After the rare event of... rain on Thursday, a cloudy and windy evening welcomed the TCR Middle East contenders for free practice on Friday. Points leader Luca Engstler, at the wheel of the Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTI, took fastest time (1.09.983) and was the only driver to break the 1:10 threshold.
The young German, though, went through a troubled start of the weekend, as the driveshaft of his car broke immediately. He lost half of the 90-minutesession but, as soon as he took the track, he proved very fast,beating by 0.468 seconds the time of Giacomo Altoè, who until then had been the fastest man on track with the Audi RS3LMS sporting the colors of the Adria International Raceway.
In the closing minutes, the other Liqui Moly Team Engstler VW Golf of Florian Thoma took second-fastest ahead of Altoè, after the Swiss driver had been stopped in the pits for a long time, also with differential problems. Lorenzo Veglia, on the Adria International Raceway-livered VW Golf was fourth-fastest after a consistent session.
It was a fruitful maiden session for the two Bahraini drivers who joined the field with no previous experience with TCR cars. Experienced touring car racer Raed Himmo was seveth, only 1.2 seconds off the top and 0.5 seconds ahead of fellow countryman Nasser Al Alawi, who was debuting with front-wheel drive cars.
Engstler: “Like last year, we’re having some serious problems with the driveshaft. After solving that, the lap times were good, but I am concerned with the rapid deterioration of tyres, given the success ballast we carry.”
Altoè: “It was a good working session and I focused in understanding the car’s behaviour on a track where finding a good balance is tricky.”
Veglia: “I had some brake problems but eventually things improved.”
Himmo: “I am discovering the car and TCR, it’s all new to me, but I am happy with my constant progression in improving lap times. The car is very sensitive to any set-up and tire change.”
Al Alawi: “This is my first time with a front-wheel drive and it is very different from anything I have driven so far. Finding the right balance between the front and the rear is difficult, you keep struggling between over and under-steering.”
The Qualifying will start at 21:20 local time.