Reigning TCR Asia Champion, Luca Engstler completes an almost perfect weekend at the inaugural TCR Malaysia held in Sepang today claiming two wins on both a dry and wet race. Teammate Theo Coicaud was unlucky over the weekend with issues in his car that caused an early retirement in the first race and non-starter for race 2.
“We are all very happy with this successful weekend. This weekend Luca’s motivation was to compete with former World Touring Car Champion and I think he did a good job. Maybe there was a small mistake in Qualifying so we miss one point but we have done 99.9% of the job which is really great.
“We have to check what happened with Theo’s Hyundai. We had an issue with the car early on and we still don’t know exactly what is wrong, the engineers are still working to find out but we will solve this issue before the next race” ended Project Manager, Andreas Klinge.
Engstler finished both races ahead of 2012 WTCC Champion Rob Huff in two intensely contested 11 lap races. In race 1, a better start from the German youngster sealed the race for him in the Hyundai I30 N TCR, despite a two-lap Safety Car session that saw the more experienced rival pressuring him as the race resumed. Although concerned about the tyres in the intense Malaysian heat, Engstler managed to maintain his lead despite a few close calls.
“I knew that I had to do a good start to overtake Rob in the first lap. We were on new tyres so I just focused on the start and then I saw I can overtake him and then I tried to build a small gap. Then I tried to control the gap but there was no chance because he was pushing real hard, so I had to push as well.
“When the safety car came out and I thought ‘okay, now you are done Luca’. Then it was exactly the same like at the start, I knew that he will try it in the first two laps because that’s the only chance he has. And it was exactly what happened, so I tried to do a good restart but with his experience, he was super close to me. We fight for a little bit and then I tried to shift down into first gear to get a good exit but I was a bit late with shifting and he did an undercut and as we went to turn three we touched a little bit but it was just nice because he was super fair but really hard. I really enjoyed the race, a pleasure for me to race against Rob Huff” ended Engstler.
His LIQUI MOLY TEAM ENGSTLER Teammate in the second Hyundai I30 was not so lucky. Theo Coicaud suffered from a technical issue and retired his car on lap four after running strongly in third with the leading pack.
“We are still looking at the data to understand what happened. I felt like I was not able to continue so I decided to stop on the side, maybe it was better for the car. I prefer to keep the engine in one piece.
“I did have a good start, I was pushing the guys in front of me and then this happened three or four laps after. The start was good so let’s do it again in race 2 and I think we can fight again”.
Race 2 was a bit dramatic as it started to pour right as cars lined up on the grid causing more than one hour start delay. When the rain finally slowed to a drizzle, officials deemed the race safe to start behind the Safety Car. Three laps were run behind the SC before the race resumed. The reverse grid order saw Engstler starting the race in 7th but he quickly made his way up the grid to take the race lead in just two laps.
“It was amazing. In the beginning I saw Rob pushing but the problem was I didn’t see that much in the mirrors because there was so much spray and fog outside. The car felt perfect and I managed to go through. After four or five laps I managed to gain the lead which was good because you don’t have the spray from the cars in front and then it was good to control the race and I tried to push as hard as I can to understand this tyres in this conditions but it just felt perfect.
“Definitely enjoyed the rain. When you come from Germany you have to enjoy the rain, otherwise it’s the wrong place to live. I’m quite happy with the rain.
“With the double victory in the first races of the year, we can be quite happy” ended Engstler. Sports & Marketing Director, Kurt Treml added, “It was a tremendous job for the team and after this first weekend it is good to see us in the lead of the Championship. We are all looking forward to another good weekend next week“.
TCR Malaysia will continue next week at Sepang International Circuit with Round 3 & 4 on 26 January 2019.
The team is supported by Liqui Moly, Hyundai, Pagid Racing, Drexler drivetrain, Motec rims, Recaro and Eibach.