Team Mulsanne may be a privateer outfit, but with Jean-Karl Vernay behind the wheel of one of their Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCRs, the Italian squad were an ever-present annoyance for the factory teams this weekend.
Things started off relatively quietly in race one with a ninth place finish, but in race two Vernay secured his and the team’s second podium finish of the season, ending the race in third place amongst the leading train of factory-backed Lynk & Co drivers.
“At the start of the race I got a fantastic start and we were up into P3,” he recalled. “The race was quite difficult because Yvan Muller was slowing me down to make the gap for Yann [Ehrlacher], and then I had to manage the gap also behind with Urrutia, so it was quite a tough race at the end because I couldn’t do any mistakes.
“I had to be smart with the gap between Yvan and myself, myself and Santi, but at the end we were able to finish on the podium which is the most important. We scored good points and we have to continue like this for the last races.”
And indeed, Vernay would go on to continue that upwards trajectory in race three. For much of the race, the Frenchman looked like the main threat to the leading contingent of Honda drivers, but eventually he too came under fire from Azcona, the pair of them often sparring on track throughout the day.
However, if Vernay had his way, the fourth and fifth placed finishing order from that race would be reversed.
“We made a good start again – I’ve really got the hang of getting a good start in the car,” Vernay said. “Unfortunately we were not quick enough to pass the Hondas, which were playing the game like in race two with the Lynk & Cos.
“At the end Azcona overtook me as he was a bit quicker. Hopefully we go back to the fourth place though because he got a warning and then cut the chicane on the last lap, which I did in race one and got a one-place penalty.
“So, hopefully the FIA stewards will have more consistency this weekend, or let’s say they will use the same rules for everyone. If we are fourth then I think it’s a fantastic weekend.”
Fourth or not, Vernay’s efforts have been enough to overhaul the lead of the WTCR Trophy for independent drivers. Now sitting at the top of those standings, the Frenchman is eight points clear of Tom Coronel in second.