Nestor Girolami proved his class and commitment when he recovered from an off-track excursion to claim pole position for the first of three carsales TCR Australia Series sprints at Sandown Park.
The Honda factory driver was comfortably clear of his pursuers as he clocked a 1 minute 13.9637 lap in his Honda Civic Type R, although championship leader Will Brown was on track to close the gap before a last-lap mistake in his Hyundai i30N.
Andrew Heimgartner upset the form book to run best-of-the-rest in a Honda Astra that is finally delivering on its potential with Kelly Racing, as John Martin was third for the grid in a second Honda.
Girolami was comfortably quickest through Friday practice despite making his Sandown debut, but struggled in the early stages of qualifying as the TCR runners raced to get a quick lap before a rain shower.
“The track was a little bit slippery at first and I had the brake bias wrong. It was scary in the qualifying,” reports Girolami.
“I lost the front. I went off at Turn 9 on the gravel. On the gravel I had to survive. I did it Dakar style to get out.”
The mistake cost the Argentinian any chance of a third run on fresh tyres, but his time was good enough to do the job and then he used the final minutes to perfect a practice start ahead of the first race.
“We can still beat him. We had to stop him getting away,” says Brown, who will start from fourth.
“My lap was ok. I was actually two-tenths up at Turn 2 on my final run, but then I stuffed-up.”
For Heimgartner, the race will be an unknown after tuning the Astra for qualifying.
“We’ve been tuning it a lot. We’re really happy. There is still more to come but it might struggle as a qualifying car,” says Heimgartner.
And he has Girolami’s effort in perspective.
“He should be that fast. That’s what he does, every day.”
The mid-field pack should produce plenty of tussles and slipstreaming, with 17 cars on the grid and Dylan O’Keefe starting only ninth in an Alfa Giulia which has been one of the quickest cars in earlier TCR events.
Results: TCR Australia Race 1 Qualifying
|1||38||Nestor Girolami (ARG)||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R||1:13.9637|
|2||777||Andre Heimgartner (NZ)||Kelly Racing||Holden Astra||1:14.3147||00.3510|
|3||24||John Martin (NSW)||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R||1:14.4205||00.4568|
|4||30||William Brown (Qld)||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai i30N||1:14.5029||00.5392|
|5||8||Jason Bright (Vic)||Taskforce/Melb Performance Cnt||Volkswagon Golf GTI||1:14.7351||00.7714|
|6||7||Jordan Cox (NSW)||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Alfa Romeo Giulietta||1:15.0217||01.0580|
|7||50||Tony D’Alberto (Vic)||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R||1:15.3768||01.4131|
|8||62||Bryce Fullwood (NT)||Kelly Racing||Holden Astra||1:15.4249||01.4612|
|9||9||Dylan O’Keeffe (Vic)||Ashley Seward Motorsport||Alfa Romeo Giulietta||1:16.0341||02.0704|
|10||34||James Moffat (Vic)||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Renault Megane RS||1:16.0353||02.0716|
|11||3||Garth Tander (Vic)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS 3||1:16.0379||02.0742|
|12||97||Liam McAdam (Qld)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS 3||1:16.1310||02.1673|
|13||100||Russell Ingall (Qld)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS 3||1:16.5845||02.6208|
|14||2||Aaron Cameron (Vic)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Volkswagen Golf GTI||1:16.8578||02.8941|
|15||11||Nathan Morcom (NSW)||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai i30N||1:17.2787||03.3150|
|16||33||Chris Pither (NZ)||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Renault Megane RS||1:17.8114||03.8477|
|17||35||Alexandra Whitley (Qld)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Volkswagon Golf GTI||1:18.8787||04.9150|