Jean-Karl Vernay admitted that he had been hoping for a safety car intervention in the first FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race in Macau, believing that it would give him the best chance of taking a win.
Vernay followed YMR’s Yvan Muller past pole-sitter Rob Huff at the start of the race into second, but the Frenchman was not able to complete his challenge for the lead on the opening lap.
A brief safety car period on lap two enabled the Audi driver to keep close to the back of Muller’s Hyundai on the restart, and Vernay used his straight-line speed advantage to power past the Frenchman at Mandarin on lap three to take the lead.
Thereafter Vernay was able to hold on to his advantage, despite a mid-race red flag period caused by team-mate Gordon Shedden, to claim his fourth win of the season and move up to third overall in the drivers’ championship standings.
“I had a good start and I was hoping for a safety car, pretty much,” said Vernay. “The start was pretty good, I was able to stay in the front pack before Mandarin, Yvan was on the inside for the next corner and I just tried to help him, to push him, to go into P2.
“The smartest thing was it was too difficult to overtake him, so I just stayed second, which was already very good and I was hoping for a safety car. And it happened the lap after.
“With our top speed we knew we would be able to overtake and that is what happened. After that they were quicker than us in the old town because we had a quite heavy car, so I just tried to stay out front and make no mistakes, be really consistent, make a good exit from the last two corners so Yvan could not overtake, and it was good.
“I’m really happy, happy for Audi and the team and the sponsors. The target was to be P3 in the championship after race one.
“I’m really happy and excited, but we have to stay focused on tomorrow and the races to come. Then we might celebrate tomorrow, but there is still a long way [to go].”