Luca Engstler secured the 2018 TCR Middle East title in a Race 1 in Bahrain that will certainly be remembered because of the... heavy rain (certainly not an usual event in this part of the world) that poured and got even harder throughout the entire evening.
The bad weather did not impress Engstler who took a very good start from pole position in his Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTI and pulled away steadily towards the chequered flag. His teammate Florian Thoma took second to offer another 1-2 finish to the German squad, which clinched the Teams’ title as well.
After a very cautious start, the Swiss charged back from fifth to take P2, after some nice fights with the drivers sporting the colours of the Adria International Raceway – TCR Academy. Among those, Lorenzo Veglia (VW Golf) was the best placed in the initial laps, before he was forced to bow to Giacomo Altoè and Jordi Oriola, both in Audi RS3 LMS cars, when the rain got heavier. The podium finish allowed Altoè to secure the runner-up honours in the Drivers’ standings ahead of Thoma.
With the title decided in Race 1 and track conditions getting worse, the Race Director, after consulting all drivers during a short meeting, decided to cancel Race 2. Certainly an history-making feat in Middle East’s motorsports!
Start – After two extra formation laps because of the wet track, the race is off, with Engstler pulling away perfectly, while Jordan and Thoma have a slower start and are passed by Veglia and Altoè. Himmo spins at the last corner and rejoins
Lap 1 – Engstler leads from Veglia and Altoè, while there is big fight between Oriola, Thoma and Jordan for fourth. Al Alawi, Ryba and Himmo fight for the seventh position
Lap 2 – Engstler and Veglia seem capable of pulling away, as Altoè can’t keep their pace
Lap 5 – With the rains becoming harder, the gaps increase: Engstler is 5 seconds clear of Veglia and 7 of Altoè
Lap 8 – Thoma is in a charging pace, he passes Altoè for third and starts chasing Veglia
Lap 11 – Thoma closes in on Veglia and is now half-a-second behind
Lap 12 – Thoma attacks and passes Veglia for second
Lap 13 – Himmo goes off track and remains stuck in the gravel
Lap 15 – The rain pours harder, while Ryba serves a drive-through for overtaking with four wheels out of the track
Lap 17 – The fight is now between Veglia and Altoè for a podium position, the two young Italians are separated by 0.5 seconds
Lap 18 – Veglia is passed by Altoè; soon afterwards Veglia’s car aquaplanes and Oriola takes the opportunity to steal fourth position from the ItalianLap 20 – The rain intensifies and all the drivers are trying to stay on the track rather than fighting for the positions
Lap 23 – Engstler wins from Thoma and Altoè