Vernay wins opening WTCR race at Wuhan

by James Bowers

With a population greater than that of London, Wuhan is a rapidly developing urban community. It’s also a central hub for automotive manufacturing in China; an Asian Detroit, if you will. As such, it proved to be a fitting environment for the latest round of the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) to have taken place.

Having secured pole position in the first round of qualifying, Jean-Karl Vernay kept his advantage off the line and led the rest of the pack into turn one. A few rows back, Yann Ehrlacher appeared to get a demon getaway, but eventually he would be judged to have jumped the start. He didn’t know it at the time, but the thirty-second time penalty that was heading his way would render his attempts in this race as futile.

Comtoyou Racing stablemates, Nathanael Berthon and Denis Dupont, were running side-by-side through the first sequence of corners in the battle for third place. However, Dupont’s car made contact with the rear of Berthon’s as the Frenchman turned right for the second corner, causing it to slide sideways. Miraculously, Berthon managed to avoid the wall and only lost a small number of positions. Dupont was in fact the driver who was most inconvenienced by the tussle, but importantly both cars survived.

A few laps in, the safety car would eventually be deployed though. At the tail end of the field, Tom Coronel carried way too much speed into turn one and ended up tagging the rear of Fabrizio Giovanardi‘s Alfa Romeo. With only three wheels on his wagon, Giovanardi could do nothing to remove his stricken car from the circuit, and so the recovery team had to get to work.

The race got back underway shortly, and the battle for third was beginning to heat up. Clearly faster, Gordon Shedden was doing his best to fashion a way past the Honda of Yann Ehrlacher, but instead left himself vulnerable to attack from Frederic Vervisch. The Belgian was also unable to get an overtake done, however, and so Shedden’s attention would return to Ehrlacher’s Honda.

Just behind, Nathanael Berthon would attempt to pass Vervisch, but in doing so ran wide at turn one. This allowed the trio of Aurelien Comte, Kevin Ceccon and Esteban Guerrieri to all sneak past the Audi.

Shedden would finally get the overtake on Ehrlacher completed at the beginning of lap twelve. A neat and tidy manoeuvre on the inside line into turn one would promote the Scotsman up into third place.

Outside the top ten, Rob Huff and Mehdi Bennani were continuing their multi-event, inter-team rivalry. The pair have often tripped over each other throughout the season, and this race was no exception. On this occasion, the battling team-mates lost out to both Ma Qing Hua and Thed Bjork.

But out in front, Jean-Karl Vernay took a comfortable lights-to-flag victory. Gordon Shedden closed in on the Cupra of Pepe Oriola, but couldn’t pass the Spaniard in time. Nonetheless, this would be Shedden’s first ever podium result in WTCR, so was well worth celebrating.

Other notable performances include that of Aurelien Comte and Kevin Ceccon. Piloting the Peugeot and Alfa Romeo respectively, the duo did well to secure fifth and sixth position in cars that have been seen as underdogs throughout the year.

Full Race Result:

1stJean-Karl VernayAudi20 laps
2ndPepe OriolaCupra+4.913
3rdGordon SheddenAudi+5.513
4thFrederic VervischAudi+10.070
5thAurelien ComtePeugeot+11.102
6thKevin CecconAlfa Romeo+11.531
7thEsteban GuerrieriHonda+17.044
8thNathanael BerthonAudi+17.556
9thAurelien PanisAudi+18.307
10thDenis DupontAudi+19.060
11thMa Qing HuaHonda+20.725
12thThed BjorkHyundai+21.980
13thMehdi BennaniVolkswagen+23.449
14thRob HuffVolkswagen+24.049
15thYvan MullerHyundai+26.113
16thJohn FilippiCupra+26.980
17thGabriele TarquiniHyundai+27.428
18thYann EhrlacherHonda+39.613 (after 30 second penalty)
RetTimo ScheiderHondaN/A
RetZsolt SzaboCupraN/A
RetNorbert NagyCupraN/A
RetTom CoronelHondaN/A
RetFabrizio GiovanardiAlfa RomeoN/A
RetMat'o HomolaPeugeotN/A
RetNorbert MicheliszHyundaiN/A

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