Nicolas Baert claims maiden win in eventful TCR Europe opener

Comtoyou Racing’s Nicolas Baert claimed a comfortable maiden win in the TCR Europe series at Zolder, in a race which had to twice be neutralised for on-track incidents.

Baert lost the lead initially at the start as Mat’o Homola got the jump on the Audi driver, but the Belgian was back in front by Turn 5 as he drew alongside the Hyundai heading into the chicane, where he completed the pass.

The 19-year-old had to contend with two race neutralisations on his way to a maiden win, however, with the first coming when Target Competition’s Andreas Bäckman made contact with the rear of Sami Taoufik’s Audi on lap four.

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Moroccan racer Taoufik had earlier stalled at the start and was running in the mid-pack, when Bäckman, in 15th at the time, was pitched hard into the wall by the contact.

Andreas’ sister Jessica had just a lap earlier been hit into the wall by Florian Briché in a disastrous race for the Swedish siblings.

Racing resumed after three laps behind the safety car and Baert immediately set about again building up his lead over Mike Halder, who had passed Homola for second into Turn 1 on lap two.

However, a full course yellow would be required on lap 12 after Jean-Laurent Navarro stopped his Peugeot on track, apparently after contact from team-mate Florian Briché.

With four racing laps left, Baert opened his lead back up to over two seconds and took a comfortable first win, ahead of the Honda of Halder in second.

Homola completed the podium in his Hyundai, unable to challenge Halder for the place he took earlier in the race, ahead of BRC Racing team-mate Dániel Nagy in fourth.

Dan Lloyd claimed fifth as the leading Brutal Fish Racing Honda driver, although not without controversy. The Brit had hit team-mate Pepe Oriola at the Turn 5 chicane on the opening lap, which demoted Oriola to the very back of the pack from where he had to stage a recovery.

Lloyd’s team-mate and team boss Martin Ryba was sixth, claiming his best-ever result in the series, ahead of Michelle Halder’s Honda in seventh.

Peugeot duo Teddy and Jimmy Clairet were eighth and ninth respectively, the latter finishing just ahead of the recovering Oriola, who claimed tenth.

Having stalled at the start, Moroccan racer Taoufik was 11th, faring better than his team-mate and compatriot Mehdi Bennani, who retired from the race after nine laps with a mechanical issue whilst running in fourth.

The sole Target Competition car of John Filippi claimed 12th, despite the Frenchman enduring a hair-raising off on lap nine when he straight-lined the Turn 7 chicane.

Having had to change the engine on his car prior to the race, and thus start from the back, Julien Briché’s poor weekend luck continued as he stopped on lap 13. The team boss’ retirement compounded a poor race for JSB Compétition, which also saw his son Florian retire along with Navarro.

In the title race, victory for Baert elevates him to seventh overall, 31 from the top, whilst second for Halder means he is just one point behind leader Lloyd.

Race two gets underway at 15:20 CEST (14:20 BST) on Sunday.

Race result

POS NO DRIVER NAT ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME BEST GD
1 8 Nicolas BAERT Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 16 16 LAPS 1:37.561 1
2 7 Mike HALDER Profi Car Team Halder Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 16 2.885 1:38.449 5
3 70 Mat’o HOMOLA BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 16 4.894 1:38.774 2
4 99 Dániel NAGY BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 16 5.163 1:38.762 6
5 123 Daniel LLOYD Brutal Fish Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 16 6.504 1:38.751 9
6 17 Martin RYBA Brutal Fish Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 16 7.781 1:38.814 10
7 53 Michelle HALDER Profi Car Team Halder Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 16 8.173 1:38.805 8
8 20 Teddy CLAIRET Team Clairet Sport Peugeot 308 TCR 16 9.306 1:39.080 12
9 21 Jimmy CLAIRET Team Clairet Sport Peugeot 308 TCR 16 10.602 1:39.300 14
10 74 Pepe ORIOLA Brutal Fish Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 16 11.147 1:38.395 11
11 25 Sami TAOUFIK Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 16 11.992 1:38.648 4
12 27 John FILIPPI Target Competition Hyundai i30 N TCR 16 15.476 1:39.381 15
13 81 Stéphane VENTAJA Team Clairet Sport Peugeot 308 TCR 16 17.109 1:39.918 18
14 66 Gilles COLOMBANI Team Clairet Sport Peugeot 308 TCR 16 19.659 1:40.135 17
R 24 Julien BRICHÉ JSB Compétition Peugeot 308 TCR 12 DNF 1:38.451 19
R 4 Florian BRICHÉ JSB Compétition Peugeot 308 TCR 11 DNF 1:39.474 16
R 6 Jean Laurent NAVARRO JSB Compétition Peugeot 308 TCR 9 DNF 1:40.021 20
R 250 Mehdi BENNANI Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 9 DNF 1:39.416 3
R 19 Andreas BÄCKMAN Target Competition Hyundai i30 N TCR 4 DNF 1:39.439 7
R 26 Jessica BÄCKMAN Target Competition Hyundai i30 N TCR 4 DNF 1:39.349 13
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