In 2020, Jean-Karl Vernay has played the role of privateer underdog against much bigger, corporate organisations. The Frenchman never let the odds stack against him however, and has been rewarded with a place in the top three of the overall FIA World Touring Car Cup standings.
Heading into the weekend, Vernay even had an outside chance of winning the championship outright, though publicly at least the Frenchman always had his sights set on the ‘overall podium’.
But, despite his best efforts, it looked as though the use of team orders at Munnich Motorsport and Cyan Racing – which saw Attila Tassi and Thed Bjork respectively concede places to team-mates – had snatched that accolade away from him.
Speaking at the end of race three, Vernay was certainly irked by his rivals’ controversial tactics.
“First of all, congratulations to Yann,” he said. “Like I always said, I am very, very ‘Frenchy’ and for a Frenchman to win the title, it’s well deserved and to lead from the beginning I think he did a fantastic job. I think he surprised maybe more drivers because he was super-consistent and he deserved it, so congratulations again to you and your family.
“For us, we had a good weekend again, a good qualifying although with a few mistakes in Q3. Then today the wrong choice of tyres in race one, like others. We did a fantastic race two and race three, fantastic overtaking and starts and we lost the overall podium for nothing just because some guys are swapping positions all the time.
“Let’s say that’s understandable, but not very classy from them. To lose a podium like this is frustrating, it would be difficult to swallow. But it’s like this. I think it is under investigation and I’m confident they will apply the rules like they always did to me. It’s not finished and I hope to get a good surprise later today.”
That ‘good surprise’ would indeed come in the form of a thirty second time penalty for Esteban Guerrieri, elevating Vernay back up into that top three position he so very much wanted.
In addition to to his overall achievements, Vernay also ticked-off the goal of securing the WTCR Trophy for independent drivers; something which he deemed to be a bare minimum this year.
Naturally, with such strong results, he had nothing but praise for the little Italian squad that ran his Alfa Romeo Giulietta this season.
“Big thanks to my team, I think nobody would have believed what we have done this year,” he said. “I’ve never been so determined and I grew up a lot.
“For me it was a fantastic experience to be in a little team with a lot more responsibility and I really loved it. So thanks to Romeo Ferraris, we did great and you are a very good team, be sure about that.
“We can be proud of the WTCR Trophy. It’s a title that we needed to have. I don’t want to be arrogant but with the experience I have and with the team I have, we had all the ingredients to win this trophy.”
Overall, it was a big weekend for Romeo Ferraris, who unveiled their new Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR contender on Saturday as well. Vernay has already been confirmed to race in the new PURE ETCR Series with the car for 2021, however it remains to be seen whether the Team Mulsanne squad will be back for more in the FIA World Touring Car Cup next year as well.