Luca Engstler takes first European victory amidst wet weather chaos

by James Bowers

With many more experienced drivers crashing out, and penalties being awarded left, right and centre, Luca Engstler held his nerve in tricky conditions to secure the first ever race victory of his young TCR Europe Series career.

As ever, the second race of the weekend would involve a reversed grid order, whereby the top ten cars from qualifying would start in their inverse positions. With Tom Coronel having qualified tenth overall, the Dutchman was therefore promoted to pole position for this race. However, it was further behind the leaders where drama would occur.

Just as in race one, John Filippi would go no further than the first corner. The Frenchman lost control of the rear of his Renault, and in trying to correct the slide, caused his car to swap ends. Unable to avoid contact, Filippi’s car slammed straight into the side of Daniel Nagy, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Naturally, this brought out the safety car, but Daniel Lloyd failed to realise in time. As the yellow flags waved and cars around him slowed down, Lloyd passed Luca Engstler and Gianni Morbidelli. Once he had realised his mistake, he handed both positions back, but this didn’t satisfy the stewards who deemed it necessary to give him a drive-through penalty anyway.

The race was restarted with sixteen minutes to go, but while the safety car had been out, the heavens opened and it had begun to rain quite heavily. Most cars were running on slick tyres, so it was now a challenge to simply keep on the tarmac.

Gianni Morbidelli was one of the first drivers towards the front to make a costly error. Having run wide into turn one, Luca Engstler dived to the inside of the Italian to snatch second place away. Alex Morgan then passed the Volkswagen too, this time on the outside line at turn three, before Morbidelli was then demoted further by Luca Filippi at Schlossgold.

With ten minutes to go, Tamas Tenke skated off into the barriers at turn one having been unable to slow his car down in the very slippery conditions. As the Cupra remained stranded and in the potential firing line of other wayward vehicles, the safety car was deployed for a second time.

It was then announced that Tom Coronel, the race leader, had been awarded a drive-through penalty. The reasoning behind this was that his team had failed to comply with the regulations regarding the permitted times that mechanics are allowed to work on a car. A potential race victory had therefore been lost due to a time-keeping slip-up.

With the pack now tightly bunched once again, all positions were up for grabs once the race restarted. At the front, Luca Filippi was on a charge, and having hung on around the outside line at Schlossgold, managed to get by Morgan for third place. Stian Paulsen was the next driver to get by Morgan, shortly followed by Josh Files too.

Just one lap later, Filippi was on the move again. Luca Engstler seemed to be caught off guard, and as such, the Italian slotted past on the inside line into Schlossgold. Tom Coronel still hadn’t come in to serve his penalty, so although Filippi was now running second on the road, he was effectively the overall leader of the race.

But as Filippi went on to pass Coronel on the penultimate lap anyway, that detail became rather insignificant. Onto the final lap, and this game of musical chairs for the top positions still wasn’t over. Having dropped behind Engstler, Coronel was now coming under threat from Alex Morgan. The pair of them ran off wide into the gravel at Schlossgold however, leaving the door wide open for Josh Files to saunter into third place.

Just behind them, Nelson Panciatici gave Dusan Borkovic a heavy whack into the front-left corner of his car, spinning the Serbian out of sixth place, and out of contention altogether. Controversially, Panciatici emerged from this incident unpunished.

But Borkovic wasn’t the only high-flying Hyundai driver to be knocked out in the very latter stages of this race.

With just two corners remaining, Luca Engstler had a run on Luca Filippi for the lead of the race. But, having got the move half done, unfortunate door-to-door contact unsettled Filippi’s car on the slippery curbs. The sudden loss of grip pitched the Italian into a spin, leaving him destined to slam hard into the barriers.

It was a cruel twist of fate for Filippi, but after an investigation, the stewards found that no foul play was involved. That meant that the German youngster, Luca Engstler, would take the chequered flag on the road and secure his first ever race victory in the TCR Europe Series.

Josh Files emerged through the chaos in second place, helping to extend his lead in the championship points standings even further. It was a landmark result for Alex Morgan too. The Welshman clawed his way back up the order to claim the first ever podium finish of his career in this series.

As for Tom Coronel, his unserved drive-through penalty was converted into a time penalty, demoting him to eighteenth place.

Result – Top 15:

PositionDriverCar
1stLuca EngstlerHyundai
2ndJosh FilesHyundai
3rdAlex MorganCupra
4thNelson PanciaticiHyundai
5thGianni MorbidelliVolkswagen
6thMat’o HomolaHyundai
7thSantiago UrrutiaAudi
8thMaxime PottyVolkswagen
9thAndreas BackmanHyundai
10thAurelien ComtePeugeot
11thNatan BihelHyundai
12thJulien BrichePeugeot
13thJimmy ClairetPeugeot
14thViktor DavidovskiHonda
15thTeddy ClairetPeugeot

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