When the teams arrived at Motorland Aragón this weekend for the 2020 World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) title decider, up to eleven different drivers still had a mathematical chance of victory. Realistically however, the narrative was always going to be focused on Yann Ehrlacher versus Esteban Guerrieri – unless Jean-Karl Vernay could perhaps spring a surprise.
As the only vaguely realistic title contender outside of the Cyan Racing or Münnich Motorsport stables, Vernay has done a remarkable job of flying the flag for the privateer underdogs this year.
After losing his drive with the departing Audi WRT team, the opportunity to join forces with Team Mulsanne came at the very last minute of pre-season. Yet, despite the rushed nature of the relationship, Vernay has gelled incredibly well with the small Italian outfit.
The momentum has been building all throughout the year for this driver-team combination, culminating in an outright race victory against the big semi-works outfits last time out. Although he remains a considerable outsider in the title race, 44 points behind series leader Ehrlacher, this late-season trajectory seems to have instilled the Frenchman with an air of cautious positivity about his chances.
At least for now though, Vernay has been careful not to be drawn on talk of the outright championship, and instead is first targeting a place in the top three.
Overall, the 2017 TCR International Series champion has taken a rather mellow approach to the entire weekend. Of course, he’s been giving it everything behind the wheel – in fact, perhaps maybe a little too much following his costly mistake in the qualifying shoot-out. However, when presented with the sheer speed of Cyan Racing this weekend, it appears as though he has already made peace with a ‘best of the rest’ finish in his mind:
“I think at the end it’s a pretty good qualifying,” he said. “We lost the pole for nothing and maybe that was the biggest disappointment of the day. [However,] It would have been really difficult when you look at the lap time of the Lynk & Co.
“There was no chance to fight for the pole in race three, and yeah, I just lost the car at turn one in Q3 and couldn’t do a lap.
“So, alright, it is what it is, we still have a really good position for tomorrow and we’ll keep fighting – I think we have all the chance to finish on the podium of the overall championship and we still have to keep focused and work for tomorrow.”
With 75 points left to play for, and a 44-point deficit to make up, you can see why Vernay may be focusing on the smaller victories this weekend. As a privateer, a top three overall finish would still be a tremendous achievement, though having qualified in the top five for races one and three, Vernay will be able to go toe-to-toe with Ehrlacher should that fighting spirit kick back in.