Nestor Girolami emerges from first corner carnage to win WTCR race one

Nestor Girolami took victory in the opening FIA World Touring Car Cup race of the day at Autodrom Most, leading home his team-mate Esteban Guerrieri for a Honda 1-2 finish.

It was local wildcard Petr Fulin who had pole position on this occasion though, but clutch issues meant that his getaway was slow. This resulted in a bunched-up pack of cars just behind him, which inevitably led to contact at the turn one chicane.

Norbert Michelisz hit the rear of Fulin and Yvan Muller’s cars, causing Muller to tag the rear quarter of Nathanael Berthon’s Audi, spinning it across the front of Fulin’s bonnet. Sadly for the Czech driver, both he and Berthon would go no further.

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Naturally, with the pair of them stuck in the gravel trap, the safety car was deployed. Amongst it all, the two Honda drivers had emerged out in front, with Girolami leading from Guerrieri – the latter of the two having squeezed through the carnage from ninth.

The safety car was withdrawn at the end of lap three, and Girolami managed to eke out a decent gap ahead of his team-mate. Yann Ehrlacher, meanwhile, was latched onto Guerrieri’s rear bumper.

Gilles Magnus then became the third retiree of the race. Technical gremlins that plagued his Audi on Friday appeared to strike back as his car limped its way back to the pits.

Honda’s third driver Tiago Monteiro was then dealt a drive-through penalty for a pit-lane infringement, which would see him drop down to last. Out on track meanwhile, Thed Bjork pulled over through turns eight and nine to allow Muller past for fourth.

A little further back in the field, the newly-crown TCR Europe Series champion was looking spirited. Mikel Azcona had started this reversed-grid race from tenth, but on lap six he had closed right up to Michelisz to battle for seventh.

At the halfway stage, Girolami’s lead had extended, but in the other Honda Guerrieri was coming under severe pressure from Ehrlacher behind. The Frenchman wasn’t quite within striking distance yet, but with Muller also beginning to join the queue, it felt as though it was only a matter of time.

By lap nine, the Lynk & Co train that was formed behind Guerrieri had been extended to three cars, with Bjork also now towing up behind Muller. At turn one, Ehrlacher made light contact with the Argentine’s rear bumper – nothing too malicious, but enough to let Guerrieri know that he was there.

In this latter stage of the race, the Honda was looking increasingly uncomfortable, but it was proving rather difficult throughout the field to overtake around this Autodrom Most circuit.

Attila Tassi – the fourth Honda driver – then came into the pits with a front-left puncture. Immediately, the ALL-INKL.com engineers took to their radios to warn Girolami and Guerrieri to take care of their tyres, otherwise they could succumb to a similar fate.

With three laps remaining, Girolami appeared to be nursing his tyres home, and had fallen into the clutches of the second-place battle behind. But, as had been the theme of the race, nobody could really find the space to overtake.

Further back though, Rob Huff was having a bit more joy in his attempt to climb up the order. After starting twelfth, the Brit moved up to ninth with two laps to go. Tailing Tom Coronel, the Dutchman was pressured into braking too deep into turn one, compromising his exit. Huff was then able to draw alongside on the outside line, and with better drive out of the corner snatched the position away.

In the end though, it would remain a Honda 1-2 result across the finish line, despite Ehrlacher’s best attempts to get by.

Muller came home in fourth just ahead of Bjork in fifth, but then there was a sizable gap back to Jean-Karl Vernay who was the best of the Hyundai bunch in sixth.

Azcona wasn’t able to pass Michelisz for seventh, and so the status quo remained. Huff held onto ninth meanwhile, as Coronel completed the top ten.

Race two gets underway later this afternoon at 17:10 local time (16:10 BST).

Race result

POS NO CL NAT DRIVER ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME BEST GD
1 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 15 26:36.520 1:40.057 2
2 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 15 1.060 1:40.487 9
3 68 Yann EHRLACHER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 15 1.440 1:40.521 7
4 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 15 2.061 1:40.230 3
5 11 Thed BJÖRK Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 15 2.621 1:40.365 4
6 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR 15 5.378 1:40.638 6
7 5 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 15 5.882 1:40.506 8
8 96 Mikel AZCONA Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 15 6.737 1:40.365 10
9 79 Rob HUFF Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 15 11.540 1:40.725 12
10 32 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 15 13.715 1:41.013 13
11 3 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 15 14.073 1:40.954 11
12 12 Santiago URRUTIA Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 15 14.486 1:40.920 14
13 8 Luca ENGSTLER Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR 15 15.255 1:40.913 17
14 22 Frédéric VERVISCH Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 15 16.855 1:41.109 19
15 55 Bence BOLDIZS Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 15 19.133 1:40.890 18
16 18 Tiago MONTEIRO ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 15 40.112 1:40.833 15
R 9 Attila TASSI ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 12 DNF 1:40.923 16
R 16 Gilles MAGNUS Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 6 DNF 1:40.770 20
R 222 Petr FULÍN Petr Fulín CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 0 DNF N/A 1
R 17 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 0 DNF N/A 5
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