Frédéric Vervisch took his first win of the season in the opening race of the 2019 WTCR Race of Slovakia after guiding his Audi RS3 LMS to the front in challenging conditions.
With rain falling just before the start and all twenty-seven drivers on slick tyres, it was Ma Qing Hua who made the best of the conditions to lead into the first turn as poleman Nicky Catsburg lost ground in the slippery conditions.
Vervisch took a hit from Jean-Karl Vernay into turn three, however, the Comtoyou Team Audi Sport driver held on and chased after the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo. The casualties from lap one included championship leader Nestor Girolami, who made contact with Niels Langeveld and Kevin Ceccon in the second Alfa Romeo.
Yvan Muller enjoyed the best race of the Lynk & Co quartet, making up places as the field streamed around the circuit on the first lap. Meanwhile, the Hyundai’s of Gabriele Tarquini and Augusto Farfus were also making up places, with both men having qualified outside of the top ten.
With the cars of Girolami and Ceccon needing to be removed, the Safety Car came out on lap two. At the restart, Vervisch pursued Ma with Norbert Michelisz being challenged by Vernay. Vervisch passed Ma on lap five, leaving the Team Mulsanne driver to successfully fend off Michelisz.
Wildcard entry Luca Engstler was another big story in the race, with the three-time TCR Champion making up ten places in the race, driving his Team Engstler run Hyundai this weekend and taking the i30 N TCR to finish in tenth place. So far in the season, this is the best performance of a Wildcard entry.
The PWR Racing CUPRA’s were once again in the mix with Daniel Haglöf running fifth early on before problems saw him drop to nineteenth by the end of the race. Mikel Azcona started fourteenth and made up good places to finish inside the top ten.
Vervisch took the win ahead of Ma with Michelisz, Vernay and Farfus completing the top five. Tarquini and Catsburg were sixth and seventh in what was a good points scoring race for both Hyundai teams whilst Tom Coronel took a long overdue top ten finish in eighth place as Azcon and Engstler completed the top ten.
The remaining points positions were completed by Muller, Gordon Shedden in twelfth place whilst the Volkswagen drivers of Rob Huff and Benjamin Leuchter scored vital points ahead of Esteban Guerrieri in fifteenth.