The start to the 2021 FIA World Touring Car Cup season has been a difficult one for the Volkswagen Group brands, Audi and CUPRA.
With cars that share a lot of the same running gear, both manufacturers have endured two opening rounds to forget, thanks to rather unfavourable Balance of Performance measures being enforced upon them.
Tom Coronel, one of the Audi contingent, has been frustrated with the state of play for him and his stablemates at the beginning of the year, though with a BoP revision expected ahead of round three of the season, the Dutchman is hopeful that the WTCR’s governing bodies will level the playing field some more.
“[This weekend] was the first time that we had a comparison with the competition on a real track with the new Audi, because the Nürburgring is of course not a benchmark.” he said.
“It went well there, but we already saw that others were a lot faster, which I could still make up for with track knowledge. Here, on a regular track, it turns out that the Audi falls short from the start, just like the Cupras, which of course have the same basis. That sucks.
“The free practice sessions went well. Qualifying was very close: all four Audis within two-tenths of a second, and the Cupras somewhere close as well. I finished 18th, which of course was not the position I had counted on.
“The car would be evaluated after the first two events, so I assume the organization will do that properly.”
However, with those BoP revisions not coming into play for the weekend’s racing at Estoril, Coronel knew it would be a case of having to extract as many points as possible out of a tricky set of circumstances.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite pan out how he would have hoped in Race One.
“I was already wrestling with [Rob] Huff in the third corner, who ended up in tenth place, so it could have been quite a [good result],” Coronel recalled.
“But then I was pushed out by Huff and [Luca] Engstler. They just kept pushing, until I was in the gravel.
“As a result, I had to join at the back, I was still able to win a place by overtaking [Bence] Boldizs, but more than 17th place was not in it, so nothing special.”
The Dutchman would get another good start in the second race of the day, however an erratic manoeuvre from Mikel Azcona meant that Coronel’s quest for points would once again go unfulfilled.
“Another good start, I managed to get through the hairpins well,” he said. “I was already in 11th place with Azcona, but then I got a mega pound from Azcona on my right front wheel, so I went at right angles left into the wall.
“Azcona also got a drive-through penalty for that because he suddenly went square to the left and rammed me off. So that was it.
“He came to me to apologise [after the race] because he didn’t know I was there.
“This was not the weekend we would have liked. That was disappointing, but every now and then you have a weekend [like this]. We will look forward again [to round three] soon.”