Jean-Karl Vernay (Leopard Racing Team WRT) has moved a step closer to the 2017 TCR International Series crown, scoring 4 points with a second place in qualifying behind WRT team-mate Gordon Shedden. Vernay now moves 25-points clear of rival Attila Tassi (M1RA Racing), who could only manage a tenth place as the only Honda in Qualifying 2, meaning should Tassi fail to score or finish behind the Frenchman he will miss out on the title.
Shedden thus emerges from qualifying as a surprise pole-sitter. Despite initially qualifying fourteenth in Qualifying 1, the BTCC driver only progressed into the Top 12 shoot-out by virtue of Hyundai’s temporary homologation which makes them ineligible for Q2. The Brit suddenly turned up the wick, however, for Q2 and stormed to a brilliant 1:27.849, the only driver underneath the 1:28 mark.
BRC Racing, with their ‘invisible’ Hyundai’s, will instead start from thirteenth and fourteenth on the grid for both races despite setting the second and fourth best times in Q1, Gabriele Tarquini leading from Alain Menu. They will nonetheless be pleased with their performances as their appearances this year are no more than mere exhibitions for potential customers, with their pace undoubtedly attracting plenty of attention.
VAG-brands would complete the second and third rows, Benjamin Leuchter on his début with West Coast Racing setting a time good enough to see him home third in front of Pepe Oriola (Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing), with Leuchter’s team-mate Gianni Morbidelli in front of Belgian Denis Dupont (Comtoyou Racing), who has been rapid on his return to the series.
Completing the Top 10, and thus starting on the front 2 rows of the reverse-grid second race, was Aurelien Comte on his début in the DG Sport Competition Opel Astra, followed by Daniel Lloyd. In ninth, and in front of Tassi on the fifth row, will start Stefano Comini who is now the last man able to challenge Vernay for the title with a gap of 46-points to the WRT driver.
Roberto Colciago is essentially out of the title-race, meanwhile, and looks unlikely to challenge this weekend as he could only go eighteenth in a disappointing qualifying. His team-mate Josh Files also leaves qualifying frustrated, the Brit suggesting that the car had enough pace to take pole as a gear selection issue on his best lap in Q1 would see him fail to scrape into Q2 in fifteenth.