Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Luca Engstler and Florian Thoma shared the wins in the TCR Middle East series at the Dubai Autodrome, with the former opening up a 14-point advantage in the championship standings as a result.
The start of race one saw Friday’s pole-sitter Luca Engstler make a clean start, opening up a gap over championship rival Giacomo Altoè.
The 17-year-old was then able to open up a comfortable six-second advantage to notch up his second win of the season, with Pit Lane Competizioni’s Altoè unable to do anything about the young German’s pace and having to settle for second.
“My car was absolutely brilliant,” said Engstler. “Compared to the others I had a big advantage: new front tyres that I had saved from yesterday’s practice sessions.
“This made me able to push during the first laps like in qualifying. In this way I created a comfortable gap and then I just had to control the race in the second half, taking care of the tyres and brakes.”
Third went to the charging Lorenzo Veglia, as the 21-year-old Italian came through from the back of the grid (11th) to third overall, including making an impressive five places on the opening lap alone.
By lap tow Veglia was up to fourth having passed Kai Jordan, and on lap five he made a move on fellow Pit Lane Competizioni Volkswagen racer Mat’o Homola for the final podium position.
Slovakian racer Homola thus had to settle for fourth, despite late-race pressure from the second Liqui Moly car of Florian Thoma, who went on to finish in fifth.
Jordan took the chequered flag in sixth, ahead of Giovanni Altoè in seventh and Spaniard Jordi Oriola in eighth.
Greek racer Costas Papantonis and Slovakian Martin Ryba completed the top ten, despite Papantonis being involved in a skirmish with Oriola three laps from home whilst trying to pass the 21-year-old for eighth place.
The only retirement of the race was newcomer Danny Kroes, who made contact with Thoma on the opening lap and had to retire from the race with a damaged car.
Thoma made the most of a strong start to pass reverse-grid pole sitter Papantonis on the opening lap, before getting by Giovanni Altoè for the lead further around.
The 22-year-old then controlled the race, opening up an even bigger lead than his team-mate in race one to score a first win in TCR Middle East and a second in TCR overall.
“I have to say that it was quite easy at the beginning, because I managed to overtake a lot of cars at the start and then took the lead very early,” explained Thoma. “After that it was just normal driving until the end.
“I really have to give credit to the team for the incredible job they have done. They gave Luca and me two cars that were really faster than the others and did not give us any problems in both races. Now my goal is to finish the championship on the podium.”
Homola took second, the Pit Lane Competizioni racer having secured the position on the very final lap after a race-long battle with Giovanni Altoè.
It was in fact Veglia who had taken second after three-car contact on the last lap, but the Italian was later penalised for contact with Papantonis on lap six, who had to retire with accident damage whilst running in fourth.
That left race one winner Engstler to complete the podium, after the German drove a clean and steady race to move up the field from 10th on the grid.
Giovanni Altoè finished in fourth, having lost out on the final lap of the race, ahead of Jordan in fifth and his younger brother Giacomo Altoè in sixth. The latter has lost ground to Engstler in the title battle as a result, with the gap between first and second standing at 14 points with just two races to run.
Jordi Oriola was seventh, ahead of Dutchman Danny Kroes in eighth, the Audi racer having slipped back one spot from his starting position.
Slovakian racer Ryba and the penalised Veglia completed the top ten.
Race one result
|1||8||Luca ENGSTLER||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||14||24:50.548||1:45.236||1|
|2||10||Giacomo ALTOÈ||Pit Lane Competizioni 1||Audi RS3 LMS TCR DSG||14||6.015||1:45.703||2|
|3||44||Lorenzo VEGLIA||Pit Lane Competizioni 2||Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG||14||7.186||1:45.738||11|
|4||70||Mat’o HOMOLA||Pit Lane Competizioni 2||Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG||14||9.650||1:45.755||5|
|5||39||Florian THOMA||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||14||10.221||1:45.713||6|
|6||13||Kai JORDAN||H&R Spezialfedern||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||14||14.703||1:46.132||3|
|7||23||Giovanni ALTOÈ||Pit Lane Competizioni 1||Audi RS3 LMS TCR DSG||14||16.219||1:45.974||8|
|8||21||Jordi ORIOLA||Pit Lane Competizioni 2||Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG||14||19.604||1:46.372||7|
|9||9||Costas PAPANTONIS||Mouhritsa Racing Team||SEAT León TCR||14||22.541||1:46.389||10|
|10||17||Martin RYBA||Brutal Fish Racing Team||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||14||37.789||1:47.093||9|
|R||24||Danny KROES||Pit Lane Competizioni 1||Audi RS3 LMS TCR DSG||1||DNF||N/A||4|
Race two result
|1||39||Florian THOMA||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||14||25:00.392||1:46.251||5|
|2||70||Mat’o HOMOLA||Pit Lane Competizioni 2||Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG||14||10.960||1:46.669||6|
|3||8||Luca ENGSTLER||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||14||12.085||1:46.363||10|
|4||23||Giovanni ALTOÈ||Pit Lane Competizioni 1||Audi RS3 LMS TCR DSG||14||14.070||1:46.566||3|
|5||13||Kai JORDAN||H&R Spezialfedern||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||14||15.925||1:46.758||8|
|6||10||Giacomo ALTOÈ||Pit Lane Competizioni 1||Audi RS3 LMS TCR DSG||14||16.491||1:46.699||9|
|7||21||Jordi ORIOLA||Pit Lane Competizioni 2||Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG||14||17.243||1:47.075||4|
|8||24||Danny KROES||Pit Lane Competizioni 1||Audi RS3 LMS TCR DSG||14||20.812||1:47.352||7|
|9||17||Martin RYBA||Brutal Fish Racing Team||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||14||37.090||1:47.353||2|
|10||44||Lorenzo VEGLIA||Pit Lane Competizioni 2||Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG||14||42.305||1:46.542||11|
|R||9||Costas PAPANTONIS||Mouhritsa Racing Team||SEAT León TCR||6||DNF||1:46.523||1|