Some of the many moments that make the WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup great are being revisited in a new series at FIAWTCR.com.
This week it’s the turn of Nicky Catsburg’s long-awaited maiden WTCR victory, which came in a frenetic Race 3 at the Slovakia Ring last October.
Driving an Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR, Catsburg started third, but took the lead after DHL pole-sitter Nathanaël Berthon lost out in the drag to Turn 1.
Catsburg found himself side by side with fellow Hyundai-powered driver Norbert Michelisz, but the Hungarian was nudged into a half spin by Jean-Karl Vernay’s Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR by Romeo Ferraris at Turn 2.
That left Catsburg with a clear lead he wouldn’t lose. Vernay chased him all the way to finish second following his maiden podium for Team Mulsanne and Romeo Ferraris in the opening counter with Race 1 winner Berthon crossing the line in third for Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport.
However, Vernay was demoted to fourth when a five-second penalty for his contact with Michelisz was applied, which promoted Berthon to second and RACB National Team-supported Gilles Magnus into third.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Catsburg, whose victory also marked a WTCR first for his Germany-based team. “We knew the car would be good if we could get in front – and it was. The start was amazing. I was able to pass Norbi and Nathanaël. I don’t know what happened to Norbi, I think he was hit from behind. Then Jean-Karl was not making mistakes, so I had to keep my foot down.”
Vernay was pleased with his “fantastic start” having lined up seventh on the grid. “Norbi braked 50 metres before a corner that is flat,” he said, “and unfortunately I pushed him.”
The Frenchman admitted he almost decided not to start the race following the accident for Néstor Girolami in Race 2, which was triggered by Vernay inadvertently tagging the Honda. Girolami was a non-starter for Race 3 after undergoing medical checks. “I’m not super-happy after what happened, it is not the racing I like and I don’t want to be a part of that,” Vernay said.
Behind Magnus, who started fifth, Mikel Azcona put in another stunning rise from P15 on the grid in his Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición to finish fifth ahead of Race 2 winner Tom Coronel, who never fully recovered from a poor start.
Esteban Guerrieri took a hard-fought seventh place in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR, while Santiago Urrutia was the best of the Lynk & Co 03 TCR drivers in eighth. Urrutia had tagged Gabriele Tarquini’s Hyundai on the run to Turn 1 from the start, which left the Italian crashing out for the second race in a row through no fault of his own. Luca Engstler was ninth in his Hyundai, as Michelisz recovered to complete the top 10.
Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Yann Ehrlacher salvaged more points after a difficult weekend in P11, ahead of Aurélien Comte, who rose from P18 on the grid in his Vuković Motorsport Renault Mégane RS TCR to mark his return to the WTCR with points for P12. Yvan Muller had risen as high as seventh on the first lap from P12 on the grid, but slipped to P13 at the flag.
Wildcard entry Petr Fulin was P14, but not eligible for poins, in his VEXTA DOMY CUPRA Leon Competición. Thed Björk completed the top 15 with the final point going to Gábor Kismarty-Lechner in P16.
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