WestCoast Racing have returned to Austria in the same fashion they left the Salzburgring in May, with Gianni Morbidelli securing Pole Position for the first TCR International Series race on Sunday after setting a fastest time of 1:39.798 whilst his team-mate Kevin Gleason joins him to lock out the front row.
The team took some time to unlock the speed in their JAS Motorsport built Honda Civics during both Free Practice sessions, giving them a strong chance of qualifying on the front row when it came to Qualifying. The added benefit of not carrying any success ballast in the cars meant that after some setup changes before Qualifying, the Civics were fast enough to challenge out of the box.
With Morbidelli securing Pole for race one, Gleason backed that up with second on the grid, albeit six tenths down on the polesitter. Team returnee Igor Skuz has a less positive return to the series, qualifying 11th and just missing out on Q2. However the Ukrainian driver will start in 16th after a penalty to be served due to an incident with Bas Schouten at the Salzburgring.
Morbidelli was very happy with his qualifying performance.
“I am very happy and I must thank WestCoast Racing, because they’re constantly pushing, they believe in fighting to the end and we have a really good relationship, and this pole position wouldn’t have been possible without them,” said Morbidelli.
“We struggled this morning because the ambient temperatures were very cool and we also tried something new with the setup in the hope of discovering more performance, but that didn’t quite work out. We decided to go in the opposite direction and the car was significantly better in second practice, so I started to think that we might be there or thereabouts in qualifying. I never expected to be so quick! In Q1 I struggled with oversteer, but some in-session tweaks improved that and gave us consistency. The car ran very well and I was able to do three very quick laps on four completely fresh tyres, which made a big difference.”
Gleason took a methodical approach with the car as the team worked hard to unlock the vital speed for Qualifying.
“It was a bit of a surprise to put in such a quick lap,” said Gleason. “I learnt a lot on fresh tyres in Q1 and I was simply able to pull it all together. I wasn’t sure what I’d see on my dash and I certainly wasn’t expecting to reach the front row!
“The track was very green, the temperatures were cool to begin with and we tried a radical setup, so the car was pretty difficult to drive while learning the Red Bull Ring. We retreated on some things that we learnt earlier this year to make the car work in today’s conditions, which constantly evolved from one session to the next. We’re now pretty solid, but how successful we are in the races will be determined by the conditions and whether we hit the setup right.”