Giaocomo Altoè and Lorenzo Veglia shared the race wins in the opening rounds of the 2018 TCR Middle East Series in Abu Dhabi, with the former leaving the Emirate as the series leader.
In race one, having started from pole position, Pit Lane Competizioni’s Altoè took a commanding lights-to-flag victory, with the young 17-year-old being unchallenged on his way to a first victory of 2018.
Behind the Italian, Mat’o Homola got past fellow Volkswagen racer Luca Engstler to move into second, a position which the Slovakian racer would hold to the finish.
Engstler, who also took part in the 2017 TCR Middle East season along with Altoè, completed the podium in third, despite late-race pressure from Liqui Moly Team Engstler team-mate Florian Thoma, who ultimately had to settle for fourth.
TCR returnee Veglia took fifth in his Pit Lane Competizioni Volkswagen, having got past German Kai Jordan for the position on lap 11, leaving the TCR Germany regular to settle for sixth.
Slovakian Martin Ryba was the only retirement of the race after he suffered from a broken driveshaft on his Golf GTi.
Race one result
|1||10||Giacomo ALTOÈ||Pit Lane Competizioni 1||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||20||25:16.055||1:15.116||1|
|2||70||Mat’o HOMOLA||Pit Lane Competizioni 2||Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG||20||1.697||1:14.997||3|
|3||8||Luca ENGSTLER||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||20||2.846||1:15.193||2|
|4||39||Florian THOMA||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||20||3.170||1:15.257||4|
|5||44||Lorenzo VEGLIA||Pit Lane Competizioni 2||Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG||20||6.521||1:15.287||8|
|6||13||Kai JORDAN||H&R Spezialfedern||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||20||9.545||1:15.113||5|
|7||21||Jordi ORIOLA||Pit Lane Competizioni 2||Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG||20||13.490||1:15.249||6|
|8||23||Giovanni ALTOÈ||Pit Lane Competizioni 1||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||20||14.403||1:15.218||7|
|9||9||Costas PAPANTONIS||Mouhritsa Racing Team||SEAT León TCR||20||21.634||1:15.318||10|
|10||32||Alberto VESCOVI||Pit Lane Competizioni 1||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||20||22.262||1:15.817||9|
|11||17||Martin RYBA||Brutal Fish Racing Team||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||8||DNF||1:16.898||11|
The second race saw Greek driver Costas Papantonis start from pole position for the reverse-grid race, but the SEAT racer made a jump start, allowing Veglia and fellow Italian Alberto Vescovi to benefit and move past him before Turn 1.
Papantonis was then hit by Jordi Oriola on the opening lap, spinning him to the rear of the field, before he was eventually handed a drive-through penalty for his false start.
Veglia then led the race until lap 15, when Thoma made contact with the leading Golf and dropped Veglia to third as the German took the race lead. But it would be short-lived for the Engstler Motorsport racer, as he was later forced to retire with broken suspension from the incident.
That left Luca Engstler as the race leader on lap 17, but the young German lost the lead on the very last lap of the race when Veglia made contact, pushing Engstler wide, allowing the TCR returnee to claim the victory.
Engstler held on to take second, ahead of Jordan in third and Giacomo Altoè in fourth, who emerged as the series leader with a slender one-point advantage over Engstler at the end of the event.
Homola took fifth, having at one stage been part of the lead battle, ahead of Oriola in sixth and Giovanni Altoè in seventh.
Alberto Vescovi, who started on the front row of the grid, ultimately fell back to eighth over the course of the race.
The second round of the three-event TCR Middle East Series takes place in Dubai in one week (26 – 27 January 2018).
Race two result
|1||44||Lorenzo VEGLIA||Pit Lane Competizioni 2||Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG||20||25:21.773||1:15.037||3|
|2||8||Luca ENGSTLER||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||20||0.568||1:14.778||9|
|3||13||Kai JORDAN||H&R Spezialfedern||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||20||5.828||1:15.545||6|
|4||10||Giacomo ALTOÈ||Pit Lane Competizioni 1||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||20||7.317||1:15.494||10|
|5||70||Mat’o HOMOLA||Pit Lane Competizioni 2||Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG||20||12.184||1:15.893||8|
|6||21||Jordi ORIOLA||Pit Lane Competizioni 2||Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG||20||16.376||1:15.723||5|
|7||23||Giovanni ALTOÈ||Pit Lane Competizioni 1||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||20||19.079||1:15.699||4|
|8||32||Alberto VESCOVI||Pit Lane Competizioni 1||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||20||21.097||1:15.834||2|
|9||17||Martin RYBA||Brutal Fish Racing Team||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||20||37.393||1:16.729||11|
|10||9||Costas PAPANTONIS||Mouhritsa Racing Team||SEAT León TCR||19||+ 1 LAP||1:16.646||1|
|11||39||Florian THOMA||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||18||+ 2 LAPS||1:14.969||7|