A “surprised” Kevin Gleason rounded-out a WestCoast Racing one-two in qualifying for Round 8 of the TCR International Series at the Red Bull Ring, having languished at the tail end of the timesheets earlier in the day (Saturday 11 July).
A very green track and cool ambient temperatures greeted Gleason and his TCR counterparts as they took to the 4.32km Austrian circuit for the first of two free practice sessions on Saturday and a notable lack of grip made the American’s job of navigating previously unchartered territory a real uphill struggle.
Nevertheless, Gleason made good use of his very limited track time and steadily progressed up the timing screens while working with his WestCoast Racing team to optimise his setup and bridge the sizeable gap to the pacesetting SEATs in time for the crucial qualifying session.
Mercifully, a revised configuration made all the difference and the 28-year old, who had shown patience by taking a methodical approach to free practice, produced his strongest lap of the weekend to round-off a spectacular WestCoast Racing one-two, with his experienced Italian teammate, Gianni Morbidelli, sealing a dominant pole position.
The result was a welcome surprise for Gleason, who is left wondering whether there’s something in the water in Austria, having broken his race wins duck in the TCR International Series’ recent visit to the Salzburgring in May.
“It was a bit of a surprise to put in such a quick lap,” said Gleason. “I learnt a lot on fresh tyres in Q1 and I was simply able to pull it all together. I wasn’t sure what I’d see on my dash and I certainly wasn’t expecting to reach the front row! The track was very green, the temperatures were cool to begin with and we tried a radical setup, so the car was pretty difficult to drive while learning the Red Bull Ring. The car felt much better in FP2 because the temperatures were warmer, the European Le Mans cars had laid down some rubber, but, for me, it was still about acclimatising to the track. We retreated on some things that we learnt earlier this year to make the car work in today’s conditions, which constantly evolved from one session to the next. We’re now pretty solid, but how successful we are in the races will be determined by the conditions and whether we hit the setup right.”