Race round-up: Vernay victorious as 110,000 fans watch WTCR OSCARO action at jam-packed Zandvoort
Jean-Karl Vernay completed a memorable weekend for the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO with victory in the third of three races at Zandvoort where 110,000 fans – and Dutch Formula One star Max Verstappen – were in attendance.
Vernay’s Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team was forced into an overnight engine change following the Frenchman’s fifth place finish in Race 1 on Sunday. But Vernay, who was penalised by starting Race 2 from the back of the grid, repaid his team’s hard work by claiming the DHL Pole Position for Race 3 on Monday morning and then converted his top start spot into a victory later in the day.
After Yann Ehrlacher took the Race 1 laurels at WTCR Race of Netherlands, it was the turn of his fellow Frenchman Aurélien Comte to savour the limelight with his maiden victory in Race 2 to become the eighth different winner of 2018 following a brilliant drive.
Comte, in a DG Sport Compétition PEUGEOT 308TCR, was second in Race 1 ahead of Rob Huff and Gordon Shedden but went one better in Race 2 by beating James Thompson’s Honda Civic Type R TCR off the line in the reverse-grid counter. It means five customer racing brands have now won in WTCR OSCARO. Ehrlacher finished second after being handed the place by his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport team-mate Thompson to boost his title bid.
Huff was back on the podium in Race 3, taking his Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR to second place ahead of Frédéric Vervisch, who hit back from a double driveshaft failure to claim third spot for Audi Sport Team Comtoyou.
Ehrlacher, the TAG Heuer Most Valuable Driver of the event and TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy recipient for his rapid lap in Race 1, now heads the drivers’ championship by nine points over Yvan Muller, his uncle and the most successful driver in touring car history. But while Ehrlacher celebrated, Muller endured a weekend to forget with the Hyundai i30 N TCR unable to match its early-season pace following adjustments to the Balance of Performance. Muller’s YMR team also faced a lengthy repair job to get the veteran racer back on track for Race 2 after he came off worse in a collision with Norbert Michelisz.
Dutch WTCR regular Tom Coronel scored a weekend-high of seventh in Race 1 as Pepe Oriola settled for fourth in Race 2 ahead of Mehdi Bennani. Esteban Guerrieri battled through to fourth in Race 3 with Shedden fifth. Wildcard Prince Bernhard van Oranje completed all three races.
Race winner quotes
Yann Ehrlacher, ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport (Race 1): “We knew it’s quite difficult to overtake on this track so the only way was to do a good start and we did it. After we had a bit of trouble with the red flag. The safety car two laps from the end when we had a big margin was a bit of a suspense let’s say and caused some difficulties. But the pace was there, the Honda was really quick and big thanks for the team. They are really working hard for that and they really deserved this one. I’m just happy now we are back in the fight for the points in the championship. It’s easy to forget now our difficult weekend on the Nordschleife so I’m very happy. We had the pace and I saw the guys behind were fighting each other. I was able to save my tyres for the end just in case something happened and it was a good idea that I still had something to take off the tyres. That was actually good and the pace was there after the restart so no big panic.”
Aurélien Comte, DG Sport Compétition (Race 2): “Yesterday I did a very good start to manage to be P2 and it was already a very good result for the team and for myself. Today I did the same, a very good start and I took the lead at the first corner. In some parts James was quicker than him but I managed my pace to the end of the race. I knew there was some pressure but I really wasn’t thinking about the pressure. I was just leading the race and trying to go to the end.”
Jean-Karl Vernay, Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team (Race 3): “It was a great day, I was really motivated after what happened yesterday. Changing engines is not always nice, we knew we would have one race down and I was the only driver until this morning to score points in every race. But I said to my crew ‘don’t worry, we’re going to make pole and we’re going to win’ and we made it and this is pretty cool. The team did a great effort all night to rebuild the car, to have a good car ready for qualifying. After that I just did my job, I was pretty confident, the balance of the car was good and I just tried to push and drive well.”