Tony D’Alberto and Yann Ehrlacher were fastest in the two Free Practices of the Kumho TCR World Tour/TCR Australia joint event at Bathurst’s Mount Panorama road-course. In the first session, the outgoing Australian champion posted the best lap at the wheel of his Wall Racing Honda Civic ahead of Santiago Urrutia’s Cyan Racing Lynk & Co and Michael Clemente’s Carl Cox Motorsport CUPRA Leon. Yann Ehrlacher missed FP1 because of an engine issue, but a new powerplant propelled his Lynk & Co on top of the second session, beating the Wall Racing pair of D’Alberto and Néstor Girolami.
FP1 – Will Brown set the pace in the first part of the session; he posted a provisional fastest lap of 2:17.7669 and then improved to 2:17.1431. Behind him there was a bunch of local drivers: Josh Buchan, Bailey Sweeny, Clemente and Aaron Cameron. Twelve minutes into the session Mikel Azcona managed to squeeze among the Aussies in fourth place with a lap of 2:17.7358. The session was disrupted halfway-through by the red flag, when Jordan Cox’s Peugeot crashed and stopped along the Conrod straight.
Practice resumed with six minutes left on the clock and Buchan set a new fastest lap of 2:17.0706, while D’Alberto (2:17.1960) and Girolami (2:17.2497) moved up into P3 and P4. During the dying moments, D’Alberto topped the timesheet for good with a lap of 2:15.9079, while Urrutia first advanced to third (2:17.2069) behind Clemente (2:17.0087) and then improved to 2:16.6320 that was good enough for P2.
World Tour points leaders Norbert Michelisz and Rob Huff were placed 13th and 17th, while Ehrlacher missed the whole session due to an engine failure.
FP2 – Just like in the previous session, it was Brown who posted the fastest lap in the early stages, with 2:16.4425 that was bettered by Buchan to 2:16.0020, but soon Brown responded with 2:15.9259. However, as time passed by the World Tour drivers began to improve and Urrutia moved to the top with 2:15.7814 that he immediately improved to 2:15.2652. Brown’s answer of 2:15.8476 was not enough to oust the Uruguayan, but it was D’Alberto who went fastest with laps of 2:15.1588 and 2:14.9179. Another improvement from Brown to 2:15.7233 did not promoted him from P3 ahead of Thed Björk and Sweeny. Ehrlacher with a new engine, Girolami and Ma Qing Hua advanced to third, fourth and fifth, but on his last lap the Frenchman posted the fastest time for good of 2:14.6698, two tenths better than D’Alberto’s final effort of 2:14.8341, while Girolami was classified third with 2:15.0171 ahead of Urrutia, Frédéric Vervisch, Ma Qing Hua, Björk and Brown, with Huff 12th and Michelisz 13th.
Picture: TCR Australia/Daniel Kalisz