Audi interloper JK Vernay has hit the first target for his flying Australian visit by claiming pole position for the carsales TCR Australia Series round at Queensland Raceway.
The French factory driver only landed Down Under on Thursday but was quickly into stride, triumphing in a four-way fight for top slot on the grid for the first of three 30-minute races in Brisbane.
He hustled his Audi RS3 to a best time of 1 minute 12.9418 seconds as the top seven qualifiers were covered by just two-tenths of a second.
John Martin finished second by just 0.0060 of a second in his Honda Civic Type R with championship leader Will Brown third in his Hyundai i30 N, just 0.0479 behind Vernay.
“We’re on pole and that was the target. Now we need to improve the car for the race,” says Vernay.
He knows he could be in trouble when he starts from the dirty side of the QR circuit with Martin, who has the fast-starting Honda, alongside him.
“I thought we would be on the second row so this is a good result. I was right on the limit,” says Martin.
“I hope I’m going to lead into Turn 1, that’s the plan, and then I’ll be driving the widest Honda you’ve ever seen.”
Brown admitted a mistake on his quickest lap but was happy to run third.
“My car was good. I was a bit shit in the last corner and it cost me a tenth,” he says.
“But it’s going to be a dogfight in the race. We won’t let the Frenchy beat us.”
But Vernay has bad news for the pursuing pack, as he believes there is still 3-4 tenths left in his Audi in qualifying trim, and he is prepared with extra tweaking to ensure the car is kind to its Michelin tyres through the 30-minute sprint.
“We will make a few changes for the race. Then we will see,” he says.
The battle for pole was the most torrid qualifying yet in the TCR Australia series, with Martin, Brown and Dylan O’Keefe all taking a turn at the top before Vernay uncorked his final qualifier.
O’Keefe was the early pace-setter in his Alfa Romeo Giulietta but was the loser at the end, as he wound up fourth and just ahead of Russell Ingall in his second guest-star run in an Audi RS3.
Qualifying, Queensland Raceway
|1||4||Jean-Karl Vernay (FRA)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS 3||1:12.9418|
|2||24||John Martin (NSW)||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R||1:12.9478||00.0060|
|3||30||William Brown (Qld)||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai i30N||1:12.9897||00.0479|
|4||9||Dylan O’Keeffe (Vic)||Ashley Seward Motorsport||Alfa Romeo Giulietta||1:12.9924||00.0506|
|5||100||Russell Ingall (Qld)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS 3||1:13.0536||00.1118|
|6||50||Tony D’Alberto (Vic)||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R||1:13.1198||00.1780|
|7||2||Aaron Cameron (Vic)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Volkswagen Golf GTI||1:13.1395||00.1977|
|8||7||Jordan Cox (NSW)||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Alfa Romeo Giulietta||1:13.2240||00.2822|
|9||34||James Moffat (Vic)||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Renault Megane RS||1:13.3833||00.4415|
|10||777||Andre Heimgartner (NZ)||Kelly Racing||Subaru WRX STi||1:13.4765||00.5347|
|11||11||Nathan Morcom (NSW)||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai i30N||1:13.5494||00.6076|
|12||62||Alex Rullo (WA)||Kelly Racing||Holden Astra||1:13.6128||00.6710|
|13||3||Leanne Tander (Vic)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS 3||1:13.9752||01.0334|
|14||33||Chris Pither (NZ)||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Renault Megane RS||1:14.1699||01.2281|
|15||8||Jason Bright (Vic)||Taskforce / Alliance Autosport||Volkswagon Golf GTI||1:14.4994||01.5576|
|16||38||Jordan Michels (NZ)||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R||1:14.7237||01.7819|
|17||35||Alexandra Whitley (Qld)||Alliance Autosport||Volkswagon Golf GTI||1:14.9432||02.0014|
|18||6||Molly Taylor (NSW)||Kelly Racing||Subaru WRX STi||1:15.3845||02.4427|