WTCR Race 1 flash: Ehrlacher heads Lynk & Co-powered 1-2-3
King of WTCR Yann Ehrlacher scored his first victory of 2021 after beating pole position starter Gabriele Tarquini off the line in Race 1 at WTCR Race of Portugal.
The Cyan Racing Lynk & Co driver headed a Goodyear-equipped Lynk & Co 03 TCR 1-2-3 ahead of uncle Yvan Muller and Santiago Urrutia after Tarquini was forced out by tyre damage.
“The race start was good,” said Ehrlacher. “It was my only chance if I wanted to win and I managed to pass him into Turn 1.”
Tiago Monteiro finished fourth in his ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR to become the new Goodyear #FollowTheLeader after title rivals Jean-Karl Vernay and Néstor Girolami failed to finish.
Starting on the inside of the front row, Ehrlacher made it down to Turn 1 beside Tarquini to take a lead he would never lose as behind him Girolami ran into the back of Norbert Michelisz, the Hyundai then making contact with Attila Tassi’s Honda which was knocked sideways. Vernay also found himself caught up in the drama and picked up a right-front puncture, due to contact, that cost him his Goodyear #FollowTheLeader status, while Girolami stopped out on track with heavy front-end damage to his Honda and Michelisz toured back to the pits.
Following a short intervention by the Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition safety car, the racing action resumed on lap four as Ehrlacher made a good getaway to stop Tarquini challenging his lead. “The safety car didn’t make my life easier because he had good top speed,” said Ehrlacher.
But his life was soon made easier when Tarquini was forced out by his tyre problem, the result of debris on the track from contact, on lap nine, leaving Muller and Urrutia to follow Ehrlacher home.
Behind the trio of Lynk & Cos, Tiago Monteiro and Esteban Guerrieri made the most of the first-corner problems to rise from ninth and P10 on the grid to run fourth and fifth. Team discussion on the radio eventually persuaded Monteiro to give up fourth to allow Guerrieri to attack the Lynk & Cos, but when the Argentine failed to make any impression he gave the place back to Monteiro just before the finish line, as the Portuguese became the new Goodyear #FollowTheLeader. “I said it was going to be interesting and it was!” said Monteiro. “I am happy with P4 from P9 after taking advantage of the mess at the first corner and it is good for the championship.”
Behind the two Hondas Mikel Azcona put in a superb performance to rise from P13 on the grid to finish sixth in his Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición. Tassi was seventh in his Honda after a trip through a gravel trap ahead of Thed Björk’s Cyan Performance Lynk & Co, while Gilles Magnus took FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title honours in ninth in his Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS 3 LMS, having started P15.
Rob Huff battled hard to complete the top 10 in his Zengő Motorsport CUPRA, holding off Nathanaël Berthon’s Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport entry and Luca Engstler’s Hyundai which was also caught up in the trouble at Turn 1. The German reported his steering was “a bit to the left”, but it didn’t stop him putting in a spirited performance.
Frédéric Vervisch (Audi), Jordi Gené (CUPRA) and Andreas Bäckman completed the points finishers with Swede Bäckman scoring for the first time.
Race 2 at WTCR Race of Portugal is due to start at 15h15 local time.