Pepe oriola and seat dominate home qualifying

A Spanish driver and the Spanish cars dominated today’s qualifying session at Valencia.
Pepe Oriola claimed his first pole position for Craft-Bamboo Lukoil, while the SEAT León cars filled the first six spots of the grid with Andrea Belicchi, Stefano Comini, Michel Nykjær, Sergey Afanasyev, and Jordi Gené who qualified from second to sixth.
Franz Engstler’s Audi TT was the best of the rest, in seventh position, followed by the Opel Astra of Oscar Nogués that made impressive progress today, significantly reducing the gap from the leading pace.
Former championship leader Gianni Morbidelli, whose Honda Civic car is laden by BoP and success ballast, claimed his qualifying run was also affected by a loss of power and had to settle with ten position that will give him pole position on the top-ten reverse grid for the second race.
Tomorrow’s races will start at 12.35 and 14.05 local time, on the distance of 15 laps.

Qualifying 1: Nogués qualifies his Opel Astra for Q2
With a last gasp improvement Sergey Afanasyev set the fastest lap in Q1 (1:42.238), demoting Kevin Gleason to second (1:42.448) by only 10 thousandths of a second.
It was a very close session, with six lead changes and fourteen drivers covered by seven tenths.
The biggest surprise was created by Oscar Nogués who put in a great performance to place his Campos Racing Opel Astra in 12th position (1:43.110), depriving Mikhail Grachev of a trip to Q2 by only 25 thousandths.
Nogués’ team mate Jordi Oriola saw his chances vanishing when his Opel Astra suffered from a puncture.
The following drivers advanced to Q2: Afanasyev, Gleason, Comini, Gené, P. Oriola, Belicchi, Engstler, Morbidelli, Nykjær, Cebrián, Schouten and Nogués.

Qualifying 2: Oriola and Belicchi fill the front row
Two timed laps were enough to fix the front positions for the first race’s grid. Pepe Oriola clocked the time of 1:42.068 on his first try and immediately improved to 1:42.045 that earned him pole position.
Andrea Belicchi qualified second, less than one tenth behind (1:42.143), ahead of Stefano Comini (1:42.183) and Michel Nykjær (1:42.300).
Gianni Morbidelli ranked tenth (1:42.971) and won pole position for Race 2, while his team-mate Kevin Gleason could not post a significant time because of a fuel pick-up issue.

What the drivers had to say

Pepe Oriola, pole sitter: “I am, of course, very happy of this pole position, because it is my home race and also one of my favorite tracks, together with Macau. It’s a great satisfaction to see that we were consistently competitive through both qualifying sessions. The car performs very well and I think we will have an exciting show tomorrow in the races, although tyre consumption may play a key role.”

Andrea Belicchi, qualified 2nd: “I am favourably surprised to be on the first row, because we had difficult free practice sessions and I wasn’t expecting to be so fast in qualifying. It proved that we did a great job in setting up the car. Tomorrow may be a completely different story. I expect a close fight and preserving tyres will be crucial.”

Stefano Comini, qualified 3rd: “It’s a very good result, a little bit unexpected in light of previous sessions. The car was very fast and without a small mistake in my fastest run, I could have done much better. Tomorrow is going to be a tough day, and I am happy to be in a good position on the grid for both races, as here it is difficult to overtake and first corner is often a problem. I trained a lot on a simulator and we will see if that helps.”

President of National Sporting Authority Gracia visits the TCR

On Saturday, the TCR paddock welcomed a distinguished guest: Carlos Gracia, FIA Vice President and President of the RFEA (Real Federación Española de Automovilismo) visited the series and met with Marcello Lotti, CEO of WSC Ltd., and other key people of the series. He obviously took special interest on Spanish drivers and teams, and spent time with Jaime Puig, Director of SEAT Sport.

Balance of Performance was adjusted after Free Practice

The Technical Department of the TCR International Series further revised the Balance of Performance for the event at Valencia’s Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
Taking into account the results of the previous race meetings and of today’s free practice sessions, it was decided to grant weight breaks of 35 kilos to the Opel Astra OPC cars and of 30 kilos to the Audi TT cars. This means that the Opel’s weight is now 1225 kgs as opposed to the 1230 kgs of the Audi, the 1260 kgs of the SEAT León (the only model still running on the minimum weight as it is fixed by the Sporting Regulations) and the 1295 kgs of the Honda Civic, the only car fitted with a racing gearbox.
On top of this the Technical Department also decided to allow the Opel, SEAT and Audi cars to run with a 70-mm ride height, while the Honda cars are staying on 80 mm.

Campos Racing Opel cars in steep progress curve

There were smiles and cheers in the Campos Racing box at the end of Qualifying, as for the first time one of the Opel Astra OPC cars made it to Q2, thanks to Óscar Nogués, who later took a superb eighth position in the final qualifying session.
The result and consistently-improved pace throughout the sessions at Valencia, proved the significant progress made by the German cars after a difficult season debut in Asia.
“We worked a lot since the cars came back from Shanghai,” explained Campos Racing team manager Fernando Monje, “There were a number of electronics problems to solve to get the engine working properly. Now that those seem to have been solved, we can start developing the car set-up, which we only achieved here in Valencia, after a shake-down in Barcelona.”
Despite being a last-minute addition to the team, Óscar Nogués was able to contribute all his experience and speed to Campos Racing. “We have been bringing down lap times since the start of the weekend,” said the 36-years-old Catalan driver, “despite still having some issues from time to time, like in Q1, when an oil spill provoked a huge smoke cloud in the pits. We feared the engine had blown but luckily it was a very small thing. I was fortunate to make it to Q2, by only 25 thousandths of a second, and in the final 10-minute session, everything went well and I could put on a time that leaves us 8 tenths from the pole.”
This was for sure an unexpected but much-welcomed result, and the perfect boost for the morale of the entire squad, which is based a few kilometres from the circuit. Present in the boxes, team owner Adrián Campos was attending a TCR event for the first time: “I am very happy,” admitted the former F.1 driver, “and I do believe a lot in the TCR concept, which seems particularly suited for the current times. This is why we wanted to be present since the very beginning, although the car clearly needed more time. Opel Motorsport has great plans for the future and we are happy to be associated with them.”