Jean-Karl Vernay takes Monza victory as Mikel Azcona plays it cool

Jean-Karl Vernay takes Monza victory as Mikel Azcona plays it cool

Jean-Karl Vernay
Photo: TCR Media

Leopard Lukoil’s Jean-Karl Vernay secured victory in the opening TCR Europe race at Monza, finishing ahead of PCR Sport’s Mikel Azcona who finished in second to extend his points lead.

Vernay bogged down at the start of the race, which allowed the CUPRA of Azcona to slide into the lead as the Audi driver had to cut the chicane to avoid contact with the also fast-starting Honda of Attila Tassi.

As Azcona scampered off to build a small early advantage, the race would need neutralizing after just one racing lap when European series newcomer Benjamin Lessennes was helped off into the gravel at the Parabolica by the Hyundai of Peter Terting, with the Belgian’s car making contact with the barriers.

A two-lap safety car period was required to recover the Autodis Racing by THX Honda, and when the race resumed on lap four Azcona managed to make a good restart.

However, Vernay made his move on the fifth lap with a late-braking move into the first chicane, with Azcona seemingly content to settle for second as he made no move to defend his lead.

That then left Vernay in control of the race as he eased to a second win of the season, following victory at Spa-Francorchamps earlier in the season.

The podium was completed by KCMG’s Josh Files, who got past team-mate Tassi half-way around the opening lap and had a relatively quiet race thereafter.

Comtoyou Racing’s Maxime Potty took fourth, ahead of the leading Hyundai of Dušan Borković in fifth. That result leaves the latter’s points deficit at ten points to Azcona, after the Serbian driver already lost the series lead in qualifying.

Although Tassi got into third at the start, he slipped behind Files at the first Lesmo further around the opening lap, and the young Hungarian was passed in quick succession by Potty and Borković on laps five and six, leaving him down in sixth position.

Autodis Racing by THX driver Stefano Comini took seventh, despite the Swiss racer having to defend heavily from Peter Terting in the latter stages of the race.

TCR Europe newcomer Fabrizio Giovanardi was an impressive eighth, despite the Alfa Romeo driver making contact with Jens Reno Moller at the Variante Ascari on lap ten, which saw the Dane go off through the gravel and slip down to 18th position.

Terting and the CUPRA of Stian Paulsen completed the top ten, the latter having briefly run in eighth before going wide through the gravel at the second Lesmo.

Just missing out on the points in his first TCR Europe race was TCR UK regular Ollie Taylor, who brought his Honda home in 11th position.

After an engine change ahead of the race due to his original unit being down on power, Irish racer Reece Barr could only manage 17th after starting from the back of the grid.

A second two-lap safety car period between laps seven and eight had been required when the CUPRA of José Manuel Sapag and the Subaru of Cosimo Barberini clashed at the second chicane, eliminating both newcomers from the race.

M1RA’s Dániel Nagy also retired from the race after the opening lap when he ran off the circuit at the second Lesmo. A second consecutive retirement means the Hungarian is now 40 points adrift in the title race.

Runaway TCR Italy series leader Salvatore Tavano retired on the opening lap after clouting fellow CUPRA driver Danny Kroes at the first chicane.

The second race is scheduled to get underway at 12:10 CEST (11:10 BST) on Sunday.

Race result

1 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS TCR 11 25:11.646 1:58.785 1
2 25 Mikel AZCONA PCR Sport CUPRA TCR 11 0.569 1:59.129 2
3 99 Josh FILES Hell Energy Racing with KCMG Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR 11 1.640 1:59.366 4
4 88 Maxime POTTY Comtoyou Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 11 1.964 1:59.393 5
5 62 Dušan BORKOVIĆ Target Competition Hyundai i30 N TCR 11 2.407 1:59.203 6
6 9 Attila TASSI Hell Energy Racing with KCMG Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR 11 5.451 1:59.564 3
7 42 Stefano COMINI Autodis Racing by THX Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR 11 8.706 2:00.469 7
8 18 Fabrizio GIOVANARDI Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 11 9.992 2:00.274 20
9 15 Peter TERTING Autodis Racing by Piro Sports Hyundai i30 N TCR 11 10.450 2:00.420 12
10 34 Stian PAULSEN Stian Paulsen Racing CUPRA TCR 11 10.861 1:59.545 17
11 32 Ollie TAYLOR Pyro Motorsport Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR 11 12.869 2:00.599 19
12 16 Nicola BALDAN M1RA Hyundai i30 N TCR 11 13.420 2:00.842 14
13 94 Kris RICHARD Target Competition Hyundai i30 N TCR 11 13.634 2:01.071 18
14 23 Francisco ABREU Sports & You Peugeot 308 TCR 11 15.468 2:01.076 10
15 7 Igor STEFANOVSKI Stefanovski Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 11 15.883 2:01.313 23
16 17 Martin RYBA Brutal Fish Racing Team Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 11 16.957 2:00.915 24
17 8 Reece BARR Target Competition Hyundai i30 N TCR 11 17.939 2:00.686 27
18 11 Jens Reno MØLLER Reno Racing Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR 11 19.059 2:00.398 8
19 63 Giovanni ALTOÈ Pit Lane Competizioni Audi RS3 LMS TCR DSG 11 20.741 2:01.829 26
20 10 Viktor DAVIDOVSKY PSS Racing Team Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR 11 21.468 2:01.534 22
21 77 Roberto RUSSO Race Republic – Top Run Motorsport Subaru WRX STi TCR 11 23.161 2:02.525 28
22 76 Daniele CAPPELLARI CRC – Cappellari Reparto Corse Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 11 23.830 2:01.787 25
R 3 Cosimo BARBERINI Race Republic Subaru WRX STi TCR 5 DNF 2:00.745 21
R 79 José Manuel SAPAG Baporo Motorsport CUPRA TCR 5 DNF 2:00.930 13
R 38 Danny KROES PCR Sport CUPRA TCR 1 DNF 2:51.711 15
R 999 Dániel NAGY M1RA Hyundai i30 N TCR 1 DNF 2:53.518 16
R 630 Benjamin LESSENNES Autodis Racing by THX Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR 0 DNF N/A 9
R 44 Salvatore TAVANO Scuderia Girasole CUPRA TCR 0 DNF N/A 11
TCR Europe points deficit chart
Graphic: TouringCars.Net