Sepang, Malaysia - It was a great start to the season for Hyundai Team Engstler when Luca Engstler and newcomer Nicolas Gruber claimed one win each at TCR Malaysia on Saturday 18th January whilst Australian youngster Declan Fraser impressed in the second race with a fourth placed finish.
It was a phenomenal race for Engstler in Round 1 as he was unchallenged from pole to flag. “The race was really good. I was super happy with the car and setup wise the car was amazing. The car was quite cool, a wonderful combination always, every weekend. For sure for now I am in the strongest car, I am in a mega team and I think it’s not too bad what I am doing out there so it’s a really good team and great atmosphere and I just enjoy every lap and I think that is what is making the difference in the past year and now.
“It’s super hot out there but for me it’s even worse after the race, when I am in the car I am so happy and so focused that I even forget to drink, I have a bottle in and it is always still full when I go out which shows that my brain isn’t thinking of anything else but racing” he ended with a laugh.
The reverse grid Round 2 saw Austrian driver lining up second on the front row and as the lights turned green, Gruber shot to the front and did not look back from there. Maintaining his pace throughout for a fantastic end. “It was hard. I never expected that, really it was incredible. I had quite a good start, I think the pole sitter did not start well so I said ‘okay now let’s push as long as the tyres are good’ because we had had new tyres on in the front and we had to push to get the gap and then try to manage while pushing as hard as we can.
“At the beginning I was nervous because it was the first time in TCR that I led a race. I don’t really know how I did it. In the end my engineer said ‘just keep looking forward’. In the last two laps I just tried to manage it. I am super happy now.”
Meanwhile Fraser showed he had pace and was able to improve every step of the way. In Round 1 he started fourth and was immediately up to third while trying to stay with the leaders but a two lap battle with teammate Gruber and Niza Racing’s Gilbert Ang and in doing so he overworked his tyres and had to pit in for a change three laps to the end of the race. “Obviously I got a good start, jumped into third and was with Luca but fell away after a couple of laps. Had massive tyre degradation and ended up destroying the front left so had to pit and went back out and unfortunately we were a lap down so finished in 7th so that’s about our race summed up.”
Round 2 Gruber started well jumping from fifth to third. He managed his tyres better fending off Ang for half the race but in the end lost it to cross the line in fourth. A brilliant effort for the newcomer. “We had a really good fight and a bit of a shame that we finished in fourth but super happy with how the weekend went. Moved forward for each session, learned a lot so that was the biggest thing about this weekend. Just learning about the cars and about how the race operates, the team has been absolutely awesome in helping me do that. I am very happy.”
Sport & Marketing Director for Engstler Motorsport, Kurt Treml was happy with the weekend and proud of the work the drivers have done. “Luca did a perfect performance. In the second race he was not on the lucky side because he drove with a slow puncture to try and finish the race but he kept it in the race finishing 7th to collect some points for the Championship.
“Nico is just 19-years old and it’s his first time in the TCR car and he did a great job in this short weekend. He kept improving from the test sessions and finally today he beat the Honda with Daniel Lloyd. It was perfect for us, double victory with the Hyundai i30 N TCR it was great.
“It was also the first time in the car for Declan so for sure he needs more races and more experience to be familiar with the car. For now it was agreed only for him to do this rounds but we hope after this good weekend he will decide to continue to race with us in this Championship” he ended.
TCR Malaysia will return to Sepang International Circuit on 15-16 February 2020 for Rounds 3 & 4.