Asia Racing Team’s Rodolfo Avila and Philippe Descombes scored an emphatic 1-2 during the historic opening event for the new TCR Asia Series at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia after qualifying their cars on the front row of the grid.
The two SEAT León cars of the Macau-based team had dominated qualifying earlier in the morning, with Avila turning his first real laps in qualifying after missing Friday practice due to illness, the Macanese driver setting a pole time of 2:19.363 in the opening session just 17 one hundredths ahead of team-mates Descombes. Descombes returned the favour in Q2 though, switching the tables on his team-mate, in the process lowering the new benchmark to 2:19.335.
TCR3Highlighting perfectly just how competitive the new TCR Asia Series cars are, both laps were actually three tenths of a second faster than Kevin Gleason’s pole time in the Honda back when the TCR International Series qualified at Sepang for their opening round back in March.
Sadly though for Avila, he struggled to get off the line from pole during the first standing start dropping back as far as sixth on the run down to the first turn.
That was all the incentive that FRD HK Racing team’s Andy Yan needed, the reigning China Touring Car Champion forging his way through to the lead before once again fate intervened with the team’s intermittent electrical issue returning, forcing him to a stop out on the circuit.
Kenneth Lau too was in the mix early, forcing his way through to the tail of Descombes who had taken over the lead, but both he and Descombes were taken by Avila in one move as they battled for position, before Lau ultimately ran wide in an effort to take back his position, dropping back into the clutches of Eric K, Michael Choi and the fast starting Samson Chan.
Behind the leading trio local star Kenny Lee was taking advantage of his strong qualifying position to move onto the tail of the leaders before he too became unstuck in a battle with Samson Chan and Eric K. into turn two, the local Wing Hin Motorsports driver diving inside Chan into two, but he was unable to make the move stick, turning Chan around as the Roadstar driver turned into the apex of the corner.
TCR4Chan recovered, but it was game over for Kenny Lee, the impact robbing local fans of another great run through the field on Sunday after the team was unable to source parts to repair the car after the contact.
Chan though wasn’t the only Roadstar Racing Team member enduring a tough start to his TCR Asia Series career, Ida too was strong early, running just off the tail of the leaders before coming off into the gravel, which dropped him right back down the order.
As the laps wound down Kenneth Lau moved back into contention, taking Eric K. for fourth position, but up front it was all ART, Rodolfo Avila punching out an impressive 2:10.140 late in the session before slowing to join Descombes in a formation finish for the Macau-based operation.
Michael Choi and Kenneth Lau made it a Honda 3-4 finish, with former Hong Kong Touring Car champion Eric K. claiming an impressive fifth on his return to motorsport after a three year sabbatical.
All three TCR Asia Series races will be broadcast around the world over the coming weeks, and we will reveal details of times and dates through the TCR Asia Series official website www.asia.tcr-series.com
Race#1 (5 September, 2015)
1. 15. Rodolfo Avila [FRA] (Asia Racing Team Seat León) – 10-laps
2. 14. Philippe Descombes [FRA] (Asia Racing Team Seat León)
3. 68. Michael Choi [HKG] (Prince Racing Hong Kong Honda Civic TCR)
4. 38. Kenneth Lau [HKG] (Prince Racing Hong Kong Honda Civic TCR)
5. 99. Eric K. [HKG] (Craft-Bamboo Racing Seat León)
6. 56. Samson Chan [HKG] (Roadstar Racing Team Seat León)
7. 78. Masahiko Ida [JPN] (Roadstar Racing Team Seat León)
8. 66. Filipe Souza [MAC] (Roadstar Racing Team Seat León) – 9-laps
DNF. 63. Andy Yan [HKG] (FRD HK Racing Team Ford Focus TCR) – 5-laps
DNF. 83. Kenny Lee [MAS] (Wing Hin Seat León) – 4-laps
Ben Potter

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