Esteban Guerrieri has won the opening race of the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) title-deciding weekend at Motorland Aragón, keeping the title battle alive for now following an inspired tyre strategy gamble.
Unlike Saturday, there was no fog to be dealt with today, however track conditions remained chilly and grip was once again at a premium. As a result, both Nathanaël Berthon and Gilles Magnus started with wet-weather tyres on the rear axle, as did Luca Filippi further back.
Urrutia got away well from pole, but the same couldn’t be said for fellow front-row starter Jean-Karl Vernay. The Frenchman struggled for grip, allowing Mikel Azcona to shoot up into second place, immediately putting pressure on the Uruguayan in front.
With the pack tightly bunched behind Vernay, Néstor Girolami then appeared from twelfth on the grid up into third; another driver who had chosen to go with wets on the rear.
As the cars slid their way around the circuit, Girolami looked as though he was in a different class to the leaders thanks to his greater grip levels from the rear tyres, and as such, managed to take the lead before the end of the first lap.
Crucially, title contender and fellow Honda driver Guerrieri had also gone with the mixed tyre strategy. He too had charged up the order and found himself in third place by the end of lap two. Only Berthon stood between Honda and a 1-2 result, until the following lap that is, when Guerrieri managed to pull off a great overtake around the outside line at the new chicane complex added for this weekend.
Further back, however, Vernay had sunk like a stone and was now defending from the likes of Thed Björk and his team-mate Filippi. That was until turn sixteen at least, when Filippi and Björk made contact, causing the Swede to spin around. The hit was severe enough to also send Filippi back to the pit-lane with damage.
At the halfway point, it looked as though the mixed-weather tyre set-up may well have been the perfect gamble, with neither of the two leading Honda drivers showing any real signs of excessive tyre wear.
After his terrible start, Vernay was also now looking a bit more rapid on his slicks, having closed back up to pole-sitter Urrutia – although now the pair of them were only battling for ninth. Eventually, the Frenchman did get by, and there was also a position change to come at the front.
With Guerrieri needing all the points he could possibly get, Girolami was instructed by the Munnich Motorsport team to pull aside and let his compatriot through for victory. However, in images reminiscent of Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher at the Austrian Grand Prix in 2002, Girolami left it until the very last moment to concede.
Behind the Honda duo, Magnus completed the podium in third, having got the better of Berthon in fourth.
Mikel Azcona finished as the best of the fully slick-shod drivers in fifth, while championship leader Yann Ehrlacher limited the damage well in sixth.
Acting as rear-gunner, Yvan Muller tailed him home in seventh, ahead of Jean-Karl Vernay in eighth. Tiago Monteiro had been on course to finish in that position however, but a loose front-right wheel put an end to that.
Pole-sitter Urrutia came across the line in ninth, and Attila Tassi managed to move up into the top ten, having started the race from the penultimate row of the grid.
With victory, Guerrieri has now closed the gap to just sixteen points to Ehrlacher in the title hunt, however the Argentine still has it all to do with two more lowly grid positions to contend with later in the day. Plus, as the track warms up and dries, the mixed-compound tyre strategy is unlikely to be one that works.
Race two gets underway at 13:15 CEST (12:15 GMT), with Muller starting from reversed-grid pole position.
|1||86||Esteban GUERRIERI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||10||10 LAPS||2:28.972||16|
|2||29||Néstor GIROLAMI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||10||0.602||2:28.900||11|
|3||16||Gilles MAGNUS||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||10||13.449||2:30.130||8|
|4||17||Nathanaël BERTHON||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||10||14.238||2:29.387||6|
|5||96||Mikel AZCONA||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición||10||16.533||2:28.782||3|
|6||68||Yann EHRLACHER||Cyan Racing||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||10||36.425||2:32.217||5|
|7||100||Yvan MULLER||Cyan Racing||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||10||37.571||2:31.987||4|
|8||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Team Mulsanne||Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR||10||46.885||2:32.615||2|
|9||12||Santiago URRUTIA||Cyan Performance||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||10||50.576||2:33.736||1|
|10||9||Attila TASSI||ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||10||50.848||2:31.696||20|
|11||11||Thed BJÖRK||Cyan Performance||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||10||53.687||2:32.698||7|
|12||31||Tom CORONEL||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||10||1:00.939||2:34.135||13|
|13||8||Luca ENGSTLER||Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||10||1:07.372||2:33.726||18|
|14||34||Aurélien COMTE||Vuković Motorsport||Renault Mégane RS TCR||10||1:09.088||2:33.281||15|
|15||30||Gabriele TARQUINI||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse||Hyundai i30 N TCR||10||1:09.855||2:32.241||10|
|16||1||Norbert MICHELISZ||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse||Hyundai i30 N TCR||10||1:11.167||2:32.478||9|
|17||55||Bence BOLDIZS||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición||10||1:56.469||2:38.952||12|
|18||27||Mitchell CHEAH Min Jie||Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||10||1:57.827||2:37.663||21|
|19||28||José Manuel SAPAG||Target Competition||Hyundai i30 N TCR||10||2:10.878||2:39.941||19|
|20||18||Tiago MONTEIRO||ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||8||+ 2 LAPS||2:31.785||14|
|R||99||Gábor KISMARTY-LECHNER||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición||5||DNF||3:16.650||22|
|R||25||Luca FILIPPI||Team Mulsanne||Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR||4||DNF||2:39.387||17|