Saturday, Sep 21 12:45pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Argentinian ace Néstor Girolami claims TCR Australia pole

World Touring Car Cup driver Néstor Girolami has claimed pole position for Race 1 of the carsales TCR Australia Series at Sandown Raceway.


A cold circuit greeted the field for Qualifying. Kelly Racing driver Andre Heimgartner was an early victim of the conditions when he spun at Turn 4 in his Holden Astra.


International invite Girolami of Argentina speared off the road at Turn 9, Dandenong Road. Fortunately, he managed to return to the track.


As the session hit halfway it was Wall Racing driver Tony D’Alberto who led Heimgartner. Jordan Cox was third for Garry Rogers Motorsport with Garth Tander of Melbourne Performance Centre in fourth and HMO Cutomer Racing’s Will Brown in fifth.


Despite going off the track, Girolami shot straight to the top of the time sheets with a lap two tenths quicker than the rest of the field. He went even quicker on his next lap with a 1:14.586 in the Honda Civic Type R.


Brown sought to bring the margin down with a 1:14.849 in the series leading Hyundai i30 N. Surprisingly, series combatant Dylan O’Keeffe was bogged down the back of the field in 15th but he surged to eighth late in the session.  


John Martin got within striking distance of pole position, but Girolami extended the margin out to half a second on a 1:13.963. He duly came into the pit lane and parked up for the last minute of the session.


Heimgartner threatened top spot but only came within three tenths to move up to second with a minute to go.


At the end of the session it was Girolami who led Heimgartner and Martin. Series leader Brown was fourth with touring car veteran Jason Bright in fifth. Jordan Cox, Tony D’Alberto, Bryce Fullwood, Dylan O’Keeffe and James Moffat completed the top 10 running order.


“We tuned the car up a fair bit before Qualifying, just some springs and different stuff,” Heimgartner said after the session.


“It actually really helped. I just followed Girolami and it was really interesting watching him how he drove the car.


“I picked up a little bit there and managed to go a bit faster. Qualifying for us has not been a major struggle, especially at the last round, it was race pace that we really struggled with.


“Hopefully we can look after the car a bit better in the race and we’ll try and at least stay where we are. The Astra is pretty quick in a straight line but the gear ratio doesn’t lend itself to the slow speed, second gear corners.”


Chris Pither was second-to-last in 16th but will start the race from last due to an engine change to his Renault Megane RS.


Race 1 of the weekend gets underway at 3:10pm NZST. 


TCR Australia Series Sandown Raceway, Qualifying 


Pos   Driver Time Gap
Nestor Girolami  1:13.9637    
Andre Heimgartner   1:14.3147 +0.3510
John Martin       1:14.4205 +0.4568
William Brown  1:14.5029 +.5392
Jason Bright  1:14.7351 +0.7714
Jordan Cox       1:15.0217 +1.0580
Tony D’Alberto    1:15.3768 +1.4131
Bryce Fullwood     1:15.4249 +1.4612
Dylan O’Keeffe    1:16.0341 +2.0704
10 James Moffat      1:16.0353 +2.0716
11 Garth Tander      1:16.0379 +2.0742
12 Liam McAdam       1:16.1310 +2.1673
13 Russell Ingall    1:16.5845 +2.6208
14 Aaron Cameron     1:16.8578 +2.8941
15 Nathan Morcom    1:17.2787 +3.3150
16 Chris Pither        1:17.8114 +3.8477
17 Alexandra Whitley 1:18.8787 +4.9150