WTCR Race of Portugal 2019 - 05-07/07/2019

A street circuit oozing history and intrigue, racing has been held on Vila Real’s demanding hillside roads since 1931, when Gaspar Sameiro and Ercilio Barbosa conquered the original 7.150-kilometre course in a Ford Model A. Safety and financial factors meant races were held on an irregular basis until the WTCC’s arrival in 2015 provided stability and Vila Real’s first world championship-level event. The 4.785-kilometre layout now used is a challenging blend of fast turns, climbs and descents. While a handful of chicanes were installed for safety reasons, the spectacle remains unaltered with speeds exceeding 200kph on the final downhill section.

Tiago Monteiro was the hero of Portugal following his emotionally-charged home win in WTCR / OSCARO on the streets of Vila Real.

Monteiro, who suffered serious head and neck injuries in a testing crash in September 2017 and fought a long and arduous recovery, took the lead when Honda-powered KCMG team-mate Attila Tassi hit trouble with a spark plug issue, holding his nerve to the finish for his first victory since he triumphed in Hungary two years ago.

“God knows how much we worked for this,” said Monteiro. “The accident two years ago – you’ve no idea how hard we worked to come back. I always dreamed of this, but to actually do this… it’s unbelievable. I’m so sad for Attila who could have had his first win, but someone was watching out for me, just as they were in hospital. I lost focus in the last two laps – they were probably the hardest of my career.”

Behind the triumphant Monteiro, Yvan Muller finished second for Cyan Racing Lynk & Co with nephew Yann Ehrlacher joining him on the podium for the first time in a second Lynk & Co 03 TCR. Afterwards, Muller explained that it had been difficult decision to race following the passing of a team technician, who fell ill the previous evening. Both drivers paid tribute following the podium, while a minute’s silence was observed on the grid before Race 2.

Following his Race 1 victory ahead of Ehrlacher and Augusto Farfus, BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse’s Norbert Michelisz left Vila Real 24 points behind Esteban Guerrieri (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport) on the #RoadToMalaysia, despite non-finishing in Race 2 and doing no better than ninth in Race 3.

Guerrieri scored a weekend-best of third in the second counter in his Honda, while team-mate Néstor Girolami bagged more important entrants’ points with P6 in Race 3.

Inaugural WTCR / OSCARO winner Mikel Azcona, who took the victory ahead of Ma Qinghua and Guerrieri in Race 2, scooped the TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy. Ma had been leading from the reverse-grid pole but an error through the ‘joker’ lap cost him vital time and he fell to second.

Rob Huff (SLR VW Motorsport) showed off his street-racing qualities with fourth in Race 1 and fifth in Race 3. Nicky Catsburg was twice in the top five for BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team. Jean-Karl Vernay finished fourth for Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport in Race 2.

DHL Pole Position Race 1: Norbert Michelisz (HUN) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 1 winner: Norbert Michelisz (HUN) Hyundai i30 N TCR
Race 1 fastest lap: Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Lynk & Co 03 TCR

DHL Pole Position Race 2: Ma Qing Hua (CHN) Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR
Race 2 winner: Mikel Azcona (ESP) CUPRA TCR
Race 2 fastest lap: Mikel Azcona (ESP) CUPRA TCR

DHL Pole Position Race 3: Attila Tassi (HUN) Honda Civic Type R 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

Track essentials
Name: Circuito Internacional de Vila Real
Location: Av. Carvalho Araújo 7, 5000-651 Vila Real
Length: 4.785 kilometres
Race 1 distance: 11 laps (52.635 kilometres)
Race 2 distance: 11 laps (52.635 kilometres)
Race 3 distance: 13 laps (62.205 kilometres)
Best laps
WTCR lap record (qualifying): Attila Tassi (Honda Civic Type R TCR), 1m59.445s (144.30kph), 07/07/19
WTCR lap record (race): Mikel Azcona (CUPRA TCR), 2m02.360s (140.9kph), 07/07/19
More details
Time zone: GMT +1 hours
Fly to: Porto (101 kilometres)
Stay: Vila Real