WTCR Race 1 flash: Vervisch beats Bjork for second 2021 victory
Frédéric Vervisch became the first two-time winner in the 2021 FIA WTCR – World Touring Car Cup after winning Race 1 at WTCR Race of France.
The Goodyear-equipped Belgian started from the partially reversed grid pole position in his Comtoyou Team Audi Sport RS 3 LMS and led all the way to beat Thed Börk’s Cyan Performance Lynk & Co to victory as four customer racing brands filled the top four places at Circuit Pau-Arnos.
At the start Björk made a good getaway but Vervisch hung on to lead into the fast Turn 1 and 2 chicane, but there was trouble further back in the pack. Tiago Monteiro was tagged by a slow starting Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Yann Ehrlacher, the ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR crashing out into the barriers at Turn 3.
That led to an intervention from the Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition Safety Car, while Race 2 pole position starter Yvan Muller pitted with damage. “We did a bad start and then there was the mess with Tiago,” said Muller. “Somebody hit me on the right and I have damage to the right axle. If anyone can fix it before Race 2 it is my team.” Muller returned to the circuit before the end of the race to test the repaired car in preparation for Race 2.
The racing action resumed on lap seven and Vervisch immediately built a gap to Björk to secure a convincing victory. “It was a bit tight at the start,” said Vervisch. “Björk got a better start than us and contact was very light, but the key was to stay in front at the start. I had a mega restart after the safety car and I’m very happy. Thanks to the team, they deserve this because we’ve had a hard time this season.”
Not everything was straightforward about his win. “This is a very hard track,” he said. “Everyone is suffering from mechanical challenges, it’s hard on the car. I’m happy to finish without any big problems.”
Behind Björk Gabriele Tarquini started and finished third in his BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Elantra N TCR, with WTCR title contender Esteban Guerrieri fourth from fifth on the grid in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR. His team-mate Néstor Girolami was fifth.
Norbert Michlisz gave up sixth place to fellow Hyundai driver Jean-Karl Vernay to help the Frenchman’s WTCR title bid. Ehrlacher could only finish eighth from sixth on the grid after his troubles on the first lap. “It was a difficult start for us,” he said. “We had a small issue at the start which made us bog down and I lost two positions.”
The result means Guerrieri has closed the gap at the top of the standings from 25 back to 20 points, with Vernay in third, 30 behind Ehrlacher.
Luca Engstler finished ninth in his Hyundai, with Tom Coronel rounding out the top 10 in his Audi and winning the WTCR Trophy. The other points finishers were Nathanaël Berthon (Audi) in P11, Attila Tassi (Honda), Mikel Azcona (Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición), Gilles Magnus (Audi) and Santiago Urrutia, who had been docked five places on the grid for impeding Coronel in qualifying.
The CUPRAs of Jordi Gene and Rob Huff both pitted with trouble during the race, the Briton while running in ninth position.
Race 2 at WTCR Race of France will start at 12h15 local time.