*Berthon, Coronel and Catsburg all triumph for the first time at WTCR Race of Slovakia *Ehrlacher still wears the yellow jacket as Goodyear #FollowTheLeader despite tough weekend *Girolami’s title ambitions dented by Race 2 crash but Argentine given all-clear after checks *WTCR Rookie Driver Magnus impresses with breakthrough podium
WTCR Race of Slovakia, Slovakia Ring, October 9-11: Race report
WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup, rounds 5, 6 and 7 of 16
Nathanaël Berthon, Tom Coronel and Nicky Catsburg registered their first victories in the WTCR − FIA World Touring Cup during a drama-packed day of high-speed action at the Slovakia Ring.
Berthon, a double DHL Pole Position sitter in his Audi RS 3 LMS, claimed his maiden WTCR triumph in Race 1, a result his fellow Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport driver Tom Coronel emulated in Race 2. Nicky Catsburg then landed his and his Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team’s first WTCR win in Race 3. All WTCR drivers use the Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport tyre as standard.
Gabriele Tarquini (BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse) and Jean-Karl Vernay (Team Mulsanne) completed the Race 1 podium with Gilles Magnus (Comtoyou Racing) and Esteban Guerrieri (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport) doing likewise in Race 2. Vernay and Berthon were second and third respectively in Race 3 although Vernay was subsequently demoted to fourth place after he was handed a five-second penalty for contact with Norbert Michelisz. Vernay also lost his fourth place from Race 2 when 10-second penalty dropped him back to P14 after a collision with Yvan Muller.
Race 1 took place in damp conditions following overnight rain and a spectacular counter ensued. Berthon spent the first two corners running side by side with fellow front-row starter Catsburg before the Dutchman took the lead at Turn 3. But Catsburg soon started to struggle on a damp track that was drying quickly and Berthon swept into a lead he wouldn’t lose.
Coronel made a great start from seventh on the grid in Race 2 to rise to second place on the opening lap, then took the lead from Guerrieri through Slovakia Ring’s long right-hander in the closing stages after Guerrieri had made rapid progress to lead on lap one after starting fifth. Guerrieri slipped to third three laps before the end after Magnus, a contender for the WTCR Rookie Driver prize, got ahead to cement his first WTCR podium.
On the last lap, Girolami was nudged into a big accident when Vernay was unable to avoid making contact with the rear of the Honda, which was sent hard into a barrier. Girolami escaped from the impact uninjured and has subsequently been given the all-clear following medical checks.
Catsburg started Race 3 from third on the grid, but took the lead after Berthon, on the DHL Pole Position, lost out in the drag to Turn 1. Catsburg initially battled with fellow Hyundai driver Norbert Michelisz, but the Hungarian was nudged into a half spin by Vernay.
That left Catsburg with a clear path to his first WTCR victory although Vernay chased him all the way to finish second following his maiden podium for Team Mulsanne and Romeo Ferraris in the opening counter. Race 1 winner Berthon finished third for Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport after he was spun out in Race 2.
Cyan Racing Lynk & Co’s Yann Ehrlacher continues to wear the yellow jacket as the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader despite a tough Slovakia weekend. His advantage heading to next weekend’s WTCR Race of Hungary triple-header is down to 20 points ahead of new second-placed driver Coronel, the leader of the WTCR Trophy.
Aurélien Comte scored points in all three races on his return to the WTCR in a Vuković Motorsport-run Renault Mégane RS TCR, while Czech wildcard Petr Fulín landed a weekend-high P12 in Race 2 in his VEXTA DOMY-entered CUPRA. Mikel Azcona was twice in the top five in his Zengő Motorsport CUPRA following a succession of battling performances.
With WTCR Race of Slovakia taking place behind closed doors due to COVID-19 restrictions, fans were treated to extensive live coverage around the world.
RACE WINNER QUOTES
Race 1: Nathanaël Berthon (Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS)
“First of all, I’m very happy for the team and for myself of course, but it’s a team effort and the guys did an amazing job. So thanks to all the team. Definitely this race was not easy even if we had a big gap at the end. The start was quite tricky because it was a bit more wet on the left side than the right. In the end we managed to do quite a reasonable start and Nicky [Catsburg] made a better start than me. It was a very fair fight, it was something I really like to be involved in. You know, in the WTCR sometimes there is quite a lot of contact and this battle was really fair, so thanks to him. I really enjoyed it. And then, it’s amazing, I’m very happy, it’s my first win in this championship. I’ve had a few poles, but this time I hope I will keep the result. We are always fighting, pushing to the max everywhere and I’m very happy for everybody.”
Race 2: Tom Coronel (Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, Lynk & Co 03 TCR)
“Mama Mia! Now I remember how it feels because it was a long time ago. It was good, we knew we would be strong here and there was a possibility, but I didn’t expect it would be like this. The move was in the beginning. I had a good start but then before T2 I was in the grass because I was only looking at Girolami. Then I saw Guerrieri had a lot of difficulties with the tyres and I thought I would dive in and it worked out. It’s all about managing your tyres, that was my strategy and it worked. When you work hard and finally we had the full outfit, the team, the testing, the preparation was all done well and the results are there. I start P6, I didn’t expect it. Then the move in the first corner when they were fighting was my luck.
Race 3: Nicky Catsburg (Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team, Hyundai i30 N TCR)
“The start was really great. We’ve been struggling with our starts all weekend and we changed some parameters. I just jumped two cars and went from P3 to pretty much equal with the two cars in front. Into Turn 1 I think I braked the latest and then me and Norbi were side by side, and I kept it around the outside and he slowed down, and I think he got turned around into Turn 2, which gave me a little gap. I could maintain that gap, but it was not easy because JK did not make any mistakes so I had to keep on pushing up until about four laps from the end. It started to become a bit easier, his tyres were gone and mine were quite OK. The team did a fantastic job with the set-up. We already noticed in Race 2 that the car was good, but always in traffic, so we didn’t actually do any changes because we knew if the car was out in front the car would be great. It was and it turned out fantastic − my first win in WTCR and also first win for the team, so great result.”