Hyundai enforce team orders as Jean-Karl Vernay takes victory in WTCR race two

Luca Engstler will feel somewhat cheated by his own team after the second FIA World Touring Car Cup race at the Nordschleife. The German had looked quick enough to take victory on home turf, but in the end, a call from the team prevented him from passing Jean-Karl Vernay for victory.

At the start of the race meanwhile, disaster struck for Esteban Guerrieri, whose Honda refused to get going on the green flag lap. From third on the grid, the frustrated Argentine was wheeled back into pit lane and would have to start from dead last instead.

Guerrieri’s team-mate Néstor Girolami didn’t have much better luck from pole. Vernay blasted past him before the drivers could even reach turn one, while he also lost out to Engstler, despite defending so hard that the young German had to take to the pit lane.

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Just behind, there was contact between Gabriele Tarquini and Santiago Urrutia, but on this occasion, everyone survived without any major damage. At least, they did until turn two.

Yann Ehrlacher was once again on the receiving end of contact from a Hyundai at the apex. This time it was Norbert Michelisz, who had run wide as a result of Tarquini and Urrutia’s tussle.

As a compromised Michelisz then attempted to regain momentum, he was tagged by Mikel Azcona. Simultaneously, Jordi Gené and Andreas Bäckman also came to blows, which speared the Spaniard into his compatriot. In turn, Azcona, then span into the path of Bäckman who made heavy contact with the rear of the CUPRA. Michelisz also retired into the gravel trap after receiving a tap from behind from the out of control Gené.

So, as the cars headed onto the Nordschleife, it was Vernay who led Engstler in a Hyundai 1-2, while Girolami remained in third.

Urrutia found himself in fourth place, albeit with his rear splitter dangling in tow. Amidst the chaos, Yvan Muller had progressed from tenth up into fifth, while Attila Tassi also made impressive progress from twelfth to sixth.

At the front, the Hyundai team-mates pulled out a comfortable gap to Girolami in third, but Engstler was looking aggressive behind Vernay.

The third Hyundai of Tarquini, meanwhile, had pulled into the pit-lane with damage after slamming into the rear of Urrutia’s Lynk & Co at turn one.

Engstler’s charge continued as he contemplated a pass on Vernay along the Döttinger Höhe, though on this occasion couldn’t quite pull the move off.

The same could not be said of Tassi further behind, who swept by Muller on the run into the Tiergarten, while Nathanaël Berthon also dragged past Comtoyou Racing team-mate Tom Coronel.

Fellow Audi driver Frédéric Vervisch had a hair-raising moment through the same section of track, as race one winner Tiago Monteiro edged him onto the grass at one of the sketchiest parts of the track. As a result, the Belgian picked up plenty of grass in his radiator, and soon had to pull off with an overheating issue.

Guerrieri was in further strife as well, as after having to start from the pit-lane, he was then also handed a drive-through penalty for an incorrect starting procedure.

Another wild moment for an Audi driver then came on lap two, as Coronel found himself sliding broadside through one of the Nordschleife’s few gravel traps. The Dutchman would nevertheless be able to continue in twelfth place, albeit having had quite a scare.

Back at the front, Tassi made a move on Urrutia for fourth place along the two-kilometre back straight, while Engstler continued to look like the quicker of the two leading Elantras, despite receiving a radio message to ‘stay calm’.

Heading onto the final lap, it was almost certainly going to be a victory for Hyundai, but the question remained as to which of their two drivers would secure the result.

Through the high-speed uphill climb along Kesselchen, Engstler was once again latched onto the back of Vernay, and he had a run on his team-mate along the final tour of the Döttinger Höhe.

Engstler pulled out of the slipstream, but in the end, stopped short of passing the Frenchman, who would go on to take his first race victory for Hyundai Customer Racing.

If Engstler’s team radio was anything to go by however, it seems that this was a case of team orders being applied rather than any shortcoming on the driver’s behalf. As a result, Vernay leaves the ‘Green Hell’ as the leader of the points standings.

Girolami crossed the line in third, a long way behind the distraught German, however the Argentine’s podium result was under threat from a stewards’ investigation for the way he defended against Engstler at the start.

Tassi came home in a brilliant fourth place from outside the top ten on the starting grid, while Urrutia ensured Cyan Racing would once again be present in the top five.

Berthon survived the race without drama unlike many of his Audi counterparts to come home in sixth, while Muller finished the race in seventh.

Monteiro crossed the line in eighth, but like his Honda stablemate Girolami, is also under investigation by the stewards for causing Vervisch’s scary moment at Tiergarten.

Gilles Magnus and Ehrlacher rounded out the top ten, ahead of Coronel who will be happy to have made it to the chequered flag in eleventh after nearly wiping out on lap two.

Guerrieri scored points in twelfth despite his drive-through penalty, while thirteenth for Bence Boldizs secured his and CUPRA’s first points of the season.

Jessica Bäckman also scored her first championship points in fourteenth, as the final finisher in what was a race of high attrition.

Race results

POS NO CL NAT DRIVER ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP GD
1 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR 3 26:46.689 8:53.608 2
2 8 Luca ENGSTLER Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR 3 0.348 8:53.673 4
3 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 3 12.479 8:56.455 1
4 9 Attila TASSI ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 3 13.509 8:55.511 13
5 12 Santiago URRUTIA Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 3 13.718 8:57.737 5
6 17 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 3 15.722 8:58.361 12
7 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 3 16.636 8:59.585 10
8 18 Tiago MONTEIRO ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 3 18.481 8:58.663 7
9 16 Gilles MAGNUS Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 3 20.612 8:59.485 14
10 68 Yann EHRLACHER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 3 21.286 8:58.553 9
11 32 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 3 42.068 9:08.275 11
12 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 3 45.799 9:14.393 3
13 55 Bence BOLDIZS Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 3 51.283 9:07.562 21
14 26 Jessica BÄCKMAN Target Competition Hyundai Elantra N TCR 3 52.406 9:06.216 20
R 11 Thed BJÖRK Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 2 DNF N/A 15
R 22 Frédéric VERVISCH Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 1 DNF N/A 16
R 79 Rob HUFF Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 1 DNF N/A 18
R 28 Jordi GENÉ Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 0 DNF N/A 22
R 3 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 0 DNF N/A 6
R 5 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 0 DNF N/A 8
R 19 Andreas BÄCKMAN Target Competition Hyundai Elantra N TCR 0 DNF N/A 17
R 96 Mikel AZCONA Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 0 DNF N/A 19
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