Josh Files took a deserved victory in the first TCR Europe race of the weekend, following a controlled performance out in front.
Luca Filippi had earned pole position, but a good start by Files saw the lead change hands at turn one. Just behind them, Nelson Panciatici fended off the advances of Davit Kajaia and Daniel Lloyd to maintain the Hyundai stranglehold on the first three positions.
It didn’t take long for the race to claim it’s first casualties however, as John Filippi and Stian Paulsen came together at the first corner. Both cars would be instant retirements.
Championship leader Julien Briche had endured a difficult qualifying session, but made a good start to pick up a handful of positions early on. Unfortunately though, the Peugeot driver was edged out into the gravel at Schlossgold, and so his initial hard work was undone.
Onto lap two, and having passed Davit Kajaia in the early kerfuffle, Daniel Lloyd now had Panciatici in his sights for the final spot on the podium. Meanwhile, Kajaia’s mirrors had become full of Luca Engstler‘s Hyundai. Julien Briche’s race then went from bad to worse, as a technical fault with his car forced him to pull out of the race.
Briche wasn’t the only driver destined for an early bath though, as a huge pile-up broke out in the lower midfield at Remus bend just a lap later. Initial contact between Martin Ryba and Santiago Urrutia broke the front suspension of Ryba’s car and spun the Audi of Urrutia across the front of the Honda. Aurelien Comte was also taken out of contention after being sideswiped by Ryba who had braked too late on the entry to the corner. With no where to go, Jessica Backman ploughed into the nose of Urrutia’s car, pitching her Hyundai up onto two wheels as Teddy Clairet, Viktor Davidovski and Olli Kangas also charged into the mix behind her.
Naturally this brought out the safety car, and due to the extent of the recovery task at hand, racing got underway again with just five minutes left on the clock.
Luca Engstler clearly wasn’t willing to hang about, and right from the offset was eager to get past Kajaia. It didn’t take long to do so. After sending him the dummy, Engstler swept back to the inside line at turn three, before powering past the Cupra on the exit of the corner for fifth.
A lap later, Dusan Borkovic pulled off the opposite manoeuvre to that of Engstler. Instead of diving to the inside, Borkovic hung on around the outside line at Remus bend to snatch seventh position away from Maxime Potty.
Tom Coronel then came to blows with Mat’o Homola at the rather eventful turn three. Coronel came off worse though and promptly plummeted down the order, but Homola had to fight hard to fend off Alex Morgan who could sense an opportunity.
Onto the penultimate lap and Lloyd still had Panciatici in his sights. Eventually, the Frenchman was swayed by the pressure and locked up his brakes into Schlossgold. This compromised his exit just enough to give Lloyd the opportunity to draw alongside on the outside line as the cars approached Rauch corner. Momentum dragged Panciatici slightly wide through the following Wurth bend, which was enough for Lloyd to make a cut-back onto the inside line. As the cars powered onto the following straight, it was Lloyd who emerged in front.
Leading the way though, Josh Files had a much calmer experience, having been able to pull out a comfortable gap between himself and Luca Filippi. And with all of his main rivals – Briche, Gilles Magnus and Comte – failing to score big points, the Brit would become the new championship leader.
Result – Top 15: