FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) points leader Yann Ehrlacher says he is not expecting to feel any pressure ahead of what he predicts will be a ’challenging’ event in Vila Real this weekend.
Ehrlacher assumed the lead of the WTCR standings last time out in The Netherlands by taking a win, a second and a sixth place respectively, giving him a nine-point advantage over his Uncle, Yvan Muller, heading to Portugal this weekend.
Last year, Ehrlacher scored a top ten finish in the first race on the high-speed street circuit in his independent LADA, and he heads into the event this weekend with a chance of victory in the opening race, as the Honda Civic Type-R TCR proves to be one of the stronger cars in the first half of the season.
“Vila Real is very, very tricky,” said Ehrlacher. “There are fast sections and, like in every street circuit, there is no place for mistakes.
“The weather will be very hot so it will be tough for the engine temperature and for the drivers as well. It will be a very challenging weekend.”
Ehrlacher believes that the joker lap, to be implemented at the final corner of the circuit, will continue to be a good feature, having first been implemented in last year’s WTCC races.
“The ‘joker’ lap is very good. It’s something which is new and attracts fans. On a street circuit it’s really hard to overtake so it gives you a good opportunity to overtake.
“I like the track, but there’s almost nowhere to pass, so getting the most out of qualifying and choosing the right joker-lap strategy will be crucial.”
Even though the Frenchman is at the head of the standings he insists he is feeling no pressure at this stage, with more than half the season still to run.
“We can put Vila Real with Macau and Nordschleife in the group of most challenging tracks. I have to think about the points and it’s better to be the leader than only P5.
“But only if I go to Macau as the leader will I have some pressure. For now, it’s too early to have pressure.
“I feel satisfied but I will be more satisfied if I finish the job at the end of the year.”