Yann Ehrlacher begins title defence as quickest driver in practice one

Yann Ehrlacher has begun his title defence as the fastest driver in the first free practice session of the new FIA World Touring Car Cup season, however strong form from Luca Engstler suggests that the new Hyundai Elantra may be capable of challenging Cyan Racing over the course of the weekend.

Despite forecasts of potential rain later on in the week, the WTCR field were treated with warm and dry, but overcast conditions to kick off the start of the season.

Yvan Muller was the first driver to set a lap time in 2021 with a 09:00.973, however Attila Tassi and Néstor Girolami then went around half a second quicker a few minutes later.

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Engstler was the first of Hyundai’s drivers to set a lap time in the new Elantra, and despite a sketchy moment over the kerbs, still managed to split Muller and the Honda pair.

Then, at around the halfway mark, reigning champion Yann Ehrlacher reset the benchmark to go fastest with a lap time of 09:00.299 minutes. At least, that was the case until Engstler then became the first driver to break into the eight-minute threshold on his second tour of the circuit.

Tassi continued the charge for Honda to push Ehrlacher down to third on the timing sheets, with a lap time of 08:59.682 minutes At this point in the session, the three fastest drivers all happened to be some of the youngest too.

Then, yellow flags were waved for the first time this season as Muller went off at the Hatzenbach sequence of corners, head-first into the tyre barriers. Luckily the damage done to his Lynk & Co 03 TCR appeared relatively minimal, so expect to see the Frenchman back out on circuit in free practice two.

Meanwhile, things were looking much brighter for two of Muller’s Cyan Racing stablemates. In the dying moments, Engstler was dethroned from the top of the standings by a response from Ehrlacher which saw him post a lap time of 08:57.720 minutes. That would be enough to go more than a second quicker than the next fastest driver, which was now Thed Björk who had also gone faster than Engstler.

Tassi wound up as best of the Honda quartet in fourth position, four tenths of a second faster than fellow Civic TCR driver Girolami.

Mikel Azcona once again proved the pace of the Cupra Leon by going sixth fastest, narrowly ahead of Santiago Urrutia and Tiago Monteiro in seventh and eighth. Nathanaël Berthon was the best of the Audi bunch in ninth, while Muller rounded out the top ten.

Elsewhere, there was plenty of work to be done for those outside of the top ten, though as the TCR lap record stands at 8 minutes 51 seconds, we can expect the whole grid to make plenty of progress as the week progresses.

The second and final practice session gets underway later today at 19:00 CET (18:00 BST).

Session results

POS NO NAT DRIVER ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 68 Yann EHRLACHER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 4 8:57.720
2 11 Thed BJÖRK Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 4 8:58.975 1.255
3 8 Luca ENGSTLER Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR 3 8:59.103 1.383
4 9 Attila TASSI ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 3 8:59.682 1.962
5 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 3 9:00.072 2.352
6 96 Mikel AZCONA Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 3 9:00.667 2.947
7 12 Santiago URRUTIA Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 3 9:00.856 3.136
8 18 Tiago MONTEIRO ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 3 9:00.896 3.176
9 17 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 2 9:00.933 3.213
10 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 2 9:00.973 3.253
11 5 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 3 9:01.540 3.820
12 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 3 9:02.043 4.323
13 22 Frédéric VERVISCH Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 3 9:02.978 5.258
14 32 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 2 9:04.214 6.494
15 16 Gilles MAGNUS Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 3 9:05.040 7.320
16 19 Andreas BÄCKMAN Target Competition Hyundai Elantra N TCR 4 9:06.247 8.527
17 3 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 3 9:07.177 9.457
18 26 Jessica BÄCKMAN Target Competition Hyundai Elantra N TCR 4 9:12.064 14.344
19 28 Jordi GENÉ Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 2 9:12.681 14.961
20 79 Rob HUFF Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 1 9:18.702 20.982
21 55 Bence BOLDIZS Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 2 9:24.926 27.206
22 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR 0 No time N/A
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