WTCR Race 2 flash: Azcona first in Pau after Michelisz and Tassi clash
Mikel Azcona won the partially reverse-grid Race 2 at WTCR Clean Fuels for All Race of France after front row starters Norbert Michelisz and Attila Tassi collided as they charged to the first corner at Circuit de Pau-Ville.
Azcona, in his Goodyear-equipped BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR, led home the Lynk & Cos of Santiago Urrutia and Ma Qing Hua, after King of WTCR Yann Ehrlacher was forced to pit with a damaged tyre while running third.
Tassi made a better start from the front row, but fellow Hungarian Michelisz moved right from his pole position and the two cars made contact. Tassi’s Honda hit the pitwall, as Michelisz’s Hyundai slid sideways in the middle of the track, triggering a reaction down the pack. Gilles Magnus in his Audi ran into the back of Yvan Muller’s Lynk & Co, while Mehdi Bennani’s Audi suffered broken suspension after contact further back. The Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition safety car was called upon, with the field led through the pitlane at the end of lap one.
“My start was average,” said Michelisz. “I started to turn for Turn 1 and we touched. It was unfortunate. Sorry. It was not the way to start the season. I would like to see the images from outside, but it was very unfortunate.”
Racing resumed with 23 minutes (plus one lap) left on the clock, with Urrutia piling the pressure on a defensive Azcona. But the Spaniard kept his cool and began to open up a gap, winning by 3.876s after 21 laps.
“The first race weekend with Hyundai and BRC, so really happy,” said Azcona. “I have to congratulate every single person on the team. They did an awesome job during the whole weekend working so hard. I’m here because of them. Now we must keep working on this line.”
“It was a good start,” said Urrutia. “We showed our pace in free practice, but in qualifying we didn’t quite put it together. But I knew starting inside the top 10 all I had to do was bring it home in the points and on this difficult circuit anything can happen. I was a bit lucky I went to the inside and not the outside at the start, because the crash was quite big in front of me.”
Ehrlacher looked set to follow Urrutia home to finish on the podium, only to pit with a right-front damaged tyre with 12 minutes left on the clock, elevating Ma to a podium on his first weekend driving for Cyan Performance Lynk & Co.
Behind the podium finishers, Nathanaël Berthon made up for some of his disappointment in Race 1 with fourth from seventh on the grid in his Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport RS 3 LMS, while Esteban Guerrieri followed up his second place in the earlier encounter with fifth this time. Muller survived his contact with Magnus to finish sixth.
Race 1 winner Néstor Girolami was seventh for ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, with Rob Huff eighth and first in the WTCR Trophy, from P13 on the grid, in his Zengő Motorsport Cupra Leon Competición. Thed Björk (Cyan Performance Lynk & Co) and Tiago Monteiro (LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler Honda) completed the top 10.
Dániel Nagy finished in P11 in his Cupra, ahead of Tom Coronel’s Audi and wildcard entrant Éric Cayrolle. Ehrlacher was classified in P15 to at least score from a race during which he professed to his team on the radio: “I want to cry.”
Girolami remains as the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader on 49 points, with Guerrieri seven behind and Azcona one point further back.