WTCR Race 1 flash: Monteiro makes last-lap pass on Muller for famous win
Tiago Monteiro won a sensational Race 1 at WTCR Race of Germany as the 2021 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup burst into life with a thrilling reverse-grid season opener on an overcast and foggy Nürburgring Nordschleife.
The ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR driver rose from fourth on the grid to pass long-time leader and pole position starter Yvan Muller on the long Döttinger Höhe straight on the final lap to snatch a remarkable first victory on the daunting 25.378-kilometre circuit.
The two Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCRs of Muller and his nephew Yann Ehrlacher made a strong start from the front row as Gabriele Tarquini made one of his trademark rapid getaways to rise from fifth on the grid to third into a hectic Turn 1. Team-mate Norbert Michelisz was the big loser in the melee as he was pushed out wide and dropped from third on the grid to P10 as the 22-car field headed out on to the Nordschleife, with Muller leading from Ehrlacher, Tarquini, Santiago Urrutia, Monteiro, Esteban Guerrieri and pre-race Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Néstor Girolami.
On Döttinger Höhe for the first time Tarquini drafted up on to the tail of the two Lynk & Cos and piled on the pressure as they began lap two, to the point that Ehrlacher tapped the back of Muller’s car as they turned into Turn 1. Further back, Michelisz recovered a place by passing fellow Hyundai driver Jean-Karl Vernay for eighth.
Tarquini continued to exert pressure on Ehrlacher, tapping the King of WTCR. Then the Italian got a run on the Frenchman and swept past to take second place and set off chasing down Muller.
Tarquini drafted past Muller on Döttinger Höhe, only to run wide at Tiergarten, which allowed the Lynk & Co back in front. Then as the string of cars began lap three, Tarquini succumbed to pressure from a charging Urrutia and outbraked himself at Turn 1, running wide and dropping down the pack. The order after they had all scrabbled through Turn 1 was Muller, Monteiro, Urrutia, Guerrieri, Michelisz, Tarquini and Ehrlacher, who had much ground to make up as the pack headed back out on to the Nordschleife for a tense third and final lap.
As they headed on to Döttinger Höhe for the last time, Monteiro dragged up on to Muller’s tail, pulled out and took the lead at the perfect time to claim a fabulous victory. “I tried to be smart,” said the Portuguese. “I was really banged up on the first lap, but I kept my focus and pushed as hard as possible. I saw my opportunity when Gabriele tangled at the first corner. I had a plan and it worked out.”
Muller said he was powerless to stop the Honda sweeping past. “It was close, but not enough,” he said. “I knew it could happen. Maybe I should have let Yann past because he was faster than me.”
Despite his disappointment, Urrutia still ensured a strong result for Lynk & Co by finishing third in his Cyan Performance Lynk & Co entry. He led home Guerrieri’s Honda who finished a fine fourth from eighth on the reverse grid, ahead of Michelisz, Tarquini and the first of the new Audi RS 3 LMSs of Tom Coronel, who claimed the WTCR Trophy for independent entries.
Ehrlacher finished eighth, ahead of Girolami and Vernay, who completed the top 10. The other points finishers were Nathanaël Berthon (Audi), Attila Tassi (Honda), Thed Björk (Lynk & Co), Luca Engstler (Hyundai) and Gilles Magnus (Audi).
Race 2 at WTCR Race of Germany takes place at 10h20 local time.