WTCR Race 1 flash: Urrutia leads Ehrlacher in Lynk & Co-powered 1-2 following action-packed Vila Real counter
Santiago Urrutia headed Yann Ehrlacher to a Lynk & Co-powered Cyan 1-2 in a frenetic Race 1 at WTCR Race of Portugal on the Vila Real street circuit.
Cyan Performance driver Urrutia scored his second WTCR win of the season after leading away from pole position. Ehrlacher got ahead of the Uruguayan through the use of the Joker Lap, the alternative route unique to Vila Real, but Urrutia regained the place when the King of WTCR obeyed a team order to hand the position back.
The two Goodyear-equipped Lynk & Cos made a clean start to quickly stretch away from Néstor Girolami’s ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR that started third. Urrutia took his Joker Lap on lap three, with Ehrlacher then pushing hard and taking his own Joker a lap later. He emerged in the lead, but soon the order came on the radio that he should hand the lead back to his fellow Lynk & Co driver. He waited until lap 11, then moved over to allow Urrutia ahead once again.
Urrutia had said before the race there was a “strategy” for the race. “Yann and I had the pace and we were controlling the race,” said Urrutia. “I said at the beginning before the race there was a strategy to follow, there were really good points as well for the Teams’ [title] and for the Drivers’ [title] and it worked out really well. Thank you to Cyan, thank you to Yann and everyone. We did the job, we finished as we started, P1 and P2, so I’m very happy for the team.”
Ehrlacher looked unhappy about the situation. “I’m a professional driver, I follow the orders and as he say there was a strategy before,” said Urrutia. “We collected the biggest points for the team and that was the goal. We did it and now we focus on Race 2.”
“It was not really clear, to be honest,” said Ehrlacher of the strategy. “For sure, the principle order was not to crash between each one at Turn 1, as we’ve seen before. But the scenario was not planned, I had good pace, I went for proper racing. Then I got the order. You have to behave as a pro, you just need to accept it without saying. I just did a few laps for the leading laps stats, but that was the only thing I could do. I struggle to put my foot down flat out in one straight.
“It’s a shame to lose a victory like this, but I’m really happy for the points Cyan have scored because that is the most important thing before anything else, even the Drivers’ [title]. I just hope it helps put one blue car, whichever one it is, at the top of the standings at the end of the year.”
Behind the top two, Girolami worked hard to hold off the BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Elantra N TCR of Norbert Michelisz to claim a podium in third. “I’m super-happy,” said Girolami. “The entire team did a fantastic job. Norbi was slowing down a little bit the train towards the end, which helped me a lot. We really want to fight for the [title] and we need something more.”
Michelisz got the better of Ma Qing Hua’s Lynk & Co for fourth, with Rob Huff’s Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición moving up from seventh on the grid to finish sixth.
Mehdi Bennani spent the race under huge pressure in his Comtoyou Team Audi Sport RS 3 LMS, but hung on to claim seventh as Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Mikel Azcona was classified eighth to finish where he started after a difficult race.
Early in the race he was hit by Attila Tassi’s LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler Honda, and also had contact with Thed Björk’s Lynk & Co at the same right hander later on. Azcona then chased Björk and Bennani, only to run wide out of the chicane and lose two places to Tassi and home hero Tiago Monteiro. Azcona recovered to pass Monteiro, then gained back another place when Tassi was given a five-second time penalty for a track limits infringement. Tassi was classified ninth with Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport’s Nathanaël Berthon completing the top 10 following a down-on-par Qualifying run.
Monteiro finished in P11, ahead of Dániel Nagy (CUPRA) and Tom Coronel (Audi). Yvan Muller was the final finisher in P14 after sustaining tyre damage in contact with Gilles Magnus on the opening lap. Magnus retired, but Muller returned after replacing his left rear Goodyear tyre.
Björk retired with damage after making contact with Bennani, while Esteban Guerrieri also failed to make the finish because of a broken suspension upright sustained striking a kerb at the T11/T12 chicane.
The result means Azcona’s points lead has been reduced to just six points from Urrutia, with Ehrlacher a further six back.
Race 2 at WTCR Race of Portugal, the 100th WTCR race, is due to take place at 17h15.