Gabriele Tarquini took a lights-to-flag victory in the first FIA World Touring Car Cup race of the day, in what was a relatively subdued race at Motorland Aragon.
Tarquini led the field away from the reversed-grid pole position, and managed to get to turn one ahead of Mikel Azcona thanks to typically good start from the Italian.
Behind, however, Yann Ehrlacher had a swarm of Audi drivers on his bumper, with the first of them – Tom Coronel – attempting a move for third through turns eight and nine which didn’t quite materialise in the end.
However, as Tarquini and Azcona sped away at the front, it seemed like only a matter of time before Ehrlacher’s defences would be breached. In fact, as Gilles Magnus made progress up the order to get by Norbert Michelisz, Ehrlacher now had a trio of rapid Audi RS3s glued to his tail.
With less straight-line speed available to him, Ehrlacher eventually had to concede defeat towards the end of lap two. Coronel took to the outside line at turn sixteen, which then gave him the inside for the penultimate bend to go up into third.
Plus, as Ehrlacher’s pace was now compromised, Nathanael Berthon took the opportunity to drag alongside him down the start-finish straight, giving the Frenchman the inside line to pass his compatriot for fourth place on the inside of turn one.
Further back, the Cyan Racing stablemates Yvan Muller and Santiago Urrutia had ended up running side-by-side through the final few corners on lap three. As a result, Luca Engstler also managed to close up, making it a three-wide battle for eleventh heading back round into turn one.
In the end, Muller and Engstler went slightly too deep into the corner, allowing Urrutia to regain twelfth from Engstler, but it wasn’t quite enough for the Uruguayan to complete his original attempt at overtaking Muller.
There was further strife to be had for the fourth Cyan Racing driver as well. Thed Bjork was struggling with similar pace woes in his Lynk & Co, and so Frederic Vervisch swept by him for eighth place at turn one – an area which was proving to be an overtaking hotspot.
Magnus then did his best to replicate Coronel’s outside pass on Ehrlacher at turn sixteen, but this time Cyan Racing’s lead man managed to keep the door shut.
In fact, as it turned out, it was Magnus who would have to do the defending on the following lap, as Michelisz sent his Hyundai down the inside line heading into that very same corner. Once again though, the car in front managed to fend off the car behind.
Further up the order, Berthon had been posting much faster lap times than team-mate Coronel, and by lap seven the Frenchman had passed the Dutchman for the final step on the podium.
On the final lap, Vervisch launched an attack on Michelisz for seventh place at the inside of turn eight. Slight contact ensued but both cars survived, and from then on the Belgian appeared to settle for eighth.
In the lead though, Tarquini had enjoyed a comfortable run to victory without ever having to put up with much of a threat from Azcona, who will be relatively pleased nevertheless to take his first podium of the season in second place.
Berthon conceded third place back to Coronel at the line, having been unable to get ahead of Azcona’s CUPRA, suggesting that Coronel had stepped aside for Berthon’s earlier pass on the Dutchman.
Ehrlacher did manage to fend off Magnus for the entirety of the race to bring his Lynk & Co home in fifth position, and with that, the reigning champion climbs up to second place in the points standings.
Behind Magnus, Michelisz crossed the line in seventh having fought off the attack from Vervisch, while Jean-Karl Vernay finished in ninth. The Frenchman had served a three-place grid drop in this race after having been penalised for impeding Coronel in qualifying. However, the handful of points gained for ninth place ensured that Vernay would keep his overall lead in the championship standings, though his advantage had now been reduced to just four points.
Bjork rounded out the top ten, leading home a three-car Lynk & Co train with Muller and Urrutia behind him in eleventh and twelfth respectively.
Further back, Esteban Guerrieri battled against the Balance of Performance to haul his Honda up into fifteenth, and with that scored a single point.
Compounding that team’s woes, Attila Tassi crossed the line in eighteenth – a disastrous result for the driver who entered this event as Vernay’s closest points rival.
Tiago Monteiro didn’t fare much better either, crossing the line in dead last – 21st position – after having to serve a drive-through penalty for an incorrect starting procedure. Rob Huff, meanwhile, was the only non-finisher in this race after his CUPRA succumbed to a technical issue.
The second race of the day will see Vervisch line up on pole, with Bjork alongside him on the front row after the pair treated fans to an epic qualifying duel yesterday. The cars will be back in action later this afternoon at 13:15 local time (12:15 BST).
|1||3||Gabriele TARQUINI||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||10||21:23.928||2:07.023||1|
|2||96||Mikel AZCONA||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||10||1.880||2:07.314||2|
|3||32||Tom CORONEL||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||10||8.455||2:07.383||4|
|4||17||Nathanaël BERTHON||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||10||9.531||2:07.562||5|
|5||68||Yann EHRLACHER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||10||10.416||2:08.267||3|
|6||16||Gilles MAGNUS||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||10||10.578||2:08.119||7|
|7||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||10||11.410||2:08.140||6|
|8||22||Frédéric VERVISCH||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||10||12.161||2:08.501||10|
|9||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||10||13.263||2:08.543||9|
|10||11||Thed BJÖRK||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||10||14.132||2:08.369||8|
|11||100||Yvan MULLER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||10||15.416||2:08.680||11|
|12||12||Santiago URRUTIA||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||10||16.360||2:08.528||13|
|13||8||Luca ENGSTLER||Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||10||18.560||2:08.550||12|
|14||28||Jordi GENÉ||Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||10||23.580||2:08.649||14|
|15||86||Esteban GUERRIERI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||10||24.248||2:08.793||16|
|16||55||Bence BOLDIZS||Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||10||25.622||2:09.289||18|
|17||19||Andreas BÄCKMAN||Target Competition||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||10||26.036||2:09.241||17|
|18||9||Attila TASSI||ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||10||27.051||2:09.423||22|
|19||29||Néstor GIROLAMI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||10||29.161||2:09.989||21|
|20||26||Jessica BÄCKMAN||Target Competition||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||10||35.835||2:09.863||19|
|21||18||Tiago MONTEIRO||ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||10||49.603||2:09.468||20|
|R||79||Rob HUFF||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||7||DNF||2:08.601||15|