WTCR Free Practice 1 flash: Urrutia heads Ehrlacher World Touring Car racing returns to Vila Real
Santiago Urrutia was fastest in Free Practice 1 at WTCR Race of Portugal as the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup field acclimatised to the challenging streets of Vila Real after three years away.
The Cyan Performance Lynk & Co driver dipped below the two-minute mark to set a best lap of 1m59.612s around the 29-corner, 4.790-kilometre circuit. He ended up 0.268s quicker than King of WTCR Yann Ehrlacher in his Goodyear-equipped Cyan Racing Lynk & Co.
On their first visit to Vila Real since 2019, there was plenty for the teams and drivers to learn, including the Joker Lap alternative route at the roundabout at the end of the lap that is unique to this track in the WTCR. What made Urrutia’s performance particularly impressive is that the session was his first experience of this demanding street circuit.
“I always say to learn a track you need to push, so that’s what I did,” said Urrutia. “The car is working well, everyone is taking it easy, but I feel good. The track is very fast and difficult, you run very close to the walls. It was a good session, now we must looked through the data.”
Behind the two Lynk & Cos, LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler’s Attila Tassi jumped up to third late in the 45-minute session in his Honda Civic Type R TCR. Ma Qing Hua made it three Lynk & Cos in the top four, ahead of Comtoyou Team Audi Sport’s Mehdi Bennani.
BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse’s Norbert Michelisz was sixth in his Hyundai Elantra N TCR, with Thed Björk seventh aboard another Lynk & Co and Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Mikel Azcona eighth. Yvan Muller was next despite losing time in the pits with a reported driveshaft issue, with Rob Huff in P10 in his Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición, ensuring all five customer racing brands were represented in the top 10.
WTCR Race of Spain Race 1 winner Gilles Magnus was in P11 in his Audi, ahead of Nathanaël Berthon (Audi) and home hero Tiago Monteiro (LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler Honda). Esteban Guerrieri was in P14 in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda, with team-mate Néstor Girolami next. Dániel Nagy (CUPRA) and Tom Coronel (Audi) completed the list of runners.
The second free practice session at WTCR Race of Portugal takes place at 12h00 local time.