Nicolas Baert was delighted to claim his first-ever car race victory in the opening TCR Europe race at Zolder, as the Comtoyou Racing Audi driver dominated the race.
Baert had been superlative in qualifying, taking pole by more than three tenths of a second, and then the 19-year-old proved he has the race craft to taste victory in a race as well.
At the start of the race the Belgian lost out to BRC Racing’s Mat’o Homola, who made a better start when the lights went out.
But Baert was undeterred, and just four corners later he has back in the lead, having made a better exit from Turn 4 to lead before the Turn 5 chicane.
Baert, who is in his first season in TCR Europe, then had to manage two race neutralisations, wiping out his lead due to accidents and stoppages from other drivers.
In the end the son of team boss Jean-Michel Baert was able to take victory by almost three seconds from Honda’s Mike Halder, who had fought past Homola earlier in the race.
“That was exactly the kind of performance we needed to follow the rest of the weekend so far,” said Baert. “Fastest in FP2, then fastest in Qualifying, and now winning in my home country. I cannot believe it!
“That was my first-ever win in a car race, so I cannot be happier.”
Baert admitted that losing out to Homola at the start was risky, but he kept a cool head to re-pass the Hyundai driver.
“It was a little bit dangerous for me to lose the position at the start, but I knew how to manage the situation and so I could get the position back.
“Then twice I had to manage a restart without getting overtaken, so I did that as well.
“I think my father was happier than me when I got back! He has helped me through all my young racing career, so in many ways this is more his victory than mine.”