Pole position keeps championship hopes alive for Julien Briche

by James Bowers

Julien Briche took pole position for the first TCR Europe race at Monza this weekend, while championship rival Josh Files could do no better than ninth.

Briche’s lap time of 1:56.308 put him four tenths of a second clear of the next quickest car, the second Peugeot of Aurelien Comte, after the pair had made good use of the slip-streaming effect that’s so crucial around Monza. Although technically not run by the same garage, Briche and Comte’s inter-team tactics proved to be enough to conquer the Hyundai-equipped powerhouse, Target Competition.

In fact, despite very strong pace in practice, the Hyundai contingent were hamstrung in qualifying. In their place, Santiago Urrutia put his Audi third on the grid for Team WRT, while his Volkswagen-equipped team-mate Maxime Potty secured tenth place. However, while this means that he’ll start the first race in the midfield, Potty will also have the pleasure of starting from pole in the reversed-grid race on Sunday.

Next up, Russian wildcard Klim Gavrilov impressed everyone by setting the fourth-fastest lap time in his VRC Racing Audi. Behind him, Teddy Clairet made it three Peugeot drivers in the top five grid slots.

Daniel Lloyd continues to be consistently quick in the Brutal Fish Racing Honda. The reigning TCR UK champion could only manage sixth in qualifying this time out, but is still in a good position to have a strong weekend.

After a troublesome year for the WestCoast Racing squad, Gianni Morbidelli will surely be delighted with his seventh place starting position for race one. The Italian veteran has found results hard to come by in 2019, but this performance provides an opportunity to score solid points.

Gilles Magnus couldn’t quite match the pace of Urrutia and Gavrilov in the other Audi RS3s, and will have to make do with eighth place. Then, surprisngly, we get to the first of the Hyundai drivers; Josh Files.

The i30N TCR has been the car to have since it was first released, but a Guilherme Salas-induced red flag severely hampered the Hyundai teams’ qualifying strategies, allowing other manufacturers to pounce.

Nonetheless, their main focus of attention, Josh Files, still managed to scrape into the all-important top ten. While Briche may be able to cut into the 43-point gap in race one, a front row start on the reversed grid should potentially see the championship standings swing back in favour of the Brit.

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