With the top ten drivers from qualifying reversed to form the starting grid, Gordon Shedden and Yvan Muller lined up on the front row for the second World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race of the weekend. Initially, Shedden led the way with Muller just behind, but the Frenchman was quick to launch an attack for the race lead. However, as Shedden defended the inside line, Muller was forced wide onto the outside. As such, the Frenchman failed in his attempt to overhaul the race lead and Mat’o Homola opportunistically slipped past into second place.
As the cars entered the chicane for the first time, Shedden misjudged his braking point, and was forced to cut across the curbs. He was therefore deemed to have gained an advantage and given a five second time penalty. Things could’ve got tricky for Homola just behind as well. Also carrying too much speed into the chicane, the Slovakian decided against cutting across the circuit however, and brushed past the wall on the exit as a result. This caused some exterior damage to his Peugeot 308TCR, but the car remained mechanically sound.
Drama occurred further down the pack however. Benjamin Lessennes attempted to draw alongside the Audi of Nathanael Berthon, though the young Belgian misjudged his manoeuvre and made contact with the car in front. Berthon was pitched sideways as the cars headed into the chicane, but managed to regain control of the Audi after using the rear of Norbert Nagy’s car as an extra brake. This caused the field to disperse in avoidance. Esteban Guerrieri nudged into Edgar Florindo, but the real damage would be caused by Frederic Vervisch. Sensing an opportunity to gain positions, Vervisch failed to slow down sufficiently and aimed for a closing gap between the cars of Berthon and Guerrieri. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it in time and slammed into the side of Guerrieri’s Honda to avoid the back of his team-mate, Berthon. The impact forced Guerrieri into the wall and broke his suspension, earning him an early retirement from the race. Vervisch was consequentially given a drive-through penalty, along with Lessennes for instigating the collision.
From this point on, Shedden’s time penalty had effectively ruled him out of any chance of victory, so the focus instead was on Homola, Muller and the impressively quick Aurelien Panis. The race was set up for a battle royale between the old guard and the next generation of WTCR drivers, and in this case, it was the youngsters who came out on top.
Mat’o Homola was the first of the leading trio (discounting Shedden) to take his mandatory joker lap, and dropped behind Muller as a result. It looked as though Muller would have enough pace to hold onto the lead even after taking his joker lap, but Homola produced a fantastic burst of pace to ensure that he regained the lead of the race as the cars headed onto the final lap.
In truth, Aurelien Panis was never really a contender for victory. the fact that he had left his joker lap until quite late on into the race meant that his track position was somewhat out of sequence. Nevertheless, Panis ended up in eighth place – the best result of his WTCR career.
Likewise, Mat’o Homola secured a career best result by taking his first ever WTCR victory at the Vila Real street circuit, much to the delight of the entire DG Sport Competition crew and the WTCR fanbase. Despite always having strong pace, Homola’s results have arguably been in the shadow of team-mate Aurelien Comte up until now, so a race victory will do his confidence and reputation amongst the world’s elite drivers a lot of good.
Gordon Shedden crossed the line in third place, but that five second time penalty would unfortunately drop the Scotsman down to sixth in the race results. Therefore, Pepe Oriola was elevated into third place, securing the Campos Racing driver’s second podium finish of the weekend in what has turned out to be a highly fruitful event for the Spaniard.
Full Race Result:
[table id=3144 /]