Attila Tassi gave Hell Energy with KCMG’s Teams title hopes a boost with a comfortable victory in the opening TCR Europe race in Barcelona, keeping Mikel Azcona’s champagne on ice in the process.
The Spaniard needed a 4-point swing in his favour to be crowned Champion on home turf, but a surging drive through the field from WRT’s Jean-Karl Vernay – coupled with second for Dusan Borkovic and Tassi’s victory – have kept the trio in mathematical contention heading into tomorrow’s decider.
There was disappointment for Tassi’s team-mate Josh Files after dropping from the runner-up spot to ninth a few laps from home, before later heading into the pit lane with a mechanical problem.
Nevertheless, KCMG now hold a slender 2 point lead over rivals Target Competition, with the Teams’ category also set to be wrapped up at the 2.8 mile Catalan circuit tomorrow.
The two Honda Civic Type Rs made a level start, with Files assuming a rear-gunner role for Tassi up front.
An early safety car neutralised the action on the opening lap after Nikola Miljkovic stalled on the grid, with 2017 British Touring Car Champion Ash Sutton managing to squeeze his Volkswagen Golf GTI ahead of WTCR race-winner Norbert Michelisz’s Hyundai on the inside of Turn 10 for fifth before the halt.
There were early improvements for Vernay from his lowly grid slot of 13th to 9th, with Stefano Comini similarly starting a trademark charge from 26th to 19th before retiring.
Despite a small lock up at the chicane, Tassi headed the field once again at the restart, whilst Vernay made up another two slots in the Audi RS 3 LMS, first passing Target’s Kris Richard, and then the M1RA Hyundai of Daniel Nagy for seventh.
Borkovic made his move at the front, sweeping around the outside of Files into Turn 1 and leaving the Brit vulnerable to attack from behind.
He duly dropped to ninth before heading into the pits with a problem – handing Target back another vital 18 points in the title race.
Michelisz then dealt Azcona’s hopes of wrapping the title up with a round to spare a blow, relieving the CUPRA racer of the final spot on the rostrum and leaving him in the clutches of Sutton behind.
Sutton made a crucial move through the sweeping right-hander at Turn 12 and broke away, with Azcona spending the rest of the contest defending from Vernay – the latter under investigation for exceeding track limits.
That late shuffling means Azcona’s lead – though extended – now stands at 24 points, with a maximum score of 25 available in the finale.
As a result, race-winner Tassi, runner-up Borkovic and sixth-placed Vernay all remain mathematically in the hunt, though only a disaster is now likely to deny Azcona the crown.
Nagy and Richard would eventually claim seventh and eighth behind the scuffle, with Julien Briche’s Peugeot 308 TCR ninth and Reece Barr inheriting the final point for Target after Files’ misfortune.
Pyro Motorsport’s Ollie Taylor put in another positive, forward-moving drive to 14th as he continues to evaluate his options overseas for 2019.
Plenty of action – but crucially nothing decided – as the championship heads into the final round tomorrow at 15:55 CEST.
|1||9||Attila TASSI||Hell Energy Racing with KCMG||Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR||12||25:27.908||1:55.413||1|
|2||62||Dušan BORKOVIĆ||Target Competition||Hyundai i30 N TCR||12||3.422||1:55.611||4|
|3||555||Norbert MICHELISZ||M1RA||Hyundai i30 N TCR||12||3.899||1:55.449||5|
|4||116||Ashley SUTTON||WestCoast Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||12||5.334||1:55.466||6|
|5||25||Mikel AZCONA||PCR Sport||CUPRA TCR||12||6.093||1:55.547||3|
|6||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Leopard Lukoil Team||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||12||6.666||1:55.352||13|
|7||999||Dániel NAGY||M1RA||Hyundai i30 N TCR||12||7.344||1:55.482||7|
|8||94||Kris RICHARD||Target Competition||Hyundai i30 N TCR||12||8.016||1:55.906||10|
|9||4||Julien BRICHÉ||JSB Compétition||Peugeot 308 TCR||12||9.356||1:55.716||11|
|10||8||Reece BARR||Target Competition||Hyundai i30 N TCR||12||10.049||1:55.744||12|
|11||15||Peter TERTING||Autodis Racing by Piro Sports||Hyundai i30 N TCR||12||11.365||1:56.304||9|
|12||34||Stian PAULSEN||Stian Paulsen Racing||CUPRA TCR||12||13.755||1:55.864||15|
|13||19||Andreas BÄCKMAN||WestCoast Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||12||14.833||1:56.432||16|
|14||32||Ollie TAYLOR||Pyro Motorsport||Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR||12||16.825||1:56.531||17|
|15||88||Maxime POTTY||Comtoyou Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||12||17.855||1:57.119||14|
|16||126||Jessica BÄCKMAN||WestCoast Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||12||21.721||1:57.114||20|
|17||10||Viktor DAVIDOVSKY||PSS Racing Team||Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR||12||22.949||1:57.055||24|
|18||17||Martin RYBA||Brutal Fish Racing Team||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||12||30.295||1:56.961||26|
|19||35||Munkong SATHIENTHIRAKUL||Monlau Competición||CUPRA TCR||12||30.768||1:57.718||27|
|20||27||Enrique HERNANDO||Sports & You||Peugeot 308 TCR||12||32.592||1:57.653||32|
|21||22||Petr FULÍN||Fullin Race Academy||CUPRA TCR||12||33.568||1:57.860||23|
|22||21||Marie BAUS-COPPENS||JSB Compétition||CUPRA TCR DSG||12||35.255||1:58.192||31|
|23||28||Jean-Laurent NAVARRO||MN Développement||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||12||35.771||1:57.424||30|
|24||5||Klim GAVRILOV||LTA Rally||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||12||42.378||1:57.146||19|
|R||99||Josh FILES||Hell Energy Racing with KCMG||Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR||10||DNF||1:55.555||2|
|R||11||Jens Reno MØLLER||Reno Racing||Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR||9||DNF||1:57.030||21|
|R||909||Mike HALDER||Hell Energy Racing with KCMG||Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR||8||DNF||1:55.848||8|
|R||223||Nathanaël BERTHON||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||6||DNF||1:56.399||18|
|R||42||Stefano COMINI||Autodis Racing by THX||Honda Civic Type R FK7 TCR||5||DNF||2:00.840||25|
|R||38||Danny KROES||PCR Sport||CUPRA TCR||4||DNF||1:58.236||22|
|R||23||Francisco ABREU||Sports & You||Peugeot 308 TCR||1||DNF||2:55.832||29|
|R||111||Nikola MILJKOVIĆ||LEIN Racing||CUPRA TCR||0||DNF||N/A||28|