Tom Coronel has got his campaign in the TCR Europe Series off to a good start. At the Slovakia Ring near Bratislava, he was setting the pace for the best part of the weekend. As a result, he claimed pole position for the first race in qualifying, but a leak in a turbo hose prevented him from converting the best possible grid position into a podium result: due to the lack of engine power, he finished fifth. In the second race, in which he started tenth because of the ‘reversed grid’ ruling, he came home in sixth position. « In terms of results, this was not quite what I wanted, but at least it is nice to be racing again and good to see that the speed is there, » Coronel summed up afterwards.
Tom Coronel was looking forward to the season opener at Slovakia Ring, knowing that he had always been strong at the 5.922 kilometres long circuit in previous years. This time again, he made it clear right away that he was among the contenders for success, among others with third place in first free practice and the fastest time in the field in the second session. Coronel was strong in qualifying as well. Having secured a slot for the decisive second heat in the first part of qualifying, he initially decided to wait in the pits to see what his rivals were doing prior to going out on track himself. That resulted into a time of 2m10.344s, enough for pole position and the first ten championship points that come with it.
« I was fully on the limit because I didn’t know what the other times were, » Coronel said. « My engineer just said ‘push, push’ on the radio, so that is what I did and it was enough for pole position. The team is strong: we know the car, we know the people. Don’t forget that we have also done a lot of testing, not just with the new car, but also with this one. I have a really good feeling with this car. Sometimes you are like a passenger, but I am like the boss of this car, that’s how I feel. »
In the opening race, Coronel had a mediocre start, as he said himself, but that wasn’t his only problem: « I was second going into the first corner, but I noticed I was losing power. That became clear, because a turbocharger hose was broken. We could see on the data immediately that the engine was no longer building up turbo boost. I wasn’t even able to shift up into sixth gear on the straight! Other drivers went past me one after another which cost me some positions. That I still managed to finish fifth wasn’t too bad in the end, but had it not been for that issue, the result could certainly have been much better. »
Coronel started tenth on the grid for the second race as a result of the reversed order for the top ten from qualifying. « My start was bad, » he admitted. « I had a lot of wheelspin and as there is a long straight here, I lost a lot of ground because of it. In the first corner, I reclaimed a few positions and I was back up in tenth place as a result, but that wasn’t the plan. There was a safety car intervention because a car had stalled. After that, I had some nice battles, among others with Mat’o Homola, the local hero, but he was defending a lot, which made me lose quite some time. Then, I moved up once place after another: I was the fastest driver on track and moved up into sixth place, in which I finished as well. On the bumper of the cars in fourth and fifth that I just couldn’t overtake anymore. »
All in all, Coronel is still quite happy looking back upon the first TCR race weekend of the season. « It is nice to be really racing again after all the effort we put in during testing over the past weeks. It definitely paid off, because the speed is there, that much is clear. Claiming pole position simply was a nice feeling and gives me confidence for the upcoming races. We also scored quite some points. Now, the main thing is to keep up the speed. »
The next round of the TCR Europe Series will be held at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet in the south of France, 29 and 30 May.