WTCR Race of Portugal 2021 - 26-27/06/2021
In 100 words… A street circuit oozing history and intrigue, racing has taken place 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.
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
RACE REPORT: PORTUGUESE PRIDE AS MONTEIRO SCORES EMOTIONAL WTCR WIN IN VILA REAL
*Honda-powered racer’s heroic recovery from injury rewarded with home victory
*Azcona, PWR take first WTCR / OSCARO triumph after Race 2 ‘joker’ goes wrong for Ma
*Guerrieri still leads on the #RoadToMalaysia but Michelisz closes up with Race 1 triumph
*Cyan Lynk & Co drivers Muller and Ehrlacher make emotional podium visit
Tiago Monteiro was the hero of Portugal following his emotionally-charged home WTCR win 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.
RACE WINNER QUOTES
Race 1: Norbert Michelisz (BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse), Hyundai i30 N TCR
“The day started like dream with qualifying and here of course you have the inside starting from the first place, so I was really focused on the start. I think we were quite equal with Augusto and Yann and this was already 50 per cent of the job. Then I have to say we did a fantastic team job and I’m really grateful to Augusto. I managed to pull a gap, I was pushing 100 per cent, not leaving anything on the table and fortunately the gap was big enough on lap three to do the joker lap. I don’t want to say it was an easy race. After Yann did the joker and overtook Augusto I really had to push. There was one or two laps where I tried to slow down a bit, but then I saw he was taking big chunks out of the gap, so I was pushing again. So it wasn’t an easy race, but I’m incredibly happy. My target is to extract anything out of my possibilities. For sure we will not be in a position like this every race weekend, but if you are in this position you need to make the most out of it. I think today I also was a bit lucky. I don’t know what happened to Esteban in qualifying, but for sure 15 points is better than 45, but tomorrow is another day and let’s wait and see.”
Race 2: Mikel Azcona (PWR Racing), CUPRA TCR
“I didn’t expect to be standing here. At the beginning of the weekend I was thinking it would be a difficult weekend for us, first time here in Vila Real, a street track, a difficult track. To go fast here you need a lot of laps and a lot of confidence. But we improved a lot during the weekend. This morning during qualifying we did a very, very good lap. We improved a lot. The car was great and during the weekend we improved the car. I was with more confidence today. The race, it’s unbelievable to win here in Vila Real, this track, a very difficult track. I am with my people, my family, my sponsors. We did an amazing job in the ‘joker’ lap. We overtook two cars and the pace was great. I felt very confident with the car. It’s my first win in the WTCR and to be P5 in the standings is a good thing. We have a chance to win the championship. We need to continue in this pace. The championship is very long and we will see in Malaysia the position we have.”
Race 3: Tiago Monteiro (KCMG), Honda Civic Type R TCR
“God knows how hard it was the last two years. Many doubts, many question marks: am I able to come back? Am I able to drive? Am I able to be back at a good level? And after the beginning of the season it’s been very hard. It started well in Marrakech, but since then it’s been very tough. But you know, in 22 years of racing I’ve been through low moments many times and this is what I love actually is to fight back. And to put it all together here, I mean it has very special, special meaning. Honda, KCMG, JAS, all the team has been working so hard and it’s been tough. Really, really tough. The effort today is from amazing team work and I’m really proud to have been a part of this family for seven years now. This is their victory as well. Of course, the fans and the support here is unbelievable. The whole week, everywhere we go we we’re supported, not just me, I think every driver here. I am so lucky to have this opportunity to be here and have a race like this in my home country. I am really blessed, I can only thank everybody for this support. And a small note of course for the mechanic who passed away last night. This victory is dedicated to him.”
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
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
TRACK ESSENTIALSName: 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: 13 laps (62.205 kilometres)
BEST LAPSWTCR 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 DETAILSTime zone: GMT +1 hours
Fly to: Porto (101 kilometres)
Stay: Vila Real