Josh Files has taken victory in the final race of the season at Monza, and in doing so, ensured that he became the 2019 TCR Europe Series champion.
Julien Briche gave his all in this race, but much like in the championship standings, he could reach no higher than second place.
After a tidy start, everyone escaped the treacherous first corner without any real damage. Files, who had started from second place on the grid, didn’t waste any time in passing pole-sitter Maxime Potty, who had to relinquish the lead of the race on entry to turn four.
Sadly not everyone managed to get around the first lap unscathed though. Contact from Nelson Panciatici (who has been involved in his fair share of incidents this season) led to Sami Taoufik spinning into the barriers at turn nine.
Seemingly fuelled by the frustration of losing a good result in the previous race, Daniel Lloyd was on a charge. Already ahead of Gilles Magnus, Lloyd latched onto the back of Potty’s Volkswagen along the start-finish straight. On the tricky outside line, Lloyd swept past Potty through turn one, promoting him into second place behind Files.
Briche, meanwhile, was eager to try and catch up to his championship rival. Tucked up behind Gianni Morbidelli, the Frenchman got the move done for fifth place on the inside line at turn eight. Just ahead, Magnus passed Belgian compatriot Potty for the final podium spot as the cars approached the final corner. This meant that Potty, whose car clearly didn’t have front-running pace at this circuit, was now the next car in Briche’s sights.
Sure enough, it wasn’t long before there was another change in position. Briche pulled up along the right-hand side of Potty on the start-finish straight, giving him the inside line into turn one. The track curved in his favour, and so the Frenchman moved up into fourth.
Having dropped slightly further back, Potty was soon amongst the action once again. In the battle for sixth, he and Morbidelli ran side-by-side on the exit of the final corner, giving Teddy Clairet a huge tow in the slipstream. Clairet used this to his advantage, and was able to power past the pair of them in one go. While that was happening, Briche also managed to get by the Audi of Magnus, and into the top three. Now, only Dan Lloyd stood in between the two title rivals.
Magnus would fall further back, however, after receiving a drive-through penalty for jumping the start. Panciatici also dropped out of contention following a right-rear puncture on his Hyundai.
With just under ten minutes to go, Briche finally managed to draw alongside Lloyd on the start-finish straight. With the favoured inside line again at his disposal, Briche moved up into second place at turn one. Now the top two in the championship were also the top two on the road.
As the race drew to a close, Briche and Files came bumper to bumper, as did Lloyd and Aurelien Comte in the battle for third.
Lloyd struggled for grip in latter stages, allowing Comte to have a few looks at getting past. On the final lap, it appeared as though the championship’s fate was sealed as Briche began to drop back off the tail of Files, but the battle for third place in this race continued to roar on.
Lloyd ran deep into turn one, so Comte had no choice but to cut the chicane. The cars emerged side-by-side, meaning that Comte had gained an unfair advantage by leaving the circuit. This meant that he should’ve tucked in behind the Honda driver, but instead, Comte kept alongside and thus inherited the position when the track curved in his favour at turn four.
Naturally, the stewards investigated the situation and quickly awarded a time penalty to Comte, artificially promoting Lloyd back into third.
At the front though, Josh Files didn’t have to deal with any such drama. Having led the race since the first lap, the former TCR Germany champion pulled off a masterclass in how to control a race – even when his mirrors were full of blue Peugeot in the latter stages.
And so, Josh Files took the chequered flag, and with it the honour of being crowned the TCR European Champion for 2019. With three race victories and more podium finishes than anybody else, the Brit is most certainly a worthy victor.
Julien Briche gave him a real run for his money though, and it seemed quite poignant that those two drivers rose to the top positions in this final race. In 2019, Files and Briche have set the benchmark in the TCR Europe Series. If the rest of the pack are to close the gap next year, they’ll certainly have had to work hard to do so.
Race Result – Top 15: