After a four year absence, Tom Coronel returned to the winner’s circle of world-level touring car racing last weekend. With victory at the Slovakiaring, the charismatic Dutchman now finds himself in second place in the drivers’ championship standings.
Coronel added to his win with a brace of sixth place finishes in the other two races on Sunday, catapulting himself into title contention as the nearest challenger to series leader Yann Ehrlacher, just twenty-one points behind.
The weekend’s results mark a continued upturn in form for Coronel, who until this season had struggled to extract front-running pace from the TCR-specification cars that have been used by the series since 2018.
Reflecting on how things went at the Slovakian round, Coronel said “[it was] a really great weekend. I am second in the world championship, just how cool is that?”
The DHL Comtoyou Racing team had looked strong throughout the weekend, although Coronel’s team-mate Nathanaël Berthon initially stole the limelight on Saturday. After topping the time sheets in practice, Berthon picked up pole position for two out of the event’s three races.
Likewise, Coronel also revelled in the pace of his privately-entered Audi RS3 LMS TCR. “[It was] my best qualifying in years,” he said. “In the free practice sessions, it already went really well. In Q1, I locked up under braking, so that I only ended up eighth whereas I should have been in P2 or P3 instead.
“In the second heat, I was fifth, which was good, and fourth in Q3. Maybe just a little bit too cautious, but at least good starting grid positions.”
On a slippery but drying surface in race one, Coronel made a good start from eighth on the grid, but had to work hard to improve up the order.
“[At the start of the race] I went for the inside line in the [first] corner while the outside was dry, so three drivers overtook me again,” he recalled. “I had rain tyres at the rear and slick tyres at the front, so it was important to manage the rain tyres as the track dried out.
“That worked out well and that enabled me to attack at the end. As a result, I was able to overtake [Norbert] Michelisz, the world champion, and Nicky Catsburg, among others, after which I finished sixth.
“Unfortunately, the race didn’t last another lap as I could have finished even further up. Now, we came sixth, a good result as well.”
The highlight of Coronel’s time in Slovakia would come in race two however, following a performance that was reminiscent of his giant-killing displays of seasons past.
“There was some to-ing and fro-ing in the first corner already that enabled me to move up.” he said. “I was keeping up nicely and I saw that [Esteban] Guerrieri was struggling a bit in the final corner, so I moved my car alongside his.
“It was a bit daring, but it worked out and I was able to win the race as a result. Super to be on the podium again as the winner for the first time since Vila Real in 2016!
“All in all, it was a really good weekend: the car was good and we have scored many points, so that we are now second in the drivers’ standings. That is a fantastic feeling, I am really delighted with that. I am already looking forward to the upcoming races at the Hungaroring next weekend!”
Coronel and the rest of the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) field will be back on track this Saturday, with free practice one set to get underway at 08:30 BST (09:30 CEST).