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Attila Tassi takes comfortable win, Azcona’s title kept on hold

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.

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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.

Race result

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
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