WTCR Race 1 flash: Girolami and Guerrieri score Honda-powered 1-2 in Pau
Néstor Girolami led Esteban Guerrieri to an ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport team 1-2 in Race 1 at WTCR Clean Fuels for All Race of France, as the 2022 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup season kicked into life around the streets Pau.
Pole position starter Girolami and Guerrieri made a clean getaway from the front row in their Goodyear-equipped Honda Civic Type R TCRs to head the field all the way, with local hero Yvan Muller completing the podium in his Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR.
“What a way to start the season,” said Girolami, the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader, after what is his sixth victory in the WTCR. “First of all thanks to the team who did a fantastic job. We put together an amazing performance yesterday and we got the job done in the first race. The key thing was the start. We managed to start similar with Esteban, I approached the first corner with a margin. After that we were taking care of tyre degradation because at this circuit at this temperature, and hitting the kerbs sometimes, it can be an issue. I tried to avoid the kerbs as much as I could.
“I’m so happy. Winning here at Pau is amazing. It’s comparable with the Nordschleife, Macau, it’s a mini-Monaco, let’s say. So to be able to win here means a lot for me. I also want to thank Honda because this is the fourth year they trust in me, and it is so important to start the year like this. So let’s keep the momentum and go for Race 2.”
Behind Muller, a late flurry of action changed the order. Nathanaël Berthon looked set for fourth place in his Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport RS3 LMS and briefly pressed Muller for the podium. But flapping bodywork was a tell-tale of contact with a barrier as Frenchman Berthon dropped back and found himself under pressure from King of WTCR Yann Ehrlacher. The Lynk & Co got a run on the Audi as they approached Turn 2 with just over two minutes left on the clock and Ehrlacher was through on the inside to begin his title defence with a fourth position behind his uncle.
Ma Qing Hua completed a strong first race with Cyan Performance despite losing two places at the start. The Chinese driver outqualified Ehrlacher on Saturday, but the Frenchman got the drop from the lights to move up to fifth, with Ma also losing a place to Attila Tassi in his Liqui Moly Team Engstler Honda.
But Ma made up a place with 19 minutes left on the clock with an opportunistic move on Tassi at the hairpin, as Mikel Azcona’s BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Elantra N TCR also squeezed by. Tassi later retired to the pits in the closing stages with minor front-end damage.
Ma then moved back up to the fifth place he’d started from by following Ehrlacher past Berthon at Turn 2. Berthon’s misery was complete further around the lap when Azcona made contact with the Audi as he made his move, the RS3 LMS nudging into a barrier. Although he recovered, Berthon pitted for repairs and fresh tyres and was classified in P16.
Azcona pressed Ma for fifth on the final lap, but settled for sixth in his first race for BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, with Santiago Urrutia making it four Lynk & Cos in the top seven. Gilles Magnus was the first of the Audi drivers in eighth, having worked his way past an unhappy Norbert Michelisz in the first moments of the race, with Mehdi Bennani rounding out the top 10 in his Comtoyou Team Audi Sport entry.
The other points scorers were Tom Coronel (Audi) in P11, Rob Huff – who set the race’s fastest lap in his Zengő Motorsport Cupra Leon Competición – Dániel Nagy (Cupra), wildcard entry Éric Cayrolle (Audi) and in P15 Tiago Monteiro, who recovered after he overshot Turn 2.
Race 2 at WTCR Clean Fuels for All Race of France is scheduled for 17h10 local time.