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Esteban Guerrieri takes emphatic victory in Nürburgring opener

Esteban Guerrieri took a comfortable victory in the opening World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race of the weekend, convincingly passing early leader Yvan Muller to take the win.

As if the infamous Nordschleife wasn’t tricky enough in normal conditions, grey clouds loomed over the circuit as rain began to fall. However, given his wet-surface practice during qualifying for the Nürburgring 24 hour race, Guerrieri took to the conditions like a duck to water.

In order to give drivers the chance to get some heat into their tyres, this first race of the weekend would start behind the safety car, with Yvan Muller leading the pack from reversed-grid pole.

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After two trips around the GP loop, the race finally got underway, with Muller leading from Esteban Guerrieri and Tom Coronel.

Attila Tassi was the first to slip up from fourth place. Running wide at turn ten, Thed Björk and Yann Ehrlacher managed to squeeze by the young Hungarian before the cars headed onto the Nordschleife.

Further back, Nathanaël Berthon was an early visitor to the pitlane with technical gremlins striking his Audi, but up at the front things were already getting interesting.

In a brave move at Aremberg, Esteban Guerrieri swept round the outside of Yvan Muller’s Lynk & Co to take the lead of the race in decidedly wet conditions. The Frenchman would have hoped to get back ahead of the Argentine along the Döttinger Höhe straight, but Guerrieri had already scampered out of reach by the time they arrived there.

Meanwhile, in the mid-pack, Jack Young’s weekend of woe continued. The youngster from Northern Ireland understeered off into the barriers in Sector 3, but managed to pick himself back up and drag his car out of the way to avoid any yellow flag zones, although there was damage to the front-right corner of his Renault.

Mikel Azcona was the next driver to drop out of the race shortly afterwards, his Zengő Motorsport CUPRA overheating on the exit of the famous Karussell bend.

As the cars began lap two, the GP loop was beginning to look notably dry, however the same certainly couldn’t be said for elsewhere around the lap.

With Guerrieri striding off into the distance and Muller reasonably comfortable in second place, all eyes were on the battle for third as Tom Coronel was busy defending from the Cyan Racing Lynk & Co duo of Thed Björk and Yann Ehrlacher.

Heading onto lap three, Björk could sense an opportunity, managing to pull off a tidy switchback overtake through the first two corners. Slight contact opened the door for his team-mate Ehrlacher, and just like that, Coronel was down to fifth.

After his earlier momentary lack of control, Attila Tassi then made a much more severe error through the Adenau forest section. Finding the barriers, Tassi lost his front-left wheel, and with it a potential sixth place finish.

Yann Ehrlacher, meanwhile, had been looking much more comfortable in the slippery conditions than Thed Björk ahead of him. Sure enough, Ehrlacher would get the better of his team-mate, but he would have to wait until the final run through the long Döttinger Höhe back straight to do it.

So, Esteban Guerrieri took the chequered flag with a comfortable gap back to Yvan Muller in second place. Yann Ehrlacher rounded out the podium ahead of Thed Björk in fourth, with Tom Coronel coming home in fifth place while nursing a driveshaft issue.

Néstor Girolami moved up one spot from his starting position to sixth, ahead of Belgian rookie Gilles Magnus in seventh.

Münnich Motorsport’s Tiago Monteiro crossed the line in a quiet eighth place, with Jean-Karl Vernay behind in ninth having started the race from dead last. Bence Boldizs rounded out the top ten as the top CUPRA driver for Zengő Motorsport.

Race result

1 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 3 3 LAPS 10:20.187 2
2 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR 3 3.385 10:20.702 1
3 68 Yann EHRLACHER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR 3 3.999 10:18.068 6
4 11 Thed BJÖRK Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 03 TCR 3 4.903 10:19.450 4
5 31 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 3 12.298 10:25.453 3
6 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 3 15.674 10:23.868 7
7 16 Gilles MAGNUS Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 3 21.451 10:25.848 9
8 18 Tiago MONTEIRO ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 3 23.256 10:23.593 10
9 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR 3 39.521 10:28.857 16
10 55 Bence BOLDIZS Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición 3 1:54.117 10:53.020 12
11 99 Gábor KISMARTY-LECHNER Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición 3 3:24.679 11:24.156 15
12 17 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 3 6:51.360 10:33.613 8
R 12 Santiago URRUTIA Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 03 TCR 2 DNF 10:19.840 14
R 9 Attila TASSI ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 2 DNF 10:26.799 5
R 96 Mikel AZCONA Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición 0 DNF N/A 13
R 7 Jack YOUNG Vuković Motorsport Renault Mégane RS TCR 0 DNF N/A 11
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