The race to win the 2021 WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup heads to the heat of MotorLand Aragón in Spain next week (July 9-11) following action-packed counters in Germany and Portugal that produced four different winners and a big helping of drama.
After four rounds, Jean-Karl Vernay is the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader for Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team. But less than 10 points separate the French ace from Argentina’s Esteban Guerrieri (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport) in sixth position, such is WTCR’s typically wide-open nature. Also in the top-six mix are Attila Tassi, Yvan Muller, Santiago Urrutia and Tiago Monteiro.
Honda-powered Tassi heads to Spain from his native Hungary high on confidence after he landed his breakthrough WTCR victory at Circuito do Estoril last month. The ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport young gun became the WTCR’s second youngest winner aged 22 years and 13 days after he moved in front when home-hero team-mate Monteiro was slowed by a technical issue.
With second-place finishes in Germany and Portugal, Muller, the four-time FIA World Touring Car champion, is firmly in the fight for Cyan Racing Lynk & Co. The French legend is equal on points with Uruguayan Urrutia, who bagged his first WTCR win at MotorLand Aragón last November.
Indeed, it was at the season-deciding WTCR Race of Aragon on November 15, 2020, when Yann Ehrlacher became the King of WTCR on the back of a hugely impressive campaign. Ehrlacher, from France, returns to the track this season after winning Race 1 at WTCR Race of Portugal last month and having turned 25 on July 4.
Ehrlacher is among 22 top touring car aces, including category experts and young talents reaching speeds of 260kph in turbocharged TCR cars from Audi, CUPRA, Honda, Hyundai and Lynk & Co, taking on the 5.345-kilometre MotorLand Aragón track for races five of six of 2021.
A new addition to the WTCR roster in 2020, MotorLand Aragón had the unique honour of hosting two WTCR events in the same year with WTCR Race of Aragón added as the season finale following delays readying the planned venue due to the pandemic.
While both visits to MotorLand Aragón in 2020 were behind closed doors, a limited number of 6400 tickets are on sale for this year’s event following approval by the local Security Board. It’s part of the phased return of spectators to international sporting events in Span and will be in accordance with an exhaustive protocol that has been developed to take into account the circuit’s characteristics and facilities to ensure the safety and health of all attendees.
As well as savouring the two races that make up Spain’s rounds of the WTCR, fans will be treated to the unique spectacle that is PURE ETCR, the all-new, all-electric touring car series from Eurosport Events, the same promoter behind WTCR.
Top Spanish racer Mikel Azcona, who will compete with CUPRA power in WTCR and also in PURE ETCR, is relishing the opportunity to compete in front of his home fans. “It’s really good knowing my fans can come because I have received a lot of messages from them on social media wanting to be there,” he said. “When you are driving and you have all this support from the grandstands with the flags and everything it makes you even more motivated and you feel like you are going a little bit faster to do a good result to enjoy with the fans. You want to make a big spectacle to give the fans some good moments.”
Azcona took victory in the second WTCR race to take place at MotorLand Aragón driving a CUPRA Leon Competición for Zengő Motorsport. He’ll be joined in the Hungarian team by compatriot Jordi Gené, who is back racing at international level for the first time in five years this season and is full of experience and achievement. Like Azcona and Jean-Karl Vernay, Gené will be on double time at MotorLand Aragón when he takes part in PURE ETCR’s Race of SP event, which begins on Friday July 9 and shares the billing with WTCR on Saturday and Sunday, albeit on a shorter track layout.
WHAT HAPPENED AT WTCR RACE OF PORTUGAL?
*Epic Estoril served up wins for 2020 King of WTCR Yann Ehrlacher and fellow young gun Attila Tassi
*Having recently turned 22, Tassi became the second youngest driver to triumph in WTCR
*Ehrlacher, who remains the category’s youngest driver to win in WTCR, took the Race 1 laurels
*He out-gunned reverse-grid pole sitter Gabriele Tarquini to lead the opening counter throughout
*Tarquini was in the victory fight until tyre damage, caused by track debris, forced his exit
*His misfortune ensured it would be a Lynk & Co-powered Cyan 1-2-3
*Yvan Muller finished second with Santiago Urrutia taking third place
*Esteban Guerrieri lined up in pole position for Race 2 but fell back following a slow start
*Pride of Portugal Tiago Monteiro grabbed the lead and was on course for a popular victory…
*…but he was forced to slow and then pit on safety grounds when his Honda’s bonnet began opening
*Monteiro’s home heartbreak handed Tassi the advantage but the pressure from behind was intense
*However, he held on to win ahead of Hyundai racers Jean-Karl Vernay and Norbert Michelisz
*Vernay lost his Goodyear #FollowTheLeader status in Race 1 but won it back with his Race 2 podium
*Michelisz’s podium was his first since he became King of WTCR in Malaysia in December 2019
*Comtoyou Audi driver Gilles Magnus scored a FIA WTCR Junior Driver/WTCR Trophy victory double
*Andreas Bäckman and Jordi Gené scored their first WTCR points in Race 1
*Tassi’s Race 2 pace earned him the TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy
*The Hungarian was also the TAG Heuer Most Valuable Driver after he scored 39 points