Mikel Azcona tops opening Slovakia practice session

Mikel Azcona set the fastest lap time in the first World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) practice session of the weekend, following a brief red-flag period caused by one of his Zengő Motorsport team-mates.

The Spaniard circulated the Slovakiaring in a time of 2 minutes 10.018 seconds, putting him a third of a second ahead of the second quickest driver, Tom Coronel.

Coronel led a 2-3-4 result for the DHL Comtoyou Racing squad, with all three Audi RS3s being separated by just sixteen hundredths of a second. Behind Coronel, Gilles Magnus wound up in third place ahead of Frenchman Nathanaël Berthon.

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Berthon’s compatriot Jean-Karl Vernay rounded out the top five for Team Mulsanne, while Néstor Girolami was the quickest of the Honda drivers in sixth.

Girolami’s team-mate Esteban Guerrieri was next up in seventh, around two tenths of a second quicker than the third Honda of Attila Tassi.

Bence Boldizs was an impressive ninth fastest in his CUPRA, the young Hungarian feeling much more comfortable here at the Slovakiaring compared to last time out at the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

Tenth place for Santiago Urrutia was the best form that Cyan Racing Lynk & Co could muster in this opening practice session. This had been tipped to be a tricky weekend for the Swedish team, but Urrutia’s top ten performance would suggest that they are at least within striking range of their rivals.

Wildcard Petr Fulín put in a respectable display to take twelfth place in opening practice, having run within the top eight for most of the session.

Two places further back, Luca Engstler ended up as the quickest of the Hyundai quartet. However, with a more favourable Balance of Performance this weekend, expect to see the South Korean marque rise up the order in second practice and qualifying.

However, there are question marks as to whether Hyundai stalwart Gabriele Tarquini will be joining his team-mates in free practice two. A high-speed trip through the gravel trap at turn two was followed by a significant leap through the air after the Italian’s i30N TCR was launched upwards by a drainage channel.

The resulting impact with the ground caused plenty of internal damage, with Tarquini suggesting that the front splitter, cooling system and potentially rear suspension would all need to undergo repairs.

The 2018 world champion wasn’t the only one to find trouble at turn two. At the opposite end of the experience scale, Gábor Kismarty-Lechner lost the rear end of his CUPRA on entry to the turn. This pitched him into the inside barriers with the front-right quarter of the car taking the impact. With both his and Tarquini’s cars stuck out on the circuit, the session was briefly halted.

Thed Björk also had a session to forget. The Swede’s Lynk & Co suffered from driveshaft issues in practice one, thus limiting his track time compared to the rest. As a result, he wound up slowest of all, around four tenths of a second slower than Aurélien Comte who makes his return to the series this weekend as a replacement for Jack Young.

Session results

POS NO DRIVER NAT ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 96 Mikel AZCONA Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición 17 2:10.018 0.000
2 31 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 16 2:10.351 0.333
3 16 Gilles MAGNUS Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 11 2:10.410 0.392
4 17 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 13 2:10.570 0.552
5 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR 11 2:10.659 0.641
6 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 15 2:10.948 0.930
7 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 16 2:10.957 0.939
8 9 Attila TASSI ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 14 2:11.167 1.149
9 55 Bence BOLDIZS Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición 17 2:11.184 1.166
10 12 Santiago URRUTIA Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 03 TCR 16 2:11.277 1.259
11 68 Yann EHRLACHER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR 13 2:11.282 1.264
12 22 Petr FULÍN VEXTA DOMY CUPRA Leon Competición 13 2:11.527 1.509
13 18 Tiago MONTEIRO ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 15 2:11.543 1.525
14 8 Luca ENGSTLER Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 16 2:11.591 1.573
15 1 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 12 2:11.598 1.580
16 88 Nicky CATSBURG Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 15 2:11.697 1.679
17 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR 15 2:11.961 1.943
18 30 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 7 2:11.965 1.947
19 25 Luca FILIPPI Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR 17 2:12.288 2.270
20 34 Aurélien COMTE Vuković Motorsport Renault Mégane RS TCR 16 2:12.851 2.833
21 99 Gábor KISMARTY-LECHNER Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición 11 2:13.279 3.261
22 11 Thed BJÖRK Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 03 TCR 6 2:13.284 3.266
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