WTCR Race of Belgium 2020 - 11-13/09/2020

In 100 words… Circuit Zolder and Belgium were new to the WTCR for 2020. Having hosted the Eurosport Events-promoted FIA World Touring Car Championship and FIA European Touring Car Cup in the past, Zolder offered a layout ideal for touring car racing in a country with a strong interest in the category past and present. Comtoyou Racing, from Waterloo, is a founding WTCR entrant and fielded a three-strong team at WTCR Race of Belgium with RACB National Team driver Gilles Magnus part of the line-up. RTBF has broadcast WTCR across Belgium since the series began in 2018 with extensive live programming and highlights.

WTCR RACE OF BELGIUM 2020: THE WEEKEND’S BIG WINNERS

DHL Pole Position: Nathanaël Berthon (FRA) Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

Reverse-grid DHL Pole Position: Néstor Girolami (ARG) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR

Race 1: Néstor Girolami (ARG) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR

Race 1 fastest lap: Néstor Girolami (ARG) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR

Race 2: Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR

Race 2 fastest lap: Nathanaël Berthon (FRA) Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

FIA Rookie Award winner Race 1: Gilles Magnus (BEL) Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS

FIA Rookie Award winner Race 2: Gilles Magnus (BEL) Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS

WTCR Trophy winner Race 1: Tom Coronel (NLD) Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

WTCR Trophy winner Race 2: Gilles Magnus (BEL) Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy winner: Nathanaël Berthon (FRA) Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

TAG Heuer Most Valuable Driver: Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR

Goodyear #FollowTheLeader: Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR

RACE REPORT: EHRLACHER, GIROLAMI WIN, WTCR ALL SET FOR A GOODYEAR FOLLOWING 2020 KICK-OFF

*Girolami takes the Race 1 honours before Ehrlacher triumphs in Race 2 at Zolder

*Ehrlacher is the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader following a strong WTCR Race of Belgium

*Local hero Magnus heads the FIA Rookie Award standings as young guns impress

*Drivers produce rapid lap times throughout sun-baked races

*Track action broadcast live in six continents as part of record coverage distribution

The WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup delivered two action-packed races as Circuit Zolder in Belgium hosted the long-awaited 2020 season kick-off.

Néstor Girolami and Yann Ehrlacher triumphed in the two counters for Honda-powered ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport and Cyan Racing Lynk & Co respectively with Ehrlacher the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader for topping the title standings. Meanwhile, home hero Gilles Magnus scored a Rookie win double on his WTCR debut weekend.

Magnus, competing with the support of the RACB National Team, a talent-backing programme from Belgium’s ASN, topped the WTCR Trophy classification in Race 2 after his fellow Comtoyou Audi driver Tom Coronel had done likewise in Race 1.

Eurosport Events used the Zolder weekend to launch its #Race2Care campaign to help in the fight against COVID-19. Initiated by the WTCR promoter in support of the FIA’s #PurposeDriven movement to return to racing with a clear purpose, Eurosport Events is donating €1 for every kilometre completed by every all-season driver in every qualifying session and race in 2020 with the goal of raising €100,000 with additional donations from drivers, other members of the WTCR community and stakeholders.

WTCR Race of Belgium also marked the start of Goodyear’s exclusive WTCR tyre supplier agreement with all teams using the single specification of slick Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport race tyre. Drivers benefited from an extremely consistent compound and were able to push hard to the end of each race, both held in warm and dry conditions.

In the two races, Thed Björk and Attila Tassi joined Girolami on the Race 1 podium with 21-year-old Tassi’s appearance his first in the WTCR. Yvan Muller finished second behind his nephew Ehrlacher in Race 2 with WTCR newcomer Santiago Urrutia completing the top-three places in a Lynk & Co-powered, Cyan-run 1-2-3 after a technical issued slowed Gilles Magnus.

Nathanaël Berthon started the second race on the DHL Pole Position but was penalised for a jumped start. The Frenchman’s recovery drive earned him the TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy for the first time.

WTCR RACE 1 REPORT: GIROLAMI WINS TO BECOME GOODYEAR #FOLLOWTHELEADER
Néstor Girolami scored a convincing victory in Race 1 at WTCR Race of Belgium, the Argentine leading the reverse-grid Race 1 all the way at Zolder.

Girolami started from the DHL Pole Position in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR and worked hard on Goodyear’s new WTCR tyres to keep ahead of Thed Björk, whose Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 03 TCR chased him throughout the 13 laps. Hungarian Attila Tassi scored his first WTCR podium in third place for the ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda team.

“Congratulations to everyone in the team, they did a fantastic job in the long wait for this season to begin,” said Girolami, whose victory marks his fourth in WTCR and makes him the Goodyear#FollowTheLeader ahead of Race 2. “To get a victory now is a good present for the mechanics. I’d like to dedicate this to my little baby and my wife.”

Björk, third on the grid, made a strong start to get ahead of front row starter Jean-Karl Vernay, the Frenchman slipping back to fifth in his first WTCR start in Team Mulsanne’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR by Romeo Ferraris. Vernay would remain fifth at the flag, behind WTCR Trophy winner Tom Coronel, who achieved fourth place in his first race driving Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport’s Audi RS 3 LMS.

Björk said he was delighted to score a podium after the long delay to the season, in a race that showed an increase in lap times in the closing stages on the new Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport tyres. “It is fantastic to be back in the car and racing, and to get a podium after the long pre-season. This track is hard on the cars and there was some oil that made it difficult.”

Tassi was equally pleased with his first WTCR podium finish. “I wasn’t expecting this,” he said. “My aim is to learn from my experienced team-mates, so a 1-3 is a great result for the team.”

But there were dramas for the other Münnich Hondas. Esteban Guerrieri’s race ended on lap three in a cloud of smoke while he was running eighth, while Tiago Monteiro also retired in similar fashion on lap eight. He was P14 at the time.

Santiago Urrutia scored a strong sixth place for Cyan Performance on his WTCR debut in the Lynk & Co 03 TCR, ahead of Yann Ehrlacher’s Lynk & Co and the Frenchman’s uncle Yvan Muller. WTCR Trophy contender Nathanaël Berthon, who starts Race 2 from the DHL Pole Position, was ninth in his Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS 3 LMS after a duel with top FIA Rookie Award runner Gilles Magnus in his Comtoyou Racing Audi RS 3 LMS.

King of WTCR Nobert Michelisz was the best of the Hyundais in his BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse entry in P11. The other points scorers were FIA Rookie Award entry Luca Engstler who was P12 in his Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR, Australian Dylan O’Keeffe in his first WTCR start driving Vuković Motorsport’s Renault Mégane RS TCR, Dutchman Nicky Catsburg for Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai and 2018 WTCR title winner Gabriele Tarquini in P15.

WTCR RACE 2 REPORT: EHRLACHER TRIUMPHS AFTER BERTHON JUMPS START
Yann Ehrlacher won Race 2 at WTCR Race of Belgium after DHL Pole Position starter Nathanaël Berthon was penalised for a jumped start.

The victory marked Ehrlacher’s first in Cyan Racing’s Lynk & Co 03 TCR and his third overall in the WTCR, as his uncle Yvan Muller and WTCR newcomer Santiago Urrutia completed a one-two-three for the Chinese customer racing brand after they passed FIA Rookie Award winner and home hero Gilles Magnus, who was struggling with a fuel pump issue in his Comtoyou Racing Audi RS 3 LMS.

Berthon was creeping forward from his DHL pole as the red lights went out at the start, leaving Ehrlacher safe in the knowledge he was the de facto leader in the early laps. Behind them, Race 1 podium finishers Thed Björk and Attila Tassi collided at the chicane, Tassi’s Honda delayed and Björk’s Lynk & Co clouting the tyre stack and retiring on the spot with damage, forcing the Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition safety car to be deployed.

Racing action resumed on lap four, with Berthon pitting for his drive-through penalty at the end of lap five, having backed up Ehrlacher into Magnus’s close-following Audi. But once Berthon was out of the way, Ehrlacher was able to open up a decisive gap.

“The start was not bad, although the first couple of corners were messy,” said Ehrlacher, who leaves Zolder as the Goodyear#FollowTheLeader. “But I saw Berthon had jumped the start so I just waited. I was pleased with my pace in the race so I’m pleased to score my first victory for Cyan Racing.”

Magnus looked set for a strong podium at his home circuit on his WTCR debut, only for Muller to force him into a mistake at the chicane on lap 15 of 18, with Urrutia soon following the Frenchman through to complete the Lynk & Co podium lock out. Magnus was just relieved to finish as the fuel pump problem cut power.

The RACB National Team Driver held on to finish a still strong fourth and add the WTCR Trophy win to his FIA Rookie Award victory, ahead of Race 1 winner Néstor Girolami in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR. In fifth place Tom Coronel completed a strong outing in his Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS 3 LMS, ahead of Jean-Karl Vernay’s Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR by Romeo Ferraris.

King of WTCR Norbert Michelisz was seventh in his BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR, ahead of fellow Hyundai runners Nicky Catsburg and Luca Engstler in their Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team entries.

The race finished under caution after FIA Rookie Award contender Jack Young was punted off by a recovering Tassi. Northern Irishman Young, 18, had impressed by holding off the hugely experienced Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro earlier on in the race in his first WTCR weekend. Driving for Vuković Motorsport, his Renault Mégane RS TCR ended the race beached in the gravel through no fault of his own.

The other points finishers were Mikel Azcona in P11 driving Zengő Motorsport’s CUPRA Leon Competición, Dylan O’Keeffe in his Vuković Motorsport Renault, Esteban Guerrieri’s Honda, Berthon and Monteiro.

RACE WINNER QUOTES

Race 1: Néstor Girolami (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR)
“First of all, I’d like to congratulate Attila for his first podium. Also, congratulations to Thed and to all my team who did a fantastic job. We knew the start was the key of the race because here at Zolder it is really difficult to overtake, so we practiced in the pre-season. I was confident every time I practiced the start during the weekend and I knew that after the start I had to avoid mistakes. I made a gap, then suddenly I picked up some oil in the last corner. Suddenly I was very wide, Thed was cutting the difference, he was there, but anyway I think we had the pace to make the gap. We were very solid and I think we did everything well this weekend. We scored points and a victory for Honda, so I am so happy. Also let me dedicate this victory to Oliver who had a family issue yesterday and had to go home, so I want to dedicate this to him and all his family.”

Race 2: Yann Ehrlacher (Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR)
“Everythng happened at the start. I saw [Berthon] jumped the start, but he still did two or three laps and he had really good pace. It would have been good for me to follow that pace. But then he went to the box and I had my free way to work on my pace and saving my tyres to the end, because it is quite a long race. So then I started to build a gap to the guy behind me. The race went really well and I’m really pleased that all three were on the podium, and a family podium with Yvan so let’s say our weekend is well accomplished. We are really thankful to the organisers of the WTCR   because it is not easy to organise all this at this time, so I’m really thankful to be a part of this race weekend and I hope it will continue as long as possible. I also want to give a word to the #RaceTo Care project, which offers one euro for one kilometre for all the medical stuff, so that’s a really nice project.”

ESSENTIALS
Location:
Terlaemen 30, 3550 Heusden-Zolder, Belgium
Track length:
4.010 kilometres
Race 1 distance:
13 laps (52.0 kilometres)
Race 2 distance:
To be confirmed (64.0 kilometres)
BEST LAPS
WTCR qualifying lap record:
Gilles Magnus (Audi RS 3 LMS)
1m35.480s (150.8kph), 12/09/20
WTCR race lap record:
Nathanaël Berthon (Audi RS 3 LMS)
1m36.724s (148.8kph), 13/09/20