The World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) sparked into life this afternoon at the Hungaroring, with the first race of the weekend being won by Munnich Motorsport’s Nestor Girolami.
The Argentine converted his pole position into victory, just ahead of Lynk & Co Cyan Racing‘s Yvan Muller. Esteban Guerrieri came home in third place, making it two Hondas on the podium. The Japanese marque had looked strong in qualifying, and that pace was maintained in race trim.
It was a strong start to the race from Girolami, but Aurelien Panis – who secured a very impressive 4th place in qualifying – was even quicker. The young Frenchman attempted to dive into third place in his Cupra, but Guerrieri managed to hold onto the position as the cars twisted through the first few corners. In fact, Panis came under threat from the cars behind, and dropped back to fifth as Yann Ehrlacher moved past his compatriot.
As the race panned out, a good battle emerged between Nicky Catsburg and Attila Tassi, albeit for 18th place with no championship points at stake. Catsburg initially passed the young Hungarian at Turn 1, but a couple of laps later, Tassi pulled off an identical manoeuvre to reclaim the position.
With the feature events of the weekend still to come on Sunday, the race entered a bit of a lull. That lull was then shaken off towards the front, as contact with Panis saw Ehrlacher’s Lynk & Co 03 TCR pick up a rear suspension failure. Jean-Karl Vernay capitalised by passing the pair of them, moving his Audi up into fourth position.
Further back, a some of the bigger names in WTCR who had struggled in qualifying were all bunched up together. Battling for 22nd place, Tiago Monteiro lost out to Gordon Shedden, Tom Coronel, Niels Langeveld and Kevin Ceccon in just one unfortunate event. Shedden’s woes, meanwhile, were set to be amplified. The triple BTCC champion can’t seem to find any luck in the WTCR, and this race was no exception. The Scotsman retired from the race, although points were never really on the cards anyway.
With just a few laps to go, Esteban Guerrieri launched an attempt to take second place away from Yvan Muller. The Frenchman would hold onto the position, however, with Guerrieri eventually having to slot back into line at Turn 3.
At the tail end of the points-paying positions, Andy Priaulx was on the move. The triple world touring car champion had series rookie, Mikel Azcona in his sights, and made the move stick for 12th place at Turn 11. Gabriele Tarquini, attempted to follow through, but Azcona didn’t go down without a fight. Eventually though, Azcona’s defensive driving would leave him vulnerable to further attack from behind. Tarquini, Rob Huff and Attila Tassi overtook the youngster as the cars headed onto their final lap, as Azcona’s exit from the final turn was heavily compromised.
At the front though, Nestor Girolami took a relatively unchallenged victory, while Aurelien Panis held onto fifth place to mark an impressive start to the weekend. Johan Kristoffersson also had a good run. Eighth place is Volkswagen’s best race result so far this year, following a torrid time at the season-opener in Morocco.
Hungarian fan favourite, Norbert Michelisz was the best placed of the local drivers when the chequered flag was waved. ‘Norbi’ ended the race in 10th position. As far as the championship is concerned, Esteban Guerrieri is now the leader in the points standings.
After the race, a host of drivers were awarded 30-second time penalties for exceeding track limits. Mikel Azcona, Nicky Catsburg and Niels Langeveld subsequently dropped to 22nd, 23rd and 24th in the standings respectively. Benjamin Leuchter, meanwhile, was handed a 5-second penalty for a grid infringement.
Full Race Result:
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