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
|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|