Huge challenge in Sepang for WTCR drivers
Last Update: 13/12/2019
SEPANG, Dec 13 -- It was not just about adrenaline rush but also encountering 'cultural shock' for some of the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) drivers in tackling the 5.543km track of the Sepang International Circuit for the first time.
There are 26 all-season drivers representing 13 teams and four wildcards, including three from Malaysia, a mixture of experienced and inexperienced drivers competing at Sepang Circuit this weekend.
Sweden's Thed Bjork of Cyan Racing Lynk & Co has to brace for a tough weekend after ending the Free Practice 2 (FP2) in 25th place, one spot ahead of fellow title contender and his teammate, Yvan Muller of France.
The 2017 World Touring Car champion is one of the four drivers going for the WTCR super-finale race this weekend.
"That was absolutely terrible. It's a track where we were afraid because we had so many accelerations from second gear up to fifth gear.
"In Macau, we were a lot in fifth and sixth gear with long straights (route) and that suits our car really well. Going up from second to fifth is not a strong point as we saw in Slovakia so I think we will have a tough weekend," he said.
For the current drivers’ standings leader, Hungary's Norbert Michelisz of BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, who remained calm and cool, shared the same feeling when he noted that he was not feeling good inside the car due to the hot and humid track condition despite havinf recorded the fastest lap time in FP1.
"We suffered a lot of understeers and un-constant with the car balance so there is a lot of work to do. It's always nice to be first but if we are not able to improve a bit, I don't expect us to stay ahead.
"We need to be efficient now. I'm not sure what the others did but we had new tyres from the beginning and I think it helped a lot. It's a bit too humid and because of that we're sweating a lot but it's okay," said Michelisz, adding that it was his first experience driving at the Sepang Circuit.
Malaysian promising motorsport star Mitchell Cheah was a hugely impressive fifth for Hyundai Team Engstler and the top Malaysian wildcard with fellow one-off racer Joalo Paulo de Oliveira with a strong sixth place in his KC Motorgroup Honda.
"It was a good start to the first official practice of WTCR. I didn't look so much into the position I was in at the end of the session, I was just focusing on myself and trying to get the car in the best shape possible to run for this weekend.
"I think we are making progress and looking to final touches before qualifying starts," said the 21-year-old driver.
Italian Esteban Guerrieri, who is second in the title standings, was P15 but not concerned about his position.
"The position does not matter so much. It's only FP1. We did what we planned to do and worked through our programme. We were focusing on the set-up work and we're not in a bad position. Qualifying here was what really matters," he added.
Tom Coronel's FP1 session was curtailed almost before it had begun with Gabriele Tarquini sending him to the pits with damage to his Comtoyou DHL CUPRA Racing entry.