Konukoglu/Brigliadori are the first winners of TCR European Endurance

It was Turgut Konukoglu and Eric Brigliadori (Audi RS3) – TEXACO Team AMS who took home victory in the first round of TCR European Endurance around the Balaton Park Circuit. The Italian and the Turk both write their names in the motorsport history books, securing top spot in the opening race of the continental endurance series promoted by Mauricio Slaviero.

The action at Balaton Park Circuit did not disappoint. Attila Bucsi (Hyundai i30N) – M1RA Motorsport led the first few laps of the race, when TCR European Endurance shared the track with TCR Eastern Europe on the recently-opened track that lies close to one of Europe’s biggest lakes. On the opening lap, behind the leading Hyundai was Aditis Racing’s Martin Kadlecik with his Audi RS3, whereas after an unfortunate qualifying session, Zoltan Barkovics (Cupra Leon DSG) – Zsille Motorsport was able to get up to fourth place, behind Turgut Konukoglu (Audi RS3) – TEXACO Team AMS who remained steadily on the provisional podium. The race was then neutralized during its first half by a safety car in order to recover a vehicle dangerously stopped on track; at the restart, however, an incident between two drivers of TCR Eastern Europe forced the stewards to bring out the red flag and interrupt the race. Once the action resumed, it was Bucsi who crossed the line first to top the standings dedicated to TCR Eastern Europe, thus opting not to continue in the endurance race to preserve his car before Sunday’s event. The same choice was made by Kadlecik, as both the Czech and the Hungarian drivers will compete permanently in the series that raced alongside TCR European Endurance in its debut around Balaton. One of stage one’s many twists happened on lap ten, when Barkin Pinar (Audi RS3 Gen 1) – Texaco Team AMS found himself in the gravel, thus being forced to start at the back of the grid for stage two on Sunday. A second safety car was then called out, in order to help the marshals recover the Turks’ Audi. Soon after, the pit stop window was opened, which saw a great strategy call made by TEXACO Team AMS, calling Seda Kacan in on lap 15 to put Ibrahim Okyay in the car. The following lap, the battle for the lead was taken to the pit lane. While the Audi DSG completed a full lap out on track, Konukoglu pits as Eric Brigliadori gets in the car, Zsille Motorsport sees Balazs Takacs’ debut, though neither of them is able to beat Okyay out of the pits. The Turk is therefore promoted to the front of the pack, a historic feat for a car with DSG gearbox, which finds itself leading a TCR race thanks to the unpredictable endurance format. Once the pit stop window for the mandatory driver and tyre change closed, the race resumes on lap 18, as Brigliadori lands the decisive blow which will then prove to be enough for the lead after stage one, keeping first place all the way to the checkered flag. There was no on-track battles between Audi and Cupra in the DSG class, but the fight is only postponed to Sunday. The starting grid of stage two is created by the final standings of the first part of the race.

Stage 2 around the Balaton Park Circuit saw the cars line up on the grid following yesterday’s finishing order. Brigliadori was therefore the leader early on, though in the first part of the race shared with TCR Eastern Europe, Attila Bucsi (Hyundai i30N) – M1RA Motorsport, and Martin Kadlecik (Audi RS3) – Aditis Racing were the ones leading the pack. At the end of the local series’ 30 minutes of racing, the two drivers finished first and second respectively, a result that further enhances the level of the continental endurance series. Brigliadori was also able to set the third fastest lap time of the race, an impressive feat considering that the Italian had a full tank of fuel compared to the lighter cars competing in the sprint series. On lap 16, the driver from Cesena is then promoted to the lead of stage 2, as well as in the overall standings. With 25 minutes left on the clock, the pit lane is opened as Ibrahim Okyay is the first to stop, giving his Audi RS3 DSG to Seda Kcan, conceding the lead of the DSG class to Balazs Takacs’ Cupra DSG. Zsille Motorsport later calls the Hungarian to the pits on lap 17 for the mandatory tyre and driver change, with Zoltan Barkovics ready to take his car all the way to the flag. Meanwhile, TEXACO Team AMS is busy with both Brigliadori’s pit stop, leaving the driving duties to Turgut Konukoglu, and with Zekai Ozen’s debut. The young Turk was in fact unable to race in stage 1 after teammate Barkin Pinar was stuck in he gravel before Saturday’s pit stop window was opened. Despite the lower mileage in the car, the Gen 1 Audi RS3 was able to top its class’ standings, with Ozen winning the Junior trophy as well. At the end of the two hours of racing, Konukoglu/Brigliadori were then declared winners of the first ever TCR European Endurance race, after dominating both stages. It was also a TEXACO Team AMS one-two thanks to Okyay/Kacan, who were able to finish in second place overall and win the DSG class ahead of home favourites Zsille Motorsport with Barkovics/Takacs. Other thank Ozen’s win in the Junior trophy, Seda Kacan was victorious among the Ladies, whereas Okyay triumphed in the Gentleman standings, thus making the #4 car the most decorated entry of the weekend. The next round of the TCR European Endurance is scheduled to take place on May 19th around Vallelunga, which will host the second race of the championship.

2024 CALENDAR

28th APRIL

BALATON PARK

19th MAY

VALLELUNGA

22nd JUNE

MISANO

25th AUGUST

SLOVAKIARING

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