Josh Files underlined his surprise at having the pace to win the opening TCR Europe race at Hockenheim in as comfortable a fashion as he did.
The Target Competition racer launched his Hyundai i30 N away well from the start and built up a 3.5-second advantage after fending off some early pressure from Luca Engstler.
A safety car for Mat’o Homola’s beached car at Sachs Curve threatened a potential first victory of the 2019 campaign for Files, but he re-established the advantage with a textbook restart and took the chequered flag 2.4 seconds clear.
The result hands the Brit the provisional points lead heading into the second race tomorrow, with Files starting tenth as per the usual reverse-grid rule.
“I’m a bit surprised and shocked,” admitted Files to TouringCars.net at Hockenheim.
“We have a lot of weight, we don’t have a massive top speed and I just didn’t expect pole – I didn’t expect the race, I thought the others would be much harder than they were, so I’m really pleasantly surprised.
“I knew if I could get into the lead and stay there out of the hairpin on the first lap I had a chance, but it was executing that that was the difficult part.
“I’m really happy and thrilled, Target Competition produced a fantastic car and my job was just the last little bit.”
He also admitted maintaining the lead might not have been so straightforward without a four-car scrap for second for the majority of the race.
“If they weren’t scrapping as much it wouldn’t have been so easy, I could see that and get my head down and just focus on lap after lap, whereas they had a bit more of a difficult time with each other.”
Though the safety car threatened to put Files’ champagne on ice, he built up a 1-second advantage before even crossing the line to restart the race and duly kept Engstler at arm’s length thereafter.
“I was in a really good swing of things, we had a really good setup, and I had lots of tyres left even though I was pulling away, so I was just focusing on not killing the tyres through the race, so when the safety car came out it was a blow, of course, but I was sort of prepared for a restart, made a really good one and caught Luca napping a little bit.
“I could see crossing the line I had a decent enough lead that he couldn’t attack and if I just kept my head down, he wouldn’t be able to catch.”
With only three rounds of the season in the books, Files also underlined his belief that it’s way too early to start taking the championship into consideration despite his positive start.
“It’s too early. There’s a lot of points available, in every race. If you think about the championship now, you drive too cautiously. For me it’s about results race-by-race, and if you do that you’ll be there at the end of the championship. It sorts itself out.”
The final race in Baden-Wurttemberg gets underway at 10:35 BST tomorrow [26th May].