There’s no time to slow down in the WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup with Circuit Pau-Arnos gearing up to host the action this weekend (October 15-17) as the dust still settles following an epic WTCR Race of Czech Republic yesterday.
Néstor Girolami and Norbert Michelisz took the wins at Autodrom Most, the ninth and 10th different drivers to do so in 10 races, while Yann Ehrlacher starts the inaugural WTCR Race of France, his home event, as the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader by topping the provisional order after 10 rounds.
Unlike Autodrom Most where a handful of drivers had previous racing knowledge, Circuit Pau-Arnos is new for the entire grid in competitive conditions, making the sixth event of the season a step into the unknown and a huge level playing field.
The track, the shortest of the season at 3.030 kilometres in length and featuring 13 turns, is the work of legendary French driver Jean-Pierre Beltoise, a one-time Formula One grand prix winner. Located 20 kilometres west of Pau city, the circuit has been upgraded to FIA Grade 3 status and its undulating layout will provide an exciting challenge for the WTCR drivers and their Goodyear-equipped TCR cars.
For the second weekend running, the WTCR joins forces with another top series from Discovery Sports Events. After a double-header with the FIM Endurance World Championship for motorbikes in Czech Republic, the deciding round of the PURE ETCR all-electric touring car series shares top billing with the WTCR at Circuit Pau-Arnos to provide an additional thrilling spectacle for the fans.
And there’s every chance those fans will get to cheer a home winner with four flying Frenchmen on the grid, including Yvan Muller, the most successful driver in FIA World Touring Car history. Home hero Muller forms part of the Cyan Racing Lynk & Co line-up with his nephew Yann Ehrlacher, the current King of WTCR. Ehrlacher is the son of former French professional football Yves Ehrlacher and ex-racer Cathy Muller.
Nathanaël Berthon (Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport) and Jean-Karl Vernay (Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team) will also fly the French tricolore at Circuit Pau-Arnos. Both have won in the WTCR and have ample experience at world level. Vernay had worn the coveted blue jacket as the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader until a tough WTCR Race of Hungary weekend dropped him to third place in the title fight, while Berthon is well known for his qualifying pedigree.
Although France has never hosted a WTCR race before, it was a regular fixture on the FIA World Touring Car Championship calendar up until 2016 with Magny-Cours, Paul Ricard and the Pau street circuit hosting races. Current Zengő Motorsport driver Rob Huff won twice, while Muller notched up a single win during that time. Huff, from Great Britain, is the 2012 World Touring Car champion.
He’s part of the CUPRA-powered WTCR line-up that also includes Spanish PURE ETCR title contenders Mikel Azcona and Jordi Gené, plus promising Hungarian youngster Bence Boldizs, who switched from rallycross to the WTCR for the 2020 season. Azcona starts WTCR Race of France on the back of claiming a second TCR Europe title following dash to Barcelona last Friday night having taken his first WTCR pole position earlier in the day. Gené, meanwhile, had his very first laps in a racing car at Circuit Pau-Arnos in 1986 as a present from his father for winning a Spanish karting title.
Joining Ehrlacher and Muller in Goodyear-equipped Lynk & Co 03 TCRs are the Cyan Performance Lynk & Co-entered Thed Björk, the 2017 WTCC champion from Sweden, and Uruguay’s Santiago Urrutia, who won Race 2 at WTCR Race of Hungary but struggled in WTCR Race of Czech qualifying and lost ground in the title flight after taking just five points from the two races.
Argentine aces Néstor Girolami and Esteban Guerrieri line-up for ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport and head to France on a high. Girolami took his first WTCR win of 2021 in Czech Republic where a podium double reignited Guerrieri’s title bid. Portugal’s Tiago Monteiro and Attila Tassi, from Hungary, drive identical Honda Civic Type R TCRs for sister team ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport.
Twenty-one-year-old German Luca Engstler, the youngest driver on the grid, partners Vernay at Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team. Hungary’s Norbert Michelisz, who won Race 2 at WTCR Race of Czech Republic, and Italian Gabriele Tarquini head the BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse with identical Hyundai Elantra N TCRs.
Belgian Gilles Magnus, 22, scored his breakthrough WTCR victory in Hungary for Comtoyou Team Audi Sport and tops FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title and WTCR Trophy standings after 10 rounds. Compatriot and team-mate Frédéric Vervisch has also won in a second-generation Audi RS 3 LMS this season. Dutchman Tom Coronel, who is in his 32nd season of racing, partners Berthon at Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport.
WHAT HAPPENED AT WTCR RACE OF CZECH REPUBLIC?
*Girolami and Michelisz become winners nine and 10 of wide-open WTCR season
*Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Ehrlacher extends points advantage
*Guerrieri back in the title fight with double podium despite intense pressure in both races
*Azcona claims P2 in Race 2 after away day in Barcelona earns second TCR Europe title
*Spaniard completes memorable weekend with TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy
*Muller, Björk and Vernay complete Race 1 top 6 with Muller sixth in Race 2 behind Berthon
*A haul of 5 points drops Urrutia down the title order. He was 2 points off the series’ lead
*Engstler is the top FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title contender in both races
*Coronel and Magnus share the WTCR Trophy wins
*Heartbreak for home hero Fulín from reversed-grid pole as contact puts him out of Race 1
*WTCR shares top billing with FIM Endurance World Championship at Autodrom Most