WTCR Race 1 flash: Vernay charges to first win for Team Mulsanne
Jean-Karl Vernay landed a brilliant victory in Race 1 at WTCR Race of Spain after making a great start from the second row at MotorLand Aragón.
The Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR by Romeo Ferraris driver took the lead into Turn 1, as DHL Pole Position starter Norbert Michelisz made a slow getaway. Sweeping around the outside at Turn 1 the Frenchman was never headed, as Michelisz tried to defend the inside line from Gilles Magnus.
“That was the target, to make a good start,” said Vernay, whose victory was his first in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup since Macau in 2018 and means he strengthens his advantage in the WTCR Trophy title fight. “After that I was just trying to manage the gap, but the two cars behind me were quicker.”
In a frenetic first lap, Santiago Urrutia made fantastic progress in his Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 03 TCR, rising from seventh on the grid to pass Magnus for second place. The Uruguayan held the position to the finish, as Comtoyou Racing Audi driver Magnus finished third to increase his hopes of WTCR Rookie Driver title glory.
“It was really good, I’m so happy to be on the podium,” said Urrutia. “The Alfa was too quick on the straight, so I was not quite quick enough to win.”
Magnus, part of the Belgian ASN RACB National Team, said: “Norbert really squeezed me into the wall at the start, but just gave me enough room. I hit the limiter, which is where I lost speed. After that the pace was just not there, but we can improve the car for the next races.”
Behind the top three, local hero Mikel Azcona made up a place from his starting slot to finish fourth in his Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición. Gabriele Tarquini emerged from an energetic battle to claim fifth in his BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR, ahead of Michelisz.
Yvan Muller rose from P10 on the grid to finish seventh in his Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, ahead of Luca Engstler’s Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team entry. Bence Boldizs (Zengő Motorsport) finished where he started in ninth, while Néstor Girolami was the first of the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCRs as six customer racing brands filled the top 10 places.
Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Yann Ehrlacher battled from his back-of-the-grid starting position, a result of his penalty for an engine change, to finish in P11. Crucially, he was two places ahead of closest title rival Esteban Guerrieri, who finished in P13 behind Nathanaël Berthon. The Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport driver also started from the back because of an engine change.
The Hondas of Tiago Monteiro and Attila Tassi were the final points scorers, while wildcard entry Nicolas Baert (Comtoyou Racing) and Briton Josh Files (Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team) finished in P17 and P18 respectively on their WTCR debuts. Thed Björk, who started sixth, was knocked into a half-spin on the opening lap and failed to finish, as did Tom Coronel who reported engine problems.
Ehrlacher now leads Guerrieri in the standings by 24 points, with Vernay moving past Muller for third.
Race 2 at WTCR Race of Spain takes place from 12h15 local time.