Julien Briche took a commanding victory in the first TCR Europe race at Monza, with fellow Peugeot racer Aurelien Comte acting as rear-gunner in second place. Briche’s championship rival Josh Files rounded out the podium though, limiting the points lost to the Frenchman as a result.
The Peugeot duo made a quick start off the line, maintaining the two top spots into turn one. Daniel Lloyd had one of the liveliest getaways though, moving up from sixth to fourth while everyone largely escaped incident at the notorious first corner.
Teddy Clairet attempted to retaliate and ran side by side with Lloyd through the Lesmo sequence. The Brit was forced to run wide on the exit of Lesmo 2; dropping him behind Klim Gavrilov, Gilles Magnus and Josh Files.
Just behind that battle, Gianni Morbidelli and Luca Engstler came together at the final corner. Engstler came off worse with a left-front puncture, which ultimately would signal the very premature end to his race.
Files, meanwhile, was on a charge. Upon entry to turn eight, the championship leader got by Magnus for fourth place. This marked five positions gained in less than two laps, so with Briche running out in front, Files was clearly eager to catch up.
Dan Lloyd then started to look at getting back past the drivers that he lost out to after being shepherded off the track by Clairet. Having already re-overtaken the Frenchman and the Audi of Gavrilov too, the Brit slingshot his way past Gilles Magnus on the exit of the final corner. Magnus held on along the straight, but Lloyd had the inside line going into turn one, moving him up into fifth place.
Morbidelli was then handed a drive-through penalty for contact with Nelson Panciatici at turn one. The pair had been running just inside the top fifteen. Knowing that there was pretty much no chance of scoring points now, Morbidelli chose to simply retire to the pit-lane instead. Meanwhile, there was a good battle raging between Dominik Baumann and Klim Gavrilov. Eventually, it was Baumann who moved up into the top ten.
With just under eight minutes to go; Files was now onto the back of Santiago Urrutia‘s third-placed Audi. Having set the move up by getting a strong exit off the final corner, Files swerved to the right-hand side of Urrutia along the start-finish straight. With the inside line at his disposal, he secured third place at turn one, in a similar ilk to the move Lloyd made against Magnus earlier in the race.
Meanwhile, a couple of seconds down the road, Mat’o Homola had passed Magnus and was now looking to get ahead of Lloyd for a place in the top five. Lloyd defended into turn four, but ran too deep. Homola cut to the inside on the exit of turn five, and eventually powered past into fifth. Once again, Lloyd found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and made a second involuntary visit to the Lesmo gravel trap. Just as before, his hampered exit speed costs him positions, this time to the opportunistic duo of Gilles Magnus and Andreas Backman.
The battles amongst this group were far from over though. Heading onto the next lap, Magnus sent it around the outside of Homola at turn one, while Lloyd replicated the same overtake on Backman.
Backman kept within striking distance though, and was back ahead of the Brit by turn four. Lloyd didn’t give up though. With Homola and Magnus beginning to edge further away, Lloyd launched an attack on the outside line of turn eight, leaving Backman with no choice but to concede the place. Homola, meanwhile, was also on the move. The Slovakian managed to slipstream his way past Magnus by the time the cars reached the final corner.
Sadly though, all the hard work would be for nothing, as Lloyd’s Honda suffered a left-front puncture with just two laps of the race remaining.
Up at the front though, Files gave it everything in his attempt to catch the leaders, but the Peugeot-equipped duo were simply untouchable.
Race Result – Top Fifteen: