Honours shared in key battleground ahead of new WTCR season
Two of the cars that will look horns when the upcoming WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup season begins on the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife next month triumphed as the 2021 TCR Europe series got underway at the Slovakia Ring last weekend.
Mikel Azcona won Saturday’s race driving a CUPRA Leon Competición with Mehdi Bennani resisting a late Azcona charge for Sunday’s victory at the wheel of a Hyundai Elantra N TCR.
While Azcona demonstrated the pace of CUPRA’s Leon Competición by winning at WTCR Race of Spain last season, the new-for-2021 Elantra N TCR from Hyundai is largely unproven.
“I’m very happy to start the season with a victory like this,” said Azcona, who will undertake a programme of events in TCR Europe, the feeder series to WTCR, alongside his main WTCR campaign this season. “The secret to my result was the start – I had a really good launch and I could take the inside line for the first corner. In the next few corners, I tried to push as much as possible and I was able to make a big gap.”
Nicolas Baert finished Race 1 in second for Comtoyou Racing driving a first-generation Audi RS 3 LMS with Dániel Nagy third in a CUPRA Leon Competición run by Zengő Motorsport. Tom Coronel qualified his Comtoyou Audi on pole but slipped to fifth by the finish.
Azcona underlined his pace and level by charging from ninth to second in Race 2 behind Bennani. Franco Girolami, brother of multiple WTCR race winner Néstor Girolami, impressed in third place in a PSS Honda Civic Type R TCR.
Bennani, a WTCR frontrunner in the past and last season’s TCR Europe title winner, said: “It’s really nice to be back on the top step of the podium, particularly on the first outing of the car as it’s brand new. It wasn’t easy, as we still had to manage the set-up of the car so we were improving a lot between FP1, FP1 and Qualifying. At the end, we had really good pace; I could see that Azcona was quicker in some parts and I was slightly better in other parts. I was full risk, 100 per cent in some parts and sometimes I had a lot of oversteer but that’s racing. I wanted this result for Hyundai because they choose me to be with them to help develop the car. We did it and I’m so happy for them.”
The 2021 WTCR season is due to get underway on the 25.378-kilometre Nürburgring Nordschleife from June 3-5.