After the frustrations of qualifying yesterday, Jean-Karl Vernay channelled his anger into victory in the opening World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race of the weekend, closing up to within 40 points of championship leader Yann Ehrlacher.
From pole position, Norbert Michelisz was slow away from the grid. Eager to defend against Gilles Magnus, the Hungarian swept across to the inside line in an attempt to block the Audi, but that left the door wide open for Vernay to cut ahead of the pair of pair of them into turn one.
With Vernay in the lead, Michelisz and Magnus were set to fall further down the order as Santiago Urrutia managed to get by them for second place at the end of the first lap.
Behind, the rest of the grid was bumper to bumper, door handle to door handle, with the Aragón circuit providing some great racing in the early stages.
Naturally, some contact did ensue, with the likes of Thed Björk and Tom Coronel having to save wild sideways moments in separate incidents. Nevertheless, after the first few laps, everyone was at least still running.
Amidst the frantic position swapping, Ehrlacher and Esteban Guerrieri had made plenty of progress up the order, with the latter of the two up to eleventh by the halfway point.
However, Ehrlacher was looking like the quicker of the pair, and sure enough the Frenchman was able to move past Guerrieri at the penultimate corner on lap six.
Both drivers ran wide through the turn which then attracted attention from the cars behind. Ehrlacher managed to hold onto eleventh and the vital five points that come with it, while Guerrieri had to concede to both DHL Comtoyou Racing Audis and Ehrlacher’s team-mate Björk, dropping to sixteenth outside the points.
Two laps later though, the Argentine was elevated back into fourteenth, as Coronel and Björk retired to the pit lane with separate mechanical issues.
Out in front, the leaders had a relatively serene time in comparison, with Vernay able to take the first victory of the day in his Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo. With a gap of just under a second back to Urrutia in second place, the Frenchman was relatively unchallenged.
The podium was completed by Magnus, and with that, the Belgian was crowned WTCR Rookie of the Year.
Mikel Azcona crossed the line in fourth position at his home venue, while Gabriele Tarquini rounded out the top five for Hyundai.
After a slow getaway, pole-sitter Michelisz was a pinball amidst the top ten, eventually coming away with sixth place.
Yvan Muller and Luca Engstler finished the opening race in seventh and eighth positions respectively, while Bence Boldizs continued his quietly impressive weekend in ninth.
Néstor Girolami rounded out the top ten, but in eleventh place, Ehrlacher secured a vital handful of points having started the race from twentieth.
|1||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Team Mulsanne||Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR||10||21:19.863||2:06.805||3|
|2||12||Santiago URRUTIA||Cyan Performance||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||10||0.881||2:06.792||7|
|3||16||Gilles MAGNUS||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||10||3.478||2:06.689||2|
|4||96||Mikel AZCONA||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición||10||4.661||2:07.037||5|
|5||30||Gabriele TARQUINI||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse||Hyundai i30 N TCR||10||5.815||2:07.268||4|
|6||1||Norbert MICHELISZ||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse||Hyundai i30 N TCR||10||11.271||2:07.560||1|
|7||100||Yvan MULLER||Cyan Racing||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||10||13.898||2:08.125||10|
|8||8||Luca ENGSTLER||Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||10||14.709||2:08.191||8|
|9||55||Bence BOLDIZS||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición||10||17.577||2:08.220||9|
|10||29||Néstor GIROLAMI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||10||19.651||2:08.891||14|
|11||68||Yann EHRLACHER||Cyan Racing||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||10||21.683||2:08.578||20|
|12||17||Nathanaël BERTHON||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||10||21.936||2:08.640||21|
|13||86||Esteban GUERRIERI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||10||27.501||2:09.358||16|
|14||18||Tiago MONTEIRO||ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||10||28.101||2:08.780||11|
|15||9||Attila TASSI||ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||10||36.185||2:09.631||18|
|16||99||Gábor KISMARTY-LECHNER||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición||10||36.500||2:09.985||19|
|17||15||Nicolas BAERT||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||10||37.081||2:09.793||12|
|18||40||Josh FILES||Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||10||38.222||2:09.371||13|
|R||31||Tom CORONEL||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||9||DNF||2:09.294||15|
|R||11||Thed BJÖRK||Cyan Performance||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||7||DNF||2:08.953||6|
|R||34||Aurélien COMTE||Vuković Motorsport||Renault Mégane RS TCR||2||DNF||N/A||17|