifth, just under four tenths from pole.
Spaniard Jordi Oriola was sixth quickest in his Pit Lane Competizioni Volkswagen, ahead of the Audi of Giovanni Altoè in seventh and Volkswagen of Lorenzo Veglia in eighth.
The Audi of Alberto Vescovi, SEAT of Costas Papantonis and Volkswagen of Martin Ryba completed the running, with 11 cars entered for this weekend’s pair of races.
Greek racer Papantonis will thus start the second race from pole position, as the reverse grid continues to switch the top ten as is the norm with TCR series races. Panatonis had been forced to stop early in the session due to an issue with the rear suspension on his León TCR.
Race one will start at 11:00 local time on Saturday (07:00 GMT) followed by race two at 14:25 local time (10:25 GMT).