TCR Spain: Alba Cano wins at Jarama
Two female victories in just as many weekends: TCR Spain's Alba Cano secured a dominant victory at Jarama, while Michelle Halder had a very difficult weekend and had to sit out 2 races for technical issues.
Spanish driver Alba Cano won her first TCR Spain race of the season after a successful weekend at Jarama circuit, outside Madrid, at the second meeting of the championship.
It was the second female victory in just as many events for the top touring cars championship in Spain, after Michelle Halder had claimed victory at the previous round in Navarra.
This time, Michelle had a very unlucky weekend and after hampered by technical difficulties.
In its inaugural season, TCR Spain is sharing its grid with the CET category, that sees another female entry: Lydia Sempere, who is making her debut in the series.
At Navarra, Michelle Halder made history and became the first female to win a race in three different TCR Series - with the triumphant wins in Germany, Spain and in the European-based series. The German driver also claimed a second place finish in Race 3 that put her at the forefront of the championship standings with her brother and teammate Mike Halder.
It was a strong start of the season for Alba Cano as well, as the Spanish lady clinched the podium in Race 1 and a fastest lap at her debut behind the wheel of the Cupra Leon Competition by Monlau Repsol, while one the biggest stories of the inaugural round is rappresented by Lydia Sempere. After a promising career in karting competitions, Sempere managed to adapt her helmet and racing equipment to the challenges posed by her bilateral deafness and made her debut in the RFEDA-sanctioned CET-RACE, completing a positive first round in Navarra.
The first race at Jarama was contested on Friday evening and saw Fernando Navarrete starting from pole. The driver of the Peugeot 308 TCR car, though, wasn't able to convert his front row start into a win and was overtaken by Mike Halder and Isidro Callejas.
Michelle Halder had previously set the sixth fastest time in the qualifying session despite battling with a technical issue that would compromise all her weekend; she had a positive start and moved up two positions - but then came under pressure from the attacks of Alba Cano and Alejandro Cutillas, who would pass her on the following lap.
Cano was in contention for the final podium spot for the whole first race, in a close battle with Callejas and Cutillas - while Mike Halder led a controlled race with a safe gap on the rest of the field, six seconds ahead of Navarrete.
Isidro Callejas led the fighting trio at the chequered flag and took advantage from the battle between Cano and Cutillas. In just her second appearance in TCR Spain, Alba Cano was close to another podium in Race 1 and crossed the finish line in fourth place - but that was only the beginning of her impressive weekend, as she would write her name among the winners at the second race, on Saturday morning.
Michelle Halder was set to start from reverse grid pole, but the young lady was forced to sit out both the Saturday races for the recurring technical issues on her Honda Civic Tyre R car.
"I wasn't able to start in either race today as a result of technical problems." - wrote Halder.
"On the other hand , things went very well for Mike, who continues to lead the championship with two wins. I'm looking forward to the next race in Aragon" - added Michelle on her social media pages.
With the first grid slot left empty, Alba Cano started from second and led unchallenged until the chequered flag, in a dominant lights-to-flag victory for Monlau Repsol.
On lap 3 Callejas move up to second on Mike Halder and tried catch up with Cano in the lead, but he couldn't get closer enough to worry Alba in her #15 Cupra Leon, as she clinched her first win and her second podium in the series.
“Alba Cano understood tyre degradation better than anyone, drove excellently and achieved a well-deserved victory." - commented David Simón, director of the Monlau Repsol Technical School which operates Cano's Cupra.
In Race 3, Cano was again on the move - this time following a difficult getaway, she had to charge through the field.
In a handful of laps, Alba Cano was already recovering and moved into fifth overall, but the gap accumulated by Mike Halder, Isidro Callejas and Alejandro Cutillas were too big for the Monlau Repsol driver to fight for a podium position in the final race at Jarama.
Lydia Sempere continued her learning-oriented season at the wheel of the #21 Renault Megane RS and was P6 in the CET class in Race 2 and P7 in Race 3, having unfortunately collected a DNF in the opening heat of the meeting.
Motorland in Aragon will host the third event of the TCR Spain inaugural season on July 31/August 1.
Mike Halder now leads the standings at 120 points, 19 points clear of Alejandro Cutillas.