Santiago Urrutia was ‘super happy’ to claim a maiden podium on his début in the FIA World Touring Car Cup, after following home Cyan Racing team-mates Yann Ehrlacher and Yvan Muller in race two at Zolder.
Urrutia had already proven his potential in qualifying on Saturday, when the Uruguayan out-qualified four-time world champion Muller in the all-important Q3 session.
That gave Urrutia fourth on the grid for Sunday’s second race, and from there he immediately sought to attack at the start of the race.
Urrutia attempted to pass Ehrlacher through the first few turns, but backed out and was passed by team-mate Muller at the first chicane.
From there, Urrutia held position and moved up into third when early race leader Nathanaël Berthon was given a drive-through penalty for a false start.
The WTCR rookie was pleased to be able to show he was able to challenge and keep pace with his more experienced team-mates.
“It was already [a good feeling] after qualifying when I made it to Q3,” said Urrutia. “You know, I would not be here if the people who believe in me had not put me in the car.
“It was a big opportunity, but at the same time it was like a big pressure to be with team-mates who have won world titles and Yann, who is super-quick and has been in the series for a few years. So I had to be right with them.
“We didn’t have proper pre-season testing; we only did a few tests. But from the first day I joined the team I have felt I am at home. It was easy to work with them, with the mechanics, the engineers.
“For me, I cannot be more happy than what I am. I just joined the team two months ago and we did a 1-2-3 and are leading the championship, so it’s great for me.
Urrutia also praised the support provided by team-mate Muller, who has helped him to set up his Lynk & Co 03 TCR car.
“It makes it easy when you have a four-time world champion next to you and you have a question, and you watch the data and video, and he can help you. That’s what we did in the pre-season.
“It’s just the first race. People say it’s a short season, but at the end of the day it’s still 18 races. We’ve got to be right there in all the races, the competition is super-tough.
“All the cars are pretty much on the same pace. We are probably a little bit better in qualifying but by the time we get to the race we don’t have the better pace.
“So we need to work on this and we have a long championship ahead. For the moment I’m super-happy.”