Sunday, March 29, 2015

TCR: Audi TT race debut with Liqui Moly Team Engstler in Malaysia

By Johan Laubscher

The new TCR International Series held its first ever event at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Sepang hosted the event which included a grid of seventeen TCR entries.

Liqui Moly Team Engstler entered three cars for the opening round, two Audis and one SEAT. The German team has been granted special authorisation to run two Audi TT cars in the first meetings of the season. This was done in order to allow Liqui Moly Team Engstler to run German cars, a specific requirement of the team’s title sponsor, whilst its TCR specification Golf GTI cars are completed.

The #6 Audi TT had Franz Engstler behind the wheel, who was joined by his teammate, Mikhail Grachev, in the #8 Audi TT.

The weekend began with the practice sessions and a balance of performance adjustment for the Audi and Honda cars, with additional weight being added, only to be removed following the first practice session. The two Audi TT cars occupied positions in the lower half of the field during practice. However, Franz Engstler put a strong lap together during qualifying and secured fourth place on the starting grid. Mikhail Grachev qualified eleventh.

Race one was held on Saturday. Franz Engstler had a very good start and was challenging for third place, but contact from behind resulted in broken steering and retirement for the #6 Audi TT at the very first corner. Mikhail Grachev was able to move forward and was running strongly in sixth, until he began to slow on track with mechanical issues, also retiring from the race.

Both Audi TT cars had shown good pace during qualifying and the first race, and Liqui Moly Team Engstler was eager to put the disappointment of Saturday’s double retirement behind them.

The second and final race took place on Sunday morning before the Malaysian Grand Prix. Engstler started from sixth place and Grachev eighth. Both of the TT cars launched well off the line. Engstler was holding sixth on the opening lap and was followed by Grachev into turn four. This time it was the turn of Grachev to be collected from behind, a trio of SEAT cars made contact coming into turn four and collected the rear-end of Grachev. He was able to continue, but had dropped outside of the top ten.

Franz Engstler began dropping back to eight place before he unfortunately started to slow towards the end of the race and coasted to retirement. Mikhail Grachev continued his recovery and finished eighth, salvaging a top ten result for Liqui Moly Team Engstler and the race debut of the Audi TT.

Round two of the TCR International Series will take place at Shanghai in China from 10-12 April.

Photo credit: TCR International Series