Comte takes first WTCR race win for Peugeot

by James Bowers

With the top ten drivers in qualifying reversed to form the starting grid for race two, James Thompson found himself on pole position for the first time this season. His time out in front would be short-lived however, as Aurelien Comte got a fantastic launch off the line in his Peugeot to take the lead of the race before the cars reached turn one.

Just behind, Yann Ehrlacher also benefited from getting a good start. Not quite able to pass Pepe Oriola at turn one, the Frenchman would have to settle for fourth place. At the tail end of the top ten, Rob Huff was valiantly clinging on to eighth place as the cars headed onto lap two. Despite a hefty bit of contact from Frederic Vervisch, Huff remained able to defend his position on the entry to the Hugenholtz bend while John Filippi then attacked the back of Vervisch’s Audi.

Throughout the pack, there were some close-fought battles right from the get-go. Hugenholtz seemed to be one of the best overtaking opportunities, with Yvan Muller and Tom Coronel getting by Mat’o Homola at that corner on lap three, however a status quo remained pretty much elsewhere as the cars ran bumper-to-bumper. Two of the drivers which would’ve been most frustrated were Yann Ehrlacher and Gordon Shedden. Clearly faster than Pepe Oriola and Mehdi Bennani respectively, neither driver could do anything to get by their fellow competitors.

Gordon Shedden and Esteban Guerrieri would often be amongst the action as the race progressed. Image Credit: Francois Flamand/DPPI

At roughly the halfway stage, the race was then neutralised as track officials attempted to remove the stricken cars of Fabrizio Giovanardi and Aurelien Panis. This bunched the field even closer, but when the race was restarted, Aurelien Comte left James Thompson in his dust; the Peugeot proving to be ultra quick in the hands of Comte this weekend.

Seemingly pushing too hard in his hampered Hyundai, Yvan Muller then span out of control and dropped down to 23rd place, consolidating his Zandvoort misery even further. With the South Korean car apparently unable of scoring points under the new Balance of Performance measures, championship-leader Muller can feel justifiably aggrieved.

Back up towards the front, Gordon Shedden attempted to capitalise on a small mistake by Mehdi Bennani, but in doing so left himself vulnerable to attack. Unable to pass Bennani, Shedden was then overtaken by Esteban Guerrieri in an opportunistic move on the inside line into turn eight.

Heading onto lap twelve, time was running out for Ehrlacher to get by the ultra-defensive Pepe Oriola. Just about failing to make the move stick on the outside line around turn one, the cars ran bumper-to-bumper through the midsection of track. Then, at turn nine, Oriola braked early which caused Ehrlacher to run into the back of him. Then, forcing the Cupra out wide, Ehrlacher pushed his way past the Spaniard to take third place.

Aurelien Comte looked comfortable in the race lead. Image Credit: Francois Flamand/DPPI

This tussle had caused a massive traffic jam to form behind Oriola’s Cupra, which remained in fourth. With the cars running very close together once again, Gordon Shedden pounced on a mistake by Guerrieri through the high-speed Scheivlak curve, and moved back up into sixth position.

In the final sector of the last lap, James Thompson pulled over to let his team-mate Yann Ehrlacher through into second place under team orders. As Ehrlacher appears to be right in contention to become champion, unlike Thompson, Munnich Motorsport chose to swap the positions of their two drivers with this in mind.

The main story, however, is the fact that Aurelien Comte drove a perfect race. From start to finish, the Frenchman showed pace that we’ve not seen before from the Peugeot 308TCR, which is still a very new car let’s not forget. So, for the first time in his WTCR career, Aurelien Comte came across the finish line to take a race victory, much to the delight of his DG Sport Competition team.

Full Race Result:

1stAurelien ComtePeugeot14 laps
2ndYann EhrlacherHonda+4.757
3rdJames ThompsonHonda+5.255
4thPepe OriolaCupra+6.657
5thMehdi BennaniVolkswagen+7.120
6thGordon SheddenAudi+7.458
7thEsteban GuerrieriHonda+8.086
8thRob HuffVolkswagen+9.198
9thFrederic VervischAudi+9.567
10thJohn FilippiCupra+9.988
11thDenis DupontAudi+10.557
12thBenjamin LessennesHonda+10.887
13thGianni MorbidelliAlfa Romeo+11.561
14thTom CoronelHonda+12.855
15thNathanael BerthonAudi+13.656
16thThed BjorkHyundai+13.729
17thZsolt SzaboCupra+13.798
18thMat'o HomolaPeugeot+16.508
19thGabriele TarquiniHyundai+16.961
20thNorbert NagyCupra+17.493
21stPrince Bernhard van OranjeAudi+19.996
22ndMichael VerhagenAudi+23.897
23rdNorbert MicheliszHyundai+25.146
DNFYvan MullerHyundaiN/A
DNFAurelien PanisAudiN/A
DNFFabrizio GiovanardiAlfa RomeoN/A
DNSJean-Karl VernayAudiN/A

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