Dan Lloyd took victory in the second TCR Europe race this weekend at Barcelona, but Gilles Magnus certainly made him work hard for it.
The start was delayed in bizarre circumstances as Abdulla Al-Khelaifi span on cold tyres on the warm-up lap. His Cupra slammed head first into the pit wall, destroying the front end upon impact. Naturally, the recovery crews needed some extra time to move Al-Khelaifi’s stricken car out of the way, but it did at least give his PCR Sport team the extra few minutes they needed to get John Filippi‘s car ready to start from pit-lane.
When the race finally did get underway, Lloyd was quick off the line, so managed to keep the likes of Gilles Magnus and Jack Young behind him into turn one. Luca Engstler and Josh Files found themselves right together in the battle for eighth, while Santiago Urrutia looked to attack Julien Briche for sixth further around the opening lap.
Gilles Colombani and Gustavo Moura pulled up after colliding with one another, while Urrutia then dived to the inside of Briche at turn one on lap two, getting the move done nice and cleanly. The action was then paused however, as the safety car was called out in order to shift the stricken cars of Colombani and Moura away from the circuit.
The race resumed with thirteen minutes left on the clock, and it was a good restart by Lloyd as Urrutia considered a move on Tom Coronel as the cars began another lap. The Uruguayan thought better of it this time, but was far more optimistic upon entry to turn ten.
Urrutia sent it up the inside but misjudged his braking point by a mile. Nearly running into the back of Jack Young’s Renault, Urrutia lost a lot of ground as he ran way too deep into the corner. Coronel was also held up as he took avoidance, which allowed Julien Briche to pass the pair of them.
While the midfield battles raged on, Briche quickly caught up to Young and passed the 17 year-old for third place on the inside line at turn four.
Urrutia, meanwhile, seemed to be a bit shaken up by his earlier error. The Uruguayan conceded eleventh place to Nelson Panciatici at that action-packed turn ten, and then found himself immediately under pressure from the Peugeot of Jimmy Clairet.
A bit further ahead, Josh Files found his way past Luca Engstler, as the German’s hopes of winning the championship began to fade away.
With five minutes to go, Files continued to push up the order, this time drawing alongside Tom Coronel along the start-finish straight in order to set up a move heading into turn one. Coronel conceded defeat on this occasion, and surrendered his top five position to the Brit.
Luca Engstler then attempted to pass the Dutchman too, this time at the penultimate corner. It didn’t come off however, and as such, Engstler left himself vulnerable to the trio of cars behind him. Teddy Clairet and Dominik Baumann swept past at turn one, but Engstler was more resilient in his defence against Andreas Backman to avoid further demotion down the order. His efforts were in vain however, as the exuberant defensive line allowed Nelson Panciatici to get by instead.
Jimmy Clairet then retired from seventh place, giving everyone behind him a small boost up the order.
Urrutia’s descent down through the field continued as he eventually succumbed to the pressure of a whole hoard of cars that were eager to get past his Audi. Alex Morgan led the charge, and was followed by Aurelien Comte, Gianni Morbidelli and Maxime Potty too.
At the front, Gilles Magnus remained glued to the back of Dan Lloyd’s Honda for the entire race, but could do nothing to get past the reigning TCR UK Champion. As such, Lloyd took the chequered flag to claim his second race victory of the season. This one would feel more special however, as his previous victory at Oschersleben was inherited after Andreas Backman received a penalty. As all drivers will tell you, nothing quite beats actually winning the race on the road, rather than in the steward’s room.
As for the championship picture, Josh Files brought his Hyundai home in fifth place, meaning that he now had 282 points to his name. A strong weekend for Julien Briche has kept him in the hunt ahead of the final event of the season, albeit still 48 points behind championship leader Files. Andreas Backman is the final driver to remain in contention, but with an 83-point deficit to make, it’ll be a tall order for the Swede to overhaul his team-mate at the top of the standings.
So, Josh Files will go to Monza as the overwhelming favourite for the championship title, but a heavy dose of bad luck for the Brit combined with some great luck for Briche and Backman could still see the championship crown elude him. It’s still all to play for as the TCR Europe Series draws to a close for 2019.
Race Result – Top 15: