Supreme in qualifying, but wings trimmed for the race …


Supreme in qualifying, the DG Sport Compétition drivers had their wings trimmed for the race …

This weekend the TCR International Series headed for the Sakhir circuit as supporting race to the GP of Bahrain. Pierre-Yves Corthals and Mato Homola, members of the DG Sport Compétition team, confirmed the competitiveness of the Opel Astra cars… prior to having their impetus cut short through an official decision.

Reserved during the free practice sessions, the drivers of the ”made in Theux “Astra machines hit hard during the qualifying. The only one to drop under the 2’12’’ (2’11’’903 to be exact), Pierre-Yves Corthals dominated the Q1 ahead of his teammate. During the second phase the latter got the better with a lap time of 2’12’’073, ahead of his teammate who had committed two mistakes during his fast lap. However, it was “Pilou” who inherited 1^st place on the grid for the initial race, the young Slovak having to take the start from the back of the pack as the result of an engine change (overheating) following the free practice sessions.
It goes without saying that in the DG Sport Compétition clan pride was the order of the day after this verdict: “This performance proves the potential of our Opel Astra TCR cars and our two drivers, »  Christian Jupsin, the man heading up the Theux based structure emphasised. “Qualifying was set with the basic Balance Of Performance (BOP) as defined at the beginning of the season in Adria, 40 kg of ballast and 100% of power, in other words an engine definition that had not been used up until now.”

Even so this given changed entirely between the sessions and the race when the officials decided to modify the BOP of the Opel Astra machines, promptly reducing their power by 5%! Deprived of some fifteen bhp the drivers found themselves confronted with an almost impossible mission when up against rivals whose cars were retaining their initial configuration.

“ Pilou”Corthals had soon figured it out: right from the start of the first round he was unable to put up the slightest resistance to Roberto Colciago (Honda) and Hugo Valente (SEAT). For a long time lying in 3^rd spot, the winner of the 2016 TCR Europa had to yield to Dusan Borkovic (Alfa Romeo) and Jean-Karl Vernay (VW) in the penultimate lap, following a strong attack from the Serbian giant: “Temperature was up in the red, “ he explained after the race. As for Mato Homola, who had set-off from way down, he had to content himself with a modest 13^th place, no way representative of his true potential.

On Sunday the DG Sport Compétition mechanics produced a tour de force by changing the cutch on the Opel n°23 just in time to be able to slot into 9^th place on the grid, next to its sister car. But no better than the previous day, the representatives of the Belgian team were unable to truly defend their chances, far too handicapped on the straight and in the accelerations put in by a “cavalry” artificially curbed; Pierre-Yves Corthals and Mato Homola finally took the chequered flag in 11^th and 13^th place.

Making the best of a bad job, the drivers especially retained the qualifying results put in this weekend in Bahrain: “The lap times registered under normal conditions prove the enormous potential of the Opel Astra and the excellent work put in during the in-between season, but the BOP imposed after qualifying created havoc”, a regretful Pierre-Yves Corthals commented. As for Mato Homola, he remained resolutely optimist, notwithstanding two frustrating races: “I’m truly delighted to have offered Opel this first pole. There are still a few points to improve the car but we are on the right track and I’m certain that we will shortly be winning races!”

Why not during the following meeting at Francorchamps during the WEC, to be held on the 5^th and 6^th of May? No point in reminding everyone that DG Sport Compétition will be playing on ‘home ground’ … This also goes for Pierre-Yves Corthals who is increasing his contacts to compete at Spa during other meetings of the season; and the lap times he set in Bahrain represent an excellent asset.