Following the misfortunes of Jean-Karl Vernay during qualifying, which saw him get badly inconvenienced by the stewards, Yann Ehrlacher has now extended his championship lead to 26 points over his compatriot.
From the get-go, the Cyan Racing Lynk & Co team looked rapid, and as such Ehrlacher was able to score maximum points in both of the points-paying phases of qualifying. Vernay, meanwhile, failed to score any, and will now start both of Sunday’s races from thirteenth on the grid in his Hyundai.
However, after the session, Ehrlacher was keen to point out that he doesn’t view his points advantage as a license to play it safe from now on. Instead, the reigning champion appears more motivated than ever to go for race victories and big results.
“We are leading at the moment. We are getting closer and closer to the end, but I am full of motivation,” he said. “I want to be on pole and I want to win races still, almost whatever it takes I will do it to win and take pole. I will not manage it [the points situation] until the end.
“I will not do crazy and stupid things, that’s for sure, but I will just go for it.”
Ehrlacher was also full of praise for his Cyan Racing mechanics, as the Lynk & Co 03 TCR has looked like the benchmark car all day.
“Qualifying is never perfect, but it was quite close to being perfect today,” he said. “With ten points in the bag for us, that Q3 lap was good, and when you go for one lap it’s always quite interesting to push to the limit and get the best out of the car and of yourself.
“So we did pretty well today, and the team did a very good job to provide me with such a good car on a track where we have never raced before, so congrats and thanks to them as well.”
Indeed, the new-look 2021 version of Adria Raceway is a fresh challenge for everyone, and Ehrlacher expects there to be fireworks on a circuit as tight and twisty as this one.
“With the competitive field we have in WTCR, you don’t need any special track to have tough races,” he said. “For sure, here it can be tough maybe for the first two laps, and then at the end if you don’t manage your tyre well you will struggle.
“But I don’t think there is any special thing here, for sure it will be tight and full of intensity from the beginning like always. So we just need to be ready to prepare a good set-up for tomorrow.”
Looking at the wider championship perspective meanwhile, the poor qualifying result of Vernay may force Ehrlacher to pay closer attention to certain other title challengers instead. Esteban Guerrieri flew largely under the radar for Honda today, but a front row grid spot for tomorrow’s reverse-grid race could see the Argentine close the points gap somewhat.
Plus, 35 points behind Ehrlacher, Frederic Vervisch will also be looking to make inroads for Audi. In the end, it may be the Belgian who proves to be his fiercest rival, having qualified in second place for tomorrow’s feature race, within striking distance of the polesitter.
“He is a big threat,” Ehrlacher said of Vervisch. “He was quick this weekend, he was constantly quick at the last few events. So he is a threat, and for sure I will need to push myself to the limit to keep him behind tomorrow and to win the race. It will be like this until the end of the season I think.”