It was a joyous day at Sepang International Circuit for Hyundai Team Engstler as the team is crowned Team and Driver Champions as Luca Engstler takes the chequered flag in the Hyundai i30 N TCR in the final race of the TCR Malaysia Series 2020 season. Engstler retains the Driver’s Championship after equalling the points tally and claiming the title on race wins over the six rounds.
“I am over the moon now. Unbelievable. Honestly speaking it was super tough and that victory I have to thank the team and Mitchell for that because everyone helped me with that. Hyundai, the team Mitchell, Josh Files, so a big thanks to them” said Engstler after the race.
The 19-year old started the weekend with a 21 point deficit after the DNF in Round 4 but his tenacity and drive to win races for the team paid off. Paired with local talent Mitchell Cheah, the duo went on to claim podium finishes for the team in two absolutely nail biting races.
Cheah was instrumental in the fight as he collected points for the Team’s Championship, finishing third in both races.
Qualifying and Rounds 5 & 6 were all held on Saturday with Engstler snatching pole to collect five points. Then he kicked off Round 5 with a blistering start and did not put a foot wrong throughout the race, edging closer to the title by the end.
“The start was mega. I immediately tried to build a gap to fight after seeing that Files was behind me. I had a good gap, so I just controlled it and tried to manage my tyres. We learnt from past events that the temperatures here is really bad for brakes and tyres so my job then is to not slow down but to manage the tyres and brakes well.
“This is not a ‘cool’ way to race because you’re always worried if the tyres are going to blow up, do we have a brake problem or are temperatures going to high, so it becomes intense for the driver and for the car in this conditions but we managed it well” said Engstler after Round 5.
Meanwhile, Cheah went on to have a hard race, one that saw him pitted against three drivers and having to fend off the charges of Malaysian counterpart, Gilbert Ang, but the Sepang International Circuit Talent Development driver held his ground to finish third for the team.
“I didn’t have a superb start, it was decent as it was my first time starting in the dry with this car. I managed to keep up with the pack at the start, then towards the end of the straight into turn 1, I saw an opening and I went for it but (Daniel) Lloyd and I bumped into each other which let Files through. From there I followed Lloyd and the three of us were together as Luca pulled away.
“At one point Lloyd tried to make a move on Files, they both went wide and I took advantage of that. I got up to second but was then taken out. From there I was just trying to keep up in third. Because of the mess at the start, my tyres dropped more than I expected and it was very hard to manage by the end and third was the best I could do“.
Race 2 was a reverse grid order with Cheah starting in sixth and Engstler in 8th. The duo were off the line perfectly and made a dash to the front of the grid with Engstler taking the lead midway through the opening lap whilst Cheah got up to fourth by the end of the lap. Once again Engstler was uncontested but Cheah had a tough half hour battle with the trio of Files, Lloyd and Ang. In the end, Cheah, who set the fastest lap of the race, crossed the line third between the two Britons.
The German was beaming after the race,
“We really did our best to race fair and it was really nice that we did it on the track and not after. I’m really happy and really proud. It’s just amazing to work with these people. Just an unbelievable feeling.
“The car was perfect every weekend. For me the worse was flying back home and saying ok, we had the perfect car, the team did a perfect job but we were always second but now, winning it was just amazing. My Hyundai was just super strong, super fast, the setup was just amazing, everything was perfect and only like this can you win the Championship with two weekends and two DNFs. Unbelievable!” ended Engstler who is looking forward to a small celebration with the team before heading home.
Cheah too was reeling from the victory of his teammate and the Team
“I am very thankful that the team has given me this opportunity to make this comeback for my first race of the year, earlier than planned. It was a very positive week. It was also about me getting back into the car and building up to speed again after such a long break and I managed to improve lap-by-lap.
“I have to say Congratulations to Luca and the Team for winning the Championships, I am very happy for him and the team to achieve such a good result. I am also happy with myself for the pace I had this weekend and after the race I found out that I had the fastest lap.
“The car was amazing, it was perfect. It was definitely not an easy race because Luca was trying his hardest to win the Championship and as a team we worked together to try to get that result and now at the very end we managed to get this result for the team and for Luca”.
“Thanks a lot to the team for this” said Hyundai Team Engstler Team Manager, Kurt Treml. “It was very hard for us to find the possibility to reduce the 21-point gap for Luca but the whole team rallied together and did the perfect strategy. In the end, Luca won both races and he won the qualifying, so this was the maximum that he could do. It was fantastic.
“We won the Championship with the same total points, but because Luca won more races, he takes the Overall Championship. The Hyundai was perfect again this weekend, the team was outstanding, Mitchell too was perfect in his race delivery and having the support of Josh Files in the other Hyundai was a great bonus. The team never gave up and that is always our style, and with an all Hyundai podium in race 2, it was a perfect way to end the season” ended Treml.