Event preview: WTCR Race of Portugal
The race to be best at Estoril is go with the countdown to WTCR Race of Portugal well and truly underway.
From June 25-27, Circuito do Estoril west of Lisbon hosts the WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup for the first time.
It means 22 top touring car aces, including category experts and young talents reaching speeds of 260kph in turbocharged TCR cars from Audi, CUPRA, Honda, Hyundai and Lynk & Co, will take to the 4.182-kilometre track for rounds three and four of the 2021 season.
Although Estoril is a new addition to the WTCR roster, Portugal is no stranger to the all-action series with the streets of Vila Real in the north of the country the event’s home in 2018 and 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic meant no WTCR Race of Portugal in 2020, while ongoing restrictions required Estoril to step in this year, albeit with no fans allowed to watch trackside.
Estoril takes its turn on the World Touring Car stage three weeks after the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany produced two dramatic counters. CLICK HERE FOR A REMINDER.
And there was a notable winner in Race 1 when Portuguese hero Tiago Monteiro stormed to victory aboard his Goodyear-equipped Honda Civic Type R TCR from ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport after he pulled off a late overtake on Cyan Racing Lynk & Co’s Yvan Muller.
“It was definitely one of those great races when you try line everything in your head and everything goes to plan,” said the 44-year-old Monteiro, who fought back from serious head and neck injuries sustained in a testing accident in 2017. “After a rough start when I lost a few positions, the pace was good and I was in a rhythm with the top four. So I kept on pushing, kept my cool and focus to try to position myself for the last lap. There was some contact in front of me, I took the opportunity to move to P2 right away and after that it was just a matter of following Yvan [Muller] and then try something later on in the race. It was a good fight with him, he’s a hard racer but a very fair racer, so I knew I could fight with him until the end. I took a lot of risks of course, but that’s the moment you have to do it and go for it. The car was very good, I’m very happy with the team, Honda, ALL-INKL of course and JAS for all the updates we have done over the winter. It was great to start the season with a win, a very high-adrenaline moment.”
While Monteiro, once a podium finisher in Formula One, was the man of the moment in Race 1, Jean-Karl Vernay was able to emulate the performance of somebody who is also helping to shape his career by winning Race 2. Vernay is part of the Skywalker Racing Management stable Monteiro founded and is already reaping the rewards of his association with the company.
“I’m very happy to work with Tiago and his team,” said Vernay, who was recruited by Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team for his fourth WTCR season. “They are doing a great job, I’m confident in them and that’s the most important thing for the future of my career.”
Despite their strong ties, Vernay insists he’ll treat Monteiro just like he would the other 20 drivers on the grid. “For sure, you want to push him like I do everyone I race against. Last year, I took a lot of penalties because of mistakes but I always tried to be fair. Nothing will change much with me and Tiago, I don’t tell him what we are doing in testing, that’s for sure.”
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED AT WTCR RACE OF GERMANY?
*Uruguay’s Santiago Urrutia began WTCR 2021 with third place in Race 1, one spot behind fellow Lynk & Co-powered Cyan driver Yvan Muller.
*Néstor Girolami claimed the first pole position of 2021 for the Honda-equipped ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport outfit and finished third in Race 2.
*Second place for 21-year-old Luca Engstler behind team-mate Jean-Karl Vernay marked a first WTCR podium for the youngest driver on the grid.
*Engstler and Gilles Magnus shared the FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title wins, while Magnus emulated Tom Coronel by scoring a WTCR Trophy triumph.
*Vernay’s Race 2 pace earned him the TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy, while his overall weekend performance made him the TAG Heuer Most Valuable Driver.
*Drivers out of luck on the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife included Mikel Azcona, Esteban Guerrieri, Rob Huff, Norbert Michelisz, Gabriele Tarquini, Frédéric Vervisch and King of WTCR Yann Ehrlacher.
*Jessica Bäckman, meanwhile, had reason to be satisfied after she scored points on her WTCR debut, the only rookie driver to do so.
WTCR 2021 OVERVIEW
Representing 11 top teams and 12 countries, the 2021 WTCR line-up features six FIA world title winners − including current King of WTCR Yann Ehrlacher − plus nine drivers 25 or under. A total of 65 race wins are shared between the talent-packed entry.
All drivers count on sustainable biofuel from P1 Racing Fuels and tyres from Goodyear. Along with a Balance of Performance, their use helps to create a level playing field. Meanwhile, significant cost-control measures help maintain strong grid numbers and allow privateer teams with limited technical support from manufacturers to fight at the front.
The 2021 season is set to comprise five weekends in Europe ahead of a three-event Asia leg. Practice, qualifying and two races are timetabled at each event, which enjoy extensive live global broadcasting.
As well as the FIA Drivers’ and Teams’ titles, the FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title is for the best racer 24 or under at the start of 2021 with no WTCC/WTCR experience prior to 2019. Independent racers competing without direct manufacturer funding are eligible for the WTCR Trophy, while the TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy and TAG Heuer Most Valuable Driver accolade are awarded at each event.
The Goodyear #FollowTheLeader recognises the driver at the head of the title standings after each qualifying session or race. They are presented with the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader blue jacket and carry the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader yellow windscreen strip on their car until such time that they no longer top the points classification. Following his success at WTCR Race of Germany, Jean-Karl Vernay starts WTCR Race of Portugal as the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader, albeit by a slender six-point margin over Tiago Monteiro.
BEEN HERE BEFORE?
While Estoril is new to the WTCR, its predecessor, the FIA World Touring Car Championship visited in 2008 when Tiago Monteiro and Rickard Rydell shared the wins for SEAT. As well as Monteiro, five other current WTCR drivers were also on the grid. They were Tom Coronel, Jordi Gené, Rob Huff, Yvan Muller and Gabriele Tarquini.
WTCR’S CORONEL HOPING TO BE A YOUTUBE STAR FOR THE RIGHT REASONS ON ESTORIL RETURN
Tom Coronel will be hoping ‘Coronel Estoril’ will serve up more than just a huge sportscar crash when typed into the YouTube search function following WTCR Race of Portugal. Coronel was lucky to emerge unscathed from the spectacular accident he suffered when he was tapped by the backmarker he was lapping while leading the Le Mans Series race at Estoril in 2001. It was the second of two notable disappointments he experienced in the same year at Estoril, which joins the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup trail for the first time from June 25-27. “Two times I have been there I was leading,” said the Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport driver. “In 2001, I was leading the Le Mans Series race and I was taken out, go to YouTube, type ‘Coronel Estoril’ and you can see for yourself! I was hit from behind while I was lapping the guy and he hit me in the back on the main straight. “And don’t forget my first international touring car appearance was also in Estoril in 2001. The [European Super Touring] championship was between Duncan Huisman and Peter Kox, they hit each other off and I was leading the race. Then, two corners before the end, Gianni Morbidelli took me out. I made a 360 and finally I finished P3 and we were fighting on the podium. If we did that now we’d be banned for a year, 100 per cent. But it was good for the racing then and it will be the same this year.” Coronel will pilot a second-generation Audi RS 3 LMS on Goodyear tyres at Estoril and expects two exciting WTCR races. “It has a long straight, big braking points, good left/right loopings, nice corners where you can squeeze it in between,” Coronel explained. “Of course, I miss Vila Real because I love street circuits and I had a race win there in the past. Vila Real is always special and unique but if there is going to be a substitute, then Estoril is the best choice.”
WTCR RACE OF PORTUGAL ESSENTIALS
Rounds: 3 and 4 of 16
Date: June 25-27, 2021
Venue: Circuito do Estoril
Location: Av. Alfredo César Torres, Apt 46 – 2645 Lisbon, Portugal
Track length: 4.182 kilometres
WTCR qualifying lap record:
To be established
WTCR race lap record:
To be established
Saturday June 26
Free Practice 1: 09h00-09h45
Free Practice 2: 12h00-12h30
Qualifying Q1: 15h00-15h20
Qualifying Q2: 15h25-15h35
Qualifying Q3: From 15h40
Sunday June 27:
Race 1: 12h15 (13 laps, 54.366 kilometres)
Race 2: 15h15 (15 laps, 62.730 kilometres)
All timings local, provisional and subject to change
A venue steeped in history and with an exciting circuit layout to match, Estoril is the new home of WTCR Race of Portugal for 2021 in response to government restrictions concerning mass gatherings at single locations. These restrictions, the result of COVID-19, have made staging WTCR Race of Portugal on the famous Vila Real street circuit − where spectator numbers cannot be controlled due to the track’s compact urban setting − not possible in 2021. To minimise disruption the original date of June 26-27 remains unchanged. The WTCR will return to Villa Real in 2022 under a new three-year agreement.
No Driver (NAT) Team Car*
3 Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR
5 Norbert Michelisz (HUN) BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR
8 Luca Engstler (DEU) Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR
9 Attila Tassi (HUN) ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR
11 Thed Björk (SWE) Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR
12 Santiago Urrutia (URY) Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR
16 Gilles Magnus (BEL) Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS 3 LMS
17 Nathanaël Berthon (FRA) Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS 3 LMS
18 Tiago Monteiro (PRT) ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR
19 Andreas Bäckman (SWE) Target Competition Hyundai Elantra N TCR
22 Frédéric Vervisch (BEL) Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS 3 LMS
26 Jessica Bäckman (SWE) Target Competition Hyundai Elantra N TCR
28 Jordi Gené (ESP) Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy CUPRA Leon Competición
29 Néstor Girolami (ARG) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR
32 Tom Coronel (NLD) Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS 3 LMS
55 Bence Boldizs (HUN) Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy CUPRA Leon Competición
68 Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR
69 Jean-Karl Vernay (FRA) Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR
79 Rob Huff (GBR) Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición
86 Esteban Guerrieri (ARG) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR
96 Mikel Azcona (ESP) Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición
100 Yvan Muller (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & C0 03 TCR
*All cars equipped with Goodyear tyres, use sustainable biofuel from P1 Racing Fuels
WTCR RACE OF PORTUGAL 2019: THE WEEKEND’S BIG WINNERS
DHL Pole Position Race 1: Norbert Michelisz (HUN) Hyundai i30 N TCR
DHL Pole Position Race 2: Ma Qing Hua (CHN) Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR
DHL Pole Position Race 3: Attila Tassi (HUN) Honda Civic Type R TCR
Race 1 winner: Norbert Michelisz (HUN) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 1 fastest lap: Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Lynk & Co 03 TCR
Race 2 winner: Mikel Azcona (ESP) CUPRA TCR
Race 2 fastest lap: Mikel Azcona (ESP) CUPRA TCR
Race 3 winner: Tiago Monteiro (PRT) Honda Civic Type R TCR
Race 3 fastest lap: Mikel Azcona (ESP) CUPRA TCR
TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy: Mikel Azcona (ESP) CUPRA TCR
TAG Heuer Most Valuable Driver: Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Lynk & Co 03 TCR
WTCE RACE OF PORTUGAL PREVIOUS WINNERS
2019 (Circuito Internacional de Vila Real (July 6-7):
Race 1: Norbert Michelisz (HUN) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 2: Mikel Azcona (ESP) CUPRA TCR
Race 3: Tiago Monteiro (PRT) Honda Civic Type R TCR
2018 (Circuito Internacional de Vila Real (June 23-24):
Race 1: Yvan Muller (FRA) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 2: Mato Homola (SVK) Peugeot 308 TCR
Race 3: Thed Björk (SWE) Hyundai i30 N TCR
KINGS OF WTCR
2020: Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Cyan Racing / Lynk & Co 03 TCR
2019: Norbert Michelisz (HUN) BRC Racing Team / Hyundai i30 N TCR
2018: Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) BRC Racing Team / Hyundai i30 N TCR
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2021?
*There will be double-headers only in 2021 with two rather than three races at each event
*New cars from Audi (second-generation Audi RS 3 LMS) and Hyundai (Elantra N TCR) join the grid
*P1 Racing Fuels is WTCR’s Official Fuel Supplier with drivers powered by a bespoke fuel featuring 15 per cent renewable components for the first time
*Jessica Bäckman is the WTCR’s first female driver and joins brother Andreas to form the WTCR’s first all-sibling team run by new all-season entrant Target Competition
*Like the Bäckmans, Jordi Gené is a WTCR newcomer, while Rob Huff and Frédéric Vervisch return after missing out in 2020
*Adria, Estoril and Inje are new to the WTCR calendar with Italy and South Korea set to stage WTCR races for the first time
*The Rookie driver award is redefined and renamed as the FIA Junior Driver Title
*WTCR promoter Eurosport Events has been issued with the FIA’s Three Star Environmental Accreditation following a rigorous auditing process in line with the motorsport world governing body’s Environmental Certification Framework. Click HERE for more information.
DID YOU KNOW?
*The coveted #1 will not be carried in 2021 with King of WTCR Yann Ehrlacher electing to stick with #68, the number he used to win last year’s title and the number of Haut-Rhin, the French department where he’s from
*Mikel Azcona, Jordi Gené and Jean-Karl Vernay will arrive at WTCR Race of Portugal fresh from competing in the inaugural PURE ETCR event at Vallelunga in Italy. The all-electric touring car series is promoted by Eurosport Events, the same organisation behind WTCR.
*The Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition as the Official Safety Car of the WTCR for a second season. Portuguese Bruno Correia is the Official Safety Car Driver at WTCR Race of Portugal.
WHO SAID THAT?
Thed Björk (SWE) Cyan Performance Lynk & Co / Lynk & Co 03 TCR: “Germany was a tough weekend for me. I didn’t get it right in qualifying, so had to start from 15th position in both races. The car felt good, however, and that is what we bring to Portugal, a race that I very much look to.”
Tom Coronel (NLD) Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport / Audi RS 3 LMS: “It was good for the racing when the WTCC came in 2008 and it will be the same this year with its long straight, big braking points, good left/right loopings, nice corners where you can squeeze it in between.”
Rob Huff (GBR) Zengő Motorsport / CUPRA Leon Competición: “Estoril is a fantastic circuit that holds a lot of history. And it’s a tricky track and one that’s not easy to learn. It will bring another welcome challenge to the calendar.”
Tiago Monteiro (PRT) ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport / Honda Civic Type R TCR: “I’m very excited that we’re coming to Estoril. It’s a great track and I’ve won there in the past in the WTCC and in many other series. I’m sure there will be a lot of action.”
Jean-Karl Vernay (FRA) Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team / Hyundai Elantra N TCR: “The track’s not super-wide, but the first corner after the long straight should be a good opportunity for overtaking and it should be good to watch on TV with the little chicane uphill, it’s fun.”
THE BIG NUMBER: 6
Just six points separate Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Jean-Karl Vernay and current second-placed driver Tiago Monteiro in the race to win the WTCR title.
HOW IT WORKS AT WTCR RACE OF PORTUGAL
Qualifying: WTCR Race of Portugal begins with two free practice sessions of 45 minutes and 30 minutes duration, followed by a single qualifying session. This is split into three stages (Q1, Q2 and Q3) and includes two elimination periods (Q1 and Q2). Q1 lasts 20 minutes with the fastest 12 progressing to Q2 where they get 10 minutes to battle for the five spots on offer in Q3. The five to progress to Q3 get one lap, one at a time to chase the pole position. Points are handed to the Q3 quintet on a scale of 5-4-3-2-1.
Grids: Race 1 uses a partially-reversed grid with the fastest 10 in Q2 lining up in reverse order, meaning the driver who finishes Q2 in P10 starts Race 1 from pole position, P9 in second and so on. The drivers who were P11 and P12 in Q2 go next followed by the drivers eliminated after Q1. The Race 2 grid uses the combined qualifying order after Q3.
*The fastest five drivers in Qualifying score points as follows: 5-4-3-2-1.
*The top 15 classified finishers score in each race as follows: 25-20-16-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1
*The same scoring system apples to the WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup for Teams and the FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title. WTCR Trophy drivers score as follows: 10-8-5-3-1, 1 point for the fastest qualifying lap, 1 point for the fastest lap in each race
TYRE TALK WITH SEBASTIAN TRINKS, GOODYEAR EVENT LEADER WTCR
“Estoril was resurfaced two or three years ago so the surface is quite smooth, not so abrasive. Before it was very rough and abrasive but now they have resurfaced it, it’s much more ‘easy’ on wear, so there is less wear. It’s quite a technical track and the drivers will need to know the perfect racing line because there are some long corners and some technical corners. Due to the fact you have these long corners there is a high load, especially on the front-left tyre because you are driving for a long time on the loaded front-left tyre. You need to watch out for the front-left tyre. The ambient forecast is between 25 and 28 degrees centigrade and this will mean we are getting track temperatures up to 40 degrees, depending on the cloud cover. In general, it’s quite a dark Tarmac, which means it is absorbing a lot of energy from the sun so it will get very hot. The drivers and the engineers will need to consider the tyre pressures to make sure they are not too far over the target. But, in general, we have a robust tyre that can cope with high track temperatures. I will be doing the track walk to inspect the kerbs on the first day of the event to see how they have evolved because they can be damaged by other uses and will report back my findings to the teams.”
All drivers use the single specification Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport tyre. For WTCR Race of Portugal, each driver has 12 dry-weather slick tyres allocated and can carry over 10 from previous events. In addition, 16 wet-weather tyres are available.
WTCR − FIA WORLD TOURING CAR CUP 2021 PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1 Jean-Karl Vernay (FRA) Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, 39 points
2 Tiago Monteiro (PRT) ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR, 33
3 Néstor Girolami (ARG) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR, 33
4 Yvan Muller (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR, 29
5 Santiago Urrutia (URY) Cyan Performance Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR, 29
Full standings attached or click HERE.
WTCR − FIA WORLD TOURING CAR CUP 2021 CALENDAR
Rounds 1 and 2: WTCR Race of Germany, Nürburgring Nordschleife: June 3-5
Rounds 3 and 4: WTCR Race of Portugal, Circuito do Estoril: June 26-27
Rounds 5 and 6: WTCR Race of Spain, MotorLand Aragón: July 10-11
Rounds 7 and 8: WTCR Race of Italy, Adria International Raceway: July 31-August 1
Rounds 9 and 10: WTCR Race of Hungary, Hungaroring: August 21-22
Rounds 11 and 12: WTCR Race of South Korea, Inje Speedium: October 16-17
Rounds 13 and 14: WTCR Race of China, Ningbo International Speedpark: November 6-7
Rounds 15 and 16: WTCR Race of Macau, Circuito da Guia: November 19-21