Jean-Karl Vernay was relieved to claim his second FIA World Touring Car Cup victory of the season at Pau-Arnos in France, picking up his best points haul since the season opener to move up to second in the standings.
Vernay had qualified his Hyundai Elantra in second for the main race on Sunday, and having finished race one in sixth, after gaining two places, he made further progress in race two.
Vernay leapfrogged pole-sitter Yvan Muller at the start, and then led the duration of the race to claim victory by a second and a half from his fellow Frenchman.
The Frenchman admitted that he had seen that as his best opportunity for the win, knowing the weakness of the Cyan Racing drivers in getting away from the line.
“It was a good day overall,” said Vernay. “A lot of points. Since the Nürburgring, we didn’t score as many points as this weekend, so it’s pretty good.
“We saw the Lynk & Cos were struggling in race one at the start so we said ‘OK, that was the only occasion, let’s say, to have a shot at Yvan’ and it happened.
“I’m definitely really happy and I really tried to push the first few laps to make a gap. The car was reacting really well and then it was just a question of taking care of the car and front tyres, making no mistakes because as soon as you have a lack of concentration you can go a little bit wide and make mistakes or have punctures.
“It was a long race, especially with the safety car on the last lap. You never know what can happen when the safety car comes in. Overall, it was a good race.
Vernay admitted that last weekend he could have scored more but for a technical issue with his car during the weekend in the Czech Republic.
“In Hungary definitely we made a mistake. And at Most, overall the weekend was pretty good, we just had an issue on the car – we broke the anti-rollbar and the guys tried to do everything they could on the grid, but we were put in the car just too late and we were penalised for that.
“So we lost eight points – it’s a lot. But it’s like this, and now we are looking forward to the last two events and we’ll see. But at least we are back in the fight.”
The 33-year-old is now 16 points behind series leader Yann Ehrlacher, and he joked that the next round at Adria in Italy might even be more of a ‘home’ race as the circuit is closer to his home.
“[Adria] is maybe more my home race than here! It’s closer to my house. We’ll see; it’s difficult to have an idea really.
“We were testing there during the winter. It’s a very slow track. We’ll see if there is an opportunity to overtake.
“Qualifying for sure will be really important and now there is two events. Everybody will be pushing hard and we’ll see.”