Hyundai Team Engstler takes Round 3 win at TCR Malaysia
It was a weekend to remember for Hyundai Team Engstler as Luca Engstler claimed a sensational win at TCR Malaysia Round 3 today at Sepang International Circuit, while teammate, Nicolas Gruber, continued to impress in his first touring car season.
Both drivers were consistent throughout with Engstler setting the fastest times in Qualifying and both races, while Gruber showed steady improvement, claiming two top five finishes.
It was not the easiest of weekends for the German as he had to change engines after the first Free Practice session, causing him to miss in FP2. The Hyundai Team Engstler crew’s hard work paid off when Engstler clocked the fastest time at Qualifying.
Just an hour before the race started, the stewards handed a penalty leaving Engstler to start Round 3 in fifth. The decision made the 19-year old more determined to do his best for the team, to repay them for all the hard work with a win.
“In this situation, where we start both races at the back even when we did the best lap in Qualifying, for sure it does not make the mechanic happy because they put everything in to change the engine like that, but that’s motorsport, we for sure accept the decision and we gave a cool answer during the race just now”.
Engstler was up to third as soon as the lights turned green. He then pressured the second placed driver before finding a way past on lap five. Four laps later, Engstler jinked to the inside and made an outstanding move on the leader for the win just one lap before the end of the race.
He was all smiles after the race,
“the first thing that pops in my mind is thanks to the team. As I said yesterday after the Qualifying, it is such a difficult weekend for us. Honestly speaking I didn’t believe how things were going but the key, how this team wins so many Championships, is how we are always building together, sticking together and not crying about things, just doing our best”.
Starting on the dirty side of the grid, Gruber dropped to fifth but he maintained a close pace to frontrunners to finish fifth.
“My grid position was still wet so it was hard to start. We had a lot of wheelspin, even with the launch control, so the guys on the right had the advantage of the dryer side. I was on the outside of turn 1 and the track was still dirty there so I lost a few positions. I could keep up with Josh Files which was not too bad”.
Round 4 proved that both Engstler and Gruber had the pace. Both drivers had a great start, with Engstler up to fourth by turn 1 and stayed in the mix throughout the race. Disaster struck halfway as Engstler was fighting for positions with the race leaders. As the close battle continued, his brakes started overheating, causing him to go wide at the turn and ending up in the gravel, just as he was about to claim the race lead.
“A lot happened during that race. I had a good start, I was already on P3 after the first lap and when I was fighting for P2 I went wide, saved it, took second place and then I couldn’t overtake the leader without touching him, I didn’t want to touch him so he managed to keep me behind. We were in a good position for the Championship but in the end, brakes went hot and you can’t avoid it.
“I’m feeling bad for the team and frustrated with how things played out but that is obviously sometimes how it is in motorsport. You just have to learn and move on. In the end, we are the fastest car, the fastest driver the whole weekend and that is the positive we will take out of it” ended Engstler.
Gruber kept pace with the leaders throughout the race, keeping his race clean and maintaining an outstanding pace for the newcomer, finishing fourth, just 0.316 seconds off the third placed driver. “I have mixed feelings to be honest. The start wasn’t too bad but there was an accident in turn 2 which caught me off. The setup was good but then midway through the race I got a puncture in the rear and from there I just tried to manage the car and get it to the finish line.
“I’m happy I got the chance to race here and I want to thank the whole team, especially Luca, Kurt and Franz. I can’t wait to get in the car again and try to do better with what I learnt”.
“We had ups and downs this weekend which started with the delay of our flights from Europe but as soon as we arrived the team did a perfect job, preparing the car in the perfect way which gave us a perfect Qualifying” said Kurt Treml, Sport & Marketing Director, Engstler Motorsport.
“As for the race, with the engine change, we have to respect the decision of the stewards to drop us down the grid and even with that, Luca managed the perfect first race to take the win.
“With Nico, he ticked all the right boxes with his performance this weekend. He is here to learn, he is young and it is his first season in touring car and he did a perfect job”, overall a mixed weekend with more positives to take away.
Hyundai Team Engstler tops Qualifying
Friday, 14th February 2020 – It was a wet welcome to TCR Malaysia as Hyundai Team Engstler adjusted from hot and humid to wet and dark for the first night Qualifying session this season. Luca Engstler and Nicolas Gruber returns to the Series full of confidence after claiming one win each at the last rounds in January.
The weekend did not start out well for Engstler as the engine of his Hyundai i30N TCR had to be changed right after the first Free Practice session on Friday. The team had only three hours to make the change before the Qualifying session began, missing out on FP2.
As the twilight Qualifying session started, the track was still damp from a heavy mid-afternoon downpour and the German used the first half of the session to manage his setup after the change. Just four laps in, he clocked 2:19.548, a time not bettered by his competitors in Q1.
Meanwhile Austrian youngster, Gruber, was getting better acquainted with the circuit, setting consistent times as it got darker, managing his pace well on the damp track to set 2:26.249 for the first session.
Q2 was halted three minutes before the end after a car went off track and by this time, Engstler was already top of the timesheets with 2:17.399 while Gruber was in third with 2:19:451. The session resumed and both drivers improved their times with 2:16.409 and 2:17.861 respectively.
2020 TCR Malaysia Championship
Rnd#1/2 – Sepang International Circuit, Kuala Lumpur – 17-18 January, 2020
Rnd#3/4 – Sepang International Circuit, Kuala Lumpur – 14-16 February, 2020*
Rnd#5/6 – Sepang International Circuit, Kuala Lumpur – 28 February-1 March, 2020
* with Asian Le Mans Series