Jean-Karl Vernay holds off Yvan Muller for victory in Macau race one

Jean-Karl Vernay holds off Yvan Muller for victory in Macau race one

Jean-Karl Vernay
Photo: Francois Flamand / DPPI

Jean-Karl Vernay secured victory in the opening FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race on the streets of Macau, after both the Audi driver and the chasing Hyundai of Yvan Muller got past the Volkswagen pole-sitter Rob Huff on the first lap.

Although Huff proved to be the fastest over a single lap on Friday, at the start of the race he was immediately under pressure from Muller, who was third on the grid, and Vernay from fourth.

Muller blasted past Huff through the high-speed second corner at Mandarin, with Vernay getting into the slipstream of his fellow Frenchman and following through past the Brit, leaving Huff in third by the time they got to Turn 3 at Lisboa.

There was little Huff could do to fight back thereafter in the narrow, uphill old town part of the track, and the safety car was then called on for lap two as Huff’s Sébastien Loeb Racing team-mate Mehdi Bennani was hit and spun into the barriers, although he was able to continue.

After the brief race neutralisation, the action resumed on lap three and Vernay was able to use the top-speed advantage of his Audi to pass Muller for the lead at Mandarin.

Vernay then had enough of a straight-line advantage in the high-speed parts of the circuit to hold off his chasing rivals for the rest of the race, with even a mid-race stoppage, caused when team-mate Gordon Shedden crashed into the barriers and blocked the circuit at Police bend, not giving the WRT driver cause for concern.

“It was a good race, I’m really happy,” said Vernay. “I had to work a lot. Last week [the team] prepared the car really well and it works – we play with our tools.

“The plan was to make a good start and then ask for a safety car and it happened. Afterwards I just had to make no mistakes and do my job like I know.

“It’s great; I had a lot of pressure from Yvan and Rob and they are obviously much quicker in the old town with a lighter car.

“The job is not finished – I’m already focussed on tomorrow, so I cannot really show happy I am!”

By finishing in second, Muller has narrowed his points deficit to series leader Gabriele Tarquini to 33 points, with the duo being the only two who can now lift the title as there are just 55 points on offer in Sunday’s final two races of the season.

Huff completed the podium in third, unable to add to his record Macau win tally, although he will get another two chances on Sunday, including starting from pole once again in the final race.

Tarquini took fourth after jumping up on the opening lap, ahead of BRC Racing team-mate Norbert Michelisz in fifth.

Esteban Guerrieri was the leading Honda driver in sixth, the Münnich Motorsport driver finishing ahead of Campos Racing’s Pepe Oriola in seventh, with the duo exchanging positions several times in the final few laps.

Münnich Motorsport’s Timo Scheider scored his first-ever WTCR points in eighth, ahead of Team Mulsanne’s fellow first-time scorer Luigi Ferrara in ninth and DG Sport’s Mat’o Homola completing the top ten.

Only one driver succumbed to the infamous circuit on the first lap, with Team Mulsanne’s Kevin Ceccon caught up in the Lisboa accident between Frédéric Vervisch and Mehdi Bennani.

Campos Racing’s John Filippi was spun into the barriers by Ma Qing Hua on lap three exiting Lisboa, whilst Shedden’s accident, which stopped the race for almost 20 minutes, caused the Scot’s non-finish together with Macanese local Kevin Tse.

Race two gets underway at 08:20 local time on Sunday (00:20 GMT, 01:20 CET) followed by race three at 11:00 local time (03:00 GMT, 04:00 CET).

Race result

POS NO DRIVER NAT ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME BEST GD
1 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS 10 46:07.189 2:31.325 4
2 48 Yvan MULLER YMR Hyundai i30 N TCR 10 0.516 2:31.369 3
3 12 Rob HUFF Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 10 0.881 2:31.038 1
4 30 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 10 6.523 2:32.623 7
5 5 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 10 8.488 2:32.027 6
6 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 10 9.297 2:32.239 2
7 74 Pepe ORIOLA Team Oscaro by Campos Racing CUPRA TCR 10 9.923 2:32.115 9
8 42 Timo SCHEIDER ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 10 10.594 2:32.293 10
9 16 Luigi FERRARA Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 10 11.725 2:32.437 17
10 70 Mat’o HOMOLA DG Sport Compétition Peugeot 308 TCR 10 12.373 2:32.622 16
11 11 Thed BJÖRK YMR Hyundai i30 N TCR 10 12.968 2:32.634 15
12 22 Frédéric VERVISCH Audi Sport Team Comtoyou Audi RS3 LMS 10 13.437 2:32.252 8
13 9 Tom CORONEL Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 10 16.408 2:32.994 18
14 68 Yann EHRLACHER ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 10 17.058 2:32.870 28
15 25 Mehdi BENNANI Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 10 17.671 2:33.126 5
16 21 Aurélien PANIS Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS 10 19.138 2:33.158 20
17 7 Aurélien COMTE DG Sport Compétition Peugeot 308 TCR 10 21.048 2:34.185 19
18 60 Filipe Clemente DE SOUZA Champ Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS 10 28.145 2:35.156 24
19 23 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS 10 28.461 2:31.887 13
20 36 LO Kai Fung Tian Shi Zuver Team Audi RS3 LMS 10 45.842 2:38.203 26
21 89 André COUTO MacPro Racing Team Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 10 1:32.801 2:36.983 23
22 20 Denis DUPONT Audi Sport Team Comtoyou Audi RS3 LMS 9 + 1 LAP 2:34.578 21
23 8 Norbert NAGY Zengő Motorsport CUPRA TCR 8 + 2 LAPS 2:43.035 22
R 55 MA Qing Hua Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 7 DNF 2:33.755 14
R 52 Gordon SHEDDEN Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS 4 DNF 2:32.998 27
R 28 Kevin TSE Wing Kin Teamwork Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS 4 DNF 2:50.089 25
R 27 John FILIPPI Team Oscaro by Campos Racing CUPRA TCR 3 DNF 3:48.376 12
R 31 Kevin CECCON Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 1 DNF N/A 11
NS 77 LAM Kam San Champ Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS DNS N/A
NS 6 Rui VALENTE PCT Racing Team Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR DNS N/A
NS 66 Zsolt Dávid SZABÓ Zengő Motorsport CUPRA TCR DNS N/A
WTCR points deficit chart
Graphic: TouringCars.Net