Having stormed to pole position earlier in the day, Esteban Guerrieri converted his front-row grid slot into victory during the first race of the 2019 World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) season.
Guerrieri wasn’t quick off the line though, and in fact had to defend hard against Cyan Racing’s Thed Bjork who was half a car’s length ahead at one point. By contrast, Guerrieri’s team-mate, Nestor Girolami, wasn’t quite so successful in fending off the other blue Lynk & Co of Andy Priaulx. Priaulx pressured the Argentine into defending too hard into the long radius Turn 4, allowing the Brit to dive up the inside line into third place. Jean-Karl Vernay followed through into fourth.
In the mid-pack, Tom Coronel and Mehdi Bennani became the first casualties of the year, after contact left both of their cars hobbled. Johan Kristoffersson also made an early exit on his WTCR debut after his Volkswagen picked up a steering fault.
Back at the front, contact between Vernay and Priaulx at Turn 1 on Lap 5 saw the Cyan Racing car drop from third to fifth position. The stewards didn’t like what they saw, and as such, Vernay was handed a five-second time penalty.
A bit further back, both of the PWR Racing debutants were putting on an impressive display. Team manager/driver, Daniel Haglof passed Yann Ehrlacher early on and was looking set for a comfortable top 8 finish. Mikel Azcona, meanwhile, had fought his way by Kevin Ceccon and Nicky Catsburg, and was now looking to pass Norbert Michelisz for a place in the top ten.
However, it sadly all fell apart for the Swedish team. An issue for Haglof meant that he had to make a trip to the pit lane, while Azcona picked up a 5 second penalty for contact with Michelisz. Just as Vernay had done, Azcona was a bit too optimistic on entry to Turn 1, leading to contact with the car in front.
Lap 9 was a lap of mixed emotions for Team Mulsanne. On one hand, Kevin Ceccon pulled off a clean overtake at Turn 1 to pass Nicky Catsburg for 12th place, but on the other, Ma Qing Hua pulled into the pit lane to retire from the race.
The following lap, Aurelien Panis also dropped out of the race with a puncture, having been running in 14th – the penultimate points-paying position.
Comtoyou Racing‘s rookie driver, Niels Langeveld added to the list of retirements after broken rear suspension saw him lose control of his Audi. The Dutchman’s RS3 slammed into the back of Augusto Farfus‘ Hyundai, but the Brazilian managed to continue without losing any time to the cars around him.
At the front though, Esteban Guerrieri was relatively unchallenged by Thed Bjork, and the pair of them brought their cars home for first and second place. Vernay crossed the line in third, but his time penalty meant that Guerrieri’s Argentine compatriot, and Munnich Motorsport team-mate Nestor Girolami would be promoted to the final place on the podium.
After the race, Frederic Vervisch was handed a ten-second penalty for jumping the start.
Full Race Results
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