It was another outstanding race by both Luca Engstler and Theo Coicaud during the season opener of the TCR Asia Series 2019, held at Sepang International Circuit today. The duo started the race on the front row and took the top two steps of the podium at the end.
Engstler was once again uncontested when he completed yet another perfect pole-to-flag race that saw him set a blistering pace of 2:17.572. The 19-year old was elated with the win, a great start to the season for the reigning TCR Asia Champion.
Coming off the podium full of smiles, he said
“I tried to push really hard in the first lap at the start to make a gap like I planned and it worked out well. Then I was a bit worried when the Safety Car came out because I knew I put a lot of pressure on the tyres in the first lap so the game started again from zero. I tried to do the same but I saw that there was not much more in the tyres, thankfully I managed to control the gap and from there I just focused on not making any mistakes. Lap by lap I focused on the next corner, on the next lap and I didn’t think about anything else, didn’t check the mirrors, just stay in the tunnel. That was, I think, the key for the race and I am more than happy with the win”.
His French teammate had to work a little bit harder for his second placed finish. A brake issue at the start cost him seven positions, one that would take him almost the whole race to recover. His final battle for second place was against the experienced Diego Moran, who did not make it easy but the youngster found a way past when the Ecuadorian made a small mistake, taking second all the way to the chequered flag.
Having had a good battle, Coicaud looked exhausted after the race.
“At the start I don’t know what happened. I had brake issue and I was just stuck on the grid so then I lost many places like six, seven, eight, I don’t know. Then when I was able to go, I smoked the front tyres and it was a very difficult up-battle all through the race. I managed to come back in second place in the last three laps and I was really happy.
“I just had to fight like a lion, I was pushing and pushing and trying to avoid making mistakes, stay clean and I think that was the key at the end to keep the car on the track, have nice lines and to carry the spins. The battle with Diego was really nice and I saw him at the last few laps making some mistakes, he was a bit wide and a bit late on the brakes so I just kept it clean and that was it” he ended with a smile.
Team Manager Andreas Klinge was full of praises for the drivers and the team.
“P1 and P2, what an amazing day. It was a another great race from Luca and crowned with the fastest lap also. Overwhelming victory, best Hyundai team, who could ask for more.
“Theo had a problem at the start with the handbrake but he recovered very well to finally take second place after an extraordinary battle. I do want to say thank you to the entire team for a perfect job from everyone. I am proud and happy to be part it”.
Round 2 of TCR Asia will be held Sunday, 7th April at 9.50am (local time) and can be viewed live on the TCR Asia Facebook page.
Qualifying, Saturday 6th April 2019
Luca Engstler was close to breaking the TCR lap record for Sepang Circuit during the Qualifying session earlier today. His 2:15.727 was just 0.025 seconds off the record set by Malaysian Mitchell Cheah earlier this year during the TCR Malaysia event.
Frenchman Theo Coicaud set the second fastest time in the #27 Hyundai i30 N TCR to complete a LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler front row grid.
TCR Asia begins its three-weekend of races in China with Rounds 3&4 at Zhuhai International Circuit on 3rd to 5th May 2019 before heading to Shanghai and Zhejiang in June and July respectively. The season will end with Rounds 9 & 10 in Thailand at the crowd favourite Bangsaen Street Circuit.
The team is supported by Eibach, Hyundai, Liqui Moly and Pagid Racing