Santiago Urrutia is expecting an ‘aggressive’ fight for third overall in the TCR Europe standings on Sunday, with the WRT driver being one of seven drivers in contention for the position.
Urrutia qualified in third for Saturday’s first race at Monza, ending up as the best-placed Audi driver and in a prime position to claim a third podium in the series.
But the Uruguayan was caught on lap eight by the Hyundai of points leader Josh Files, leaving him frustrated with how easy he felt that the Brit caught him in the middle of the race.
“It seems that people can bring the speed on their engines [up] from one session to the other one,” said Urrutia to TouringCars.Net. “We saw yesterday in free practice that the Hyundais were unbelievably quick.
“Today we went into qualifying and they were nowhere, and the Peugeot was like a second quicker than anybody else.
“Starting the race from third I said we could finish the race on the podium, but then in the middle of the race I was watching the mirrors and there was Files going half a second quicker than anybody else. How can he do it? You can improve your car from one session to the other, but you cannot gain or lose one second.
“If it’s fair, I don’t know. It is what it is; it’s the end of the year so it’s been like this for the whole year. The Hyundais were always at the top and it has been the same situation the whole year.”
Having lost out on a podium, with Urrutia eventually finishing in fourth over three seconds back from Files, the 23-year-old says he is fully focussed on trying to finish third overall in the drivers’ standings on Sunday.
Andreas Bäckman currently holds third with 217 points, with Urrutia (213), Nelson Panciatici (205), Gilles Magnus (202), Mat’o Homola (191), Luca Engstler (185) and Aurélien Comte (179) also vying for the placing.
“Right now I am focussed on tomorrow,” added Urrutia. “Starting from eighth I really need to have a good start and move forward.
“I want to finish third in the championship. Magnus will start third so he is also going for that position, and Bäckman is behind me but he is third at the moment.
“It’s really close, so I know tomorrow is going to be an aggressive one. If we can have a good start and move forward and gain a little bit more speed than today, it will be a tight one tomorrow but it will be fun for sure.
“I’m pretty happy [with the season] and I hope that next year I can go to WTCR, that’s my goal, so I hope next year we can race there and see if we can put something together.
“Being third or being fifth is a big difference, so we will see tomorrow. It will be a super aggressive one I know, but it will be fun.”