Felice Jelmini claims maiden TCR Europe pole at Spa-Francorchamps

Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Felice Jelmini led a Hyundai 1-2 in qualifying for the first TCR Europe race at Spa-Francorchamps, as he beat team-mate Mehdi Bennani by over four tenths of a second.

Having set the pace in Thursday’s second practice session, Brutal Fish Racing’s Jack Young went into qualifying with high hopes. However, the Northern Irishman would be one of the first to face dramas after he spun into the barriers at Les Combes, scuppering his qualifying session due to slight front-end damage and causing a full-course yellow.

Young’s team-mate Isidro Callejas was the first to top the times, the Spaniard setting a lap of 2 minutes 31.388 seconds. Five minutes later, after Young’s car had been cleared, Jelmini then hit the top of the times with an effort of 2:31.178.

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The Italian held the top time until two minutes to go when his team-mate Bennani went quickest with a 2:30.902, with Moroccan compatriot Sami Taoufik then going second a minute later.

Thereafter the top times didn’t change, although the biggest loser in the closing minutes was Volcano Motorsport’s Evgenii Leonov, who dropped to 13th and failed to progress to Q2 after Teddy Clairet just sneaked into the top twelve.

In Q2, Bennani had set the early pace, but it was Jelmini who clinched pole two minutes from the end with his effort of 2:30.152, giving the Italian a first-ever pole in the series he only joined at the start of the year.

That left Bennani in second, with Janík Motorsport’s Mat’o Homola making a late improvement to steal third, marking a best qualifying effort of the year for the Slovakian Hyundai i30 N driver.

Title contender Mikel Azcona put his CUPRA in fourth, ahead of the Hyundai Elantra of Taoufik in fifth.

Belgian local Nicolas Baert was sixth as the best Audi racer, the only other driver within a second of the pace.

Championship leader Franco Girolami, who had set the pace in first practice, qualified his PSS Racing Honda in seventh, ahead of the best Peugeot of Teddy Clairet in eighth.

Completing the top ten were the Honda of Callejas and the Audi of Klim Gavrilov, the latter gaining the reverse-grid pole position for race two on Saturday.

Dutchmen Tom Coronel and Niels Langeveld missed out on the reversed grid and were 11th and 12th in their Audi and Hyundai cars respectively.

Amongst those who didn’t progress to Q2, after Leonov in 13th, Martin Ryba was 14th in his Brutal Fish Honda, the Slovakian having struggled early on in qualifying to find the balance in his car, resulting in an early spin.

Despite having been in the top ten in both of Thursday’s practice sessions, Jimmy Clairet couldn’t replicate the same form in qualifying and was 15th.

Dušan Borković will be disappointed to have only managed 16th in his Comtoyou Racing Audi, the Serbian being the slowest of the RS3 drivers at a circuit which has favoured the car in the past.

Race one is scheduled to get underway at 17:30 BST (18:30 CEST).

Q2 results

POS NO NAT DRIVER ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 44 Felice JELMINI Sébastien Loeb Racing Hyundai Elantra N TCR 4 2:30.152
2 250 Mehdi BENNANI Sébastien Loeb Racing Hyundai Elantra N TCR 4 2:30.571 0.419
3 70 Mat’o HOMOLA Janík Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR 4 2:30.765 0.613
4 96 Mikel AZCONA Volcano Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 4 2:30.852 0.700
5 25 Sami TAOUFIK Sébastien Loeb Racing Hyundai Elantra N TCR 4 2:30.961 0.809
6 8 Nicolas BAERT Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 4 2:31.131 0.979
7 72 Franco GIROLAMI PSS Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 4 2:31.285 1.133
8 20 Teddy CLAIRET Team Clairet Sport Peugeot 308 TCR 4 2:31.394 1.242
9 26 Isidro CALLEJAS Brutal Fish Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 4 2:31.479 1.327
10 14 Klim GAVRILOV VRC-Team Audi RS3 LMS TCR 4 2:31.535 1.383
11 32 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 4 2:31.651 1.499
12 10 Niels LANGEVELD Sébastien Loeb Racing Hyundai Elantra N TCR 4 2:31.664 1.512

Q1 results

POS NO NAT DRIVER ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 250 Mehdi BENNANI Sébastien Loeb Racing Hyundai Elantra N TCR 7 2:30.902
2 25 Sami TAOUFIK Sébastien Loeb Racing Hyundai Elantra N TCR 7 2:30.909 0.007
3 44 Felice JELMINI Sébastien Loeb Racing Hyundai Elantra N TCR 5 2:31.178 0.276
4 14 Klim GAVRILOV VRC-Team Audi RS3 LMS TCR 7 2:31.372 0.470
5 26 Isidro CALLEJAS Brutal Fish Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 7 2:31.388 0.486
6 20 Teddy CLAIRET Team Clairet Sport Peugeot 308 TCR 7 2:31.444 0.542
7 96 Mikel AZCONA Volcano Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 7 2:31.492 0.590
8 70 Mat’o HOMOLA Janík Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR 7 2:31.588 0.686
9 72 Franco GIROLAMI PSS Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 3 2:31.665 0.763
10 32 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 7 2:31.738 0.836
11 10 Niels LANGEVELD Sébastien Loeb Racing Hyundai Elantra N TCR 6 2:31.947 1.045
12 8 Nicolas BAERT Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 8 2:32.047 1.145
13 16 Evgenii LEONOV Volcano Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 7 2:32.204 1.302
14 17 Martin RYBA Brutal Fish Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 7 2:32.308 1.406
15 21 Jimmy CLAIRET Team Clairet Sport Peugeot 308 TCR 5 2:32.325 1.423
16 162 Dušan BORKOVIĆ Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 7 2:32.540 1.638
17 24 Jáchym GALÁŠ Janík Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR 7 2:32.637 1.735
18 77 Sylvain PUSSIER Team Clairet Sport CUPRA TCR 7 2:32.842 1.940
19 66 Gilles COLOMBANI Team Clairet Sport CUPRA TCR 7 2:35.354 4.452
20 62 Jack YOUNG Brutal Fish Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 2 No time N/A
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