20 September 2019 | Featured

Argentinian Honda star impresses in opening Sandown practice

Argentinian import Nestor Girolami took just 15 minutes to lay down a marker at Sandown Park for the latest leg of the carsales TCR Australia Series.

He smashed the series regulars to jump to the top of the time sheets in opening practice, even though it is his first visit to the Melbourne circuit driving a Honda Civic Type R for Wall Racing.

Girolami is a Honda factory driver and has come to Australia with two engineers from his JAS team from Italy to launch an all-out attack on series leader Will Brown in a Hyundai i30 N and to boost the title hopes of team mates Tony D’Alberto and John Martin.

Brown managed second spot in opening practice, but finished nearly a second behind as Girolami used two of the six brand-new Michelin tyres provided to rookies to clock 1 minute 15.6664 seconds.

Brown’s time was 1:16.58, with D’Alberto in third on 16.:7969.

“I’m happy. I matched his time on used tyres and we’ve got more to come,” says Brown.

“The car feels good. We’ve got a little bit to work on, but I’m happy.”

For Girolami, Sandown came as a shock.

“It’s pretty amazing. It’s one of the most challenging circuits I have ever driven in my life,” he says.

“Especially the fast corner at the top of the circuit. It’s very fast. And it is a little bit bumpy and this upsets the car quite a bit.”

Dylan O’Keefe, one of the TCR stars in his Alfa Giulietta, learned the hard way about Sandown when he was forced to the pits with steering damage.

“It’s not ideal. Maybe it’s the kerbs,” he says after clocking the sixth-quickest time.

“They are very aggressive. I’m not sure if we can handle it.”

James Moffat spent most of the session in the pits with a turbo hose drama on his Renault Megane RS, while a number of drivers including Russell Ingall in his Audi RS3 tested the track limits and had to pit to remove grass and debris from their cars.

Results: TCR Australia Practice 1, Sandown

Pos Num Driver Team Car Time Gap
1   38 Nestor Girolami (ARG)   Wall Racing                    Honda Civic Type R   1:15.6664
2   30 William Brown (Qld)     HMO Customer Racing            Hyundai i30N         1:16.5564 00.8900
3   50 Tony D’Alberto (Vic)    Wall Racing                    Honda Civic Type R   1:16.7969 01.1305
4   11 Nathan Morcom (NSW)     HMO Customer Racing            Hyundai i30N         1:17.1506 01.4842
5    7 Jordan Cox (NSW)        Garry Rogers Motorsport        Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1:17.1512 01.4848
6    9 Dylan O’Keeffe (Vic)    Ashley Seward Motorsport       Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1:17.1635 01.4971
7  100 Russell Ingall (Qld)    Melbourne Performance Centre   Audi RS 3            1:17.4295 01.7631
8   24 John Martin (NSW)       Wall Racing                    Honda Civic Type R   1:17.6111 01.9447
9   33 Chris Pither (NZ)       Garry Rogers Motorsport        Renault Megane RS    1:17.9094 02.2430
10 777 Andre Heimgartner (NZ)  Kelly Racing                   Holden Astra         1:18.0193 02.3529
11  97 Liam McAdam (Qld)       Melbourne Performance Centre   Audi RS 3            1:18.3421 02.6757
12   8 Jason Bright (Vic)      Taskforce/Melb Performance Cnt Volkswagon Golf GTI  1:18.4580 02.7916
13  62 Bryce Fullwood (NT)     Kelly Racing                   Holden Astra         1:18.5358 02.8694
14   2 Aaron Cameron (Vic)     Melbourne Performance Centre   Volkswagen Golf GTI  1:18.6748 03.0084
15   3 Garth Tander (Vic)      Melbourne Performance Centre   Audi RS 3            1:18.9203 03.2539
16  34 James Moffat (Vic)      Garry Rogers Motorsport        Renault Megane RS    1:18.9851 03.3187
17  35 Alexandra Whitley (Qld) Melbourne Performance Centre   Volkswagon Golf GTI  1:21.8506 06.1842