CUPRA’s reigning PURE ETCR champion Mattias Ekström collected the most points on the opening day of the FIA ETCR eTouring Car World Cup on the streets of Pau in France.
Ekström collected the most points thanks to qualifying fastest in his side of the draw, and then going on to win his Quarter Final later in the day – although it was a formality as his rivals had clashed at the first corner.
The new format for ETCR in 2022 sees the weekend’s competitive action start with qualifying, where drivers take to the track for two sessions.
The top three from the combined times then go into the first Quarter Final, with the bottom three going into the second Quarter Final against each other.
Points are awarded in qualifying, as well as the subsequent heats, meaning the top time is about more than starting position or which competitors a driver is up against.
In Pool Fast, Hyundai’s Jean-Karl Vernay secured the fastest lap with an effort of 1 minute 23.605 seconds, ahead of CUPRA’s Adrien Tambay and Tom Blomqvist, pitting the three drivers against each other in their first Quarter Final.
Pool Furious saw Ekström put his CUPRA at the top of the times with his 1:21.530 effort, although the first session was interrupted by a crash for CUPRA’s Jordi Gené at the same spot where Thed Björk later binned his car in WTCR qualifying.
That ruled the Spaniard out, whilst Hyundai’s Kevin Ceccon also missed out on a time in the first session. In the end Ekström was fastest in the combined times, half a second ahead of Hyundai’s Mikel Azcona and Romeo Ferraris’ Giovanni Venturini.
Pool Fast Qualifying 1
|1||10||Tom BLOMQVIST||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||3||1:22.626||–|
|2||27||Adrien TAMBAY||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||3||1:22.789||0.163|
|3||25||Luca FILIPPI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||3||1:23.119||0.493|
|4||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||3||1:23.147||0.521|
|5||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||3||1:23.605||0.979|
|6||36||Maxime MARTIN||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||3||1:53.171||30.545|
Pool Fast Qualifying 2
|1||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||3||1:21.935||–|
|2||27||Adrien TAMBAY||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||3||1:21.953||0.018|
|3||10||Tom BLOMQVIST||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||3||1:21.974||0.039|
|4||36||Maxime MARTIN||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||3||1:22.467||0.532|
|5||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||3||1:22.726||0.791|
|6||25||Luca FILIPPI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||3||1:23.055||1.120|
Pool Furious Qualifying 1
|1||1||Mattias EKSTRÖM||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||2||1:21.530||–|
|2||7||Bruno SPENGLER||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||2||1:22.155||0.625|
|3||21||Giovanni VENTURINI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||2||1:22.509||0.979|
|4||96||Mikel AZCONA||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||2||1:22.709||1.179|
|5||28||Jordi GENÉ||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||1||No time||N/A|
|6||31||Kevin CECCON||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||2||No time||N/A|
Pool Furious Qualifying 2
|1||1||Mattias EKSTRÖM||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||2||1:21.282||–|
|2||96||Mikel AZCONA||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||2||1:21.784||0.502|
|3||21||Giovanni VENTURINI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||2||1:22.120||0.838|
|4||7||Bruno SPENGLER||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||2||1:22.280||0.998|
|5||31||Kevin CECCON||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||2||1:22.333||1.051|
|6||28||Jordi GENÉ||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||0||No time||N/A|
Quarter Finals – Pool Fast
The first Quarter Final looked to be a walkover for the Hyundai Veloster of Vernay, who romped clear at the start and initially won the heat from CUPRA’s Blomqvist.
But the Frenchman was later excluded from the result for running a power level higher than the maximum allowed.
That discrepancy comes from the fact that the cars have two power modes – 300 kW and 500 kW, and that Vernay should have been running in 300 kW in the heat, with boost taking him up to 500 kW in short bursts.
His exclusion handed the win and points to Blomqvist and promoted Tambay, who lost out at the start to his team-mate, to second.
Quarter Final 2 was a routine affair, with Romeo Ferraris’ Maxime Martin winning from the pole position, over a second ahead of Hyundai’s ETCR rookie Norbert Michelisz and the second Romeo Ferraris’ Giulia of Luca Filippi.
Pool Fast Quarter Final 1
|1||10||Tom BLOMQVIST||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||3||4:17.857||1:23.894||3|
|2||27||Adrien TAMBAY||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||3||0.424||1:23.904||2|
|EX||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||3||EXC||1:24.162||1|
Pool Fast Quarter Final 2
|1||36||Maxime MARTIN||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||3||4:20.273||1:24.088||1|
|2||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||3||1.348||1:24.478||2|
|3||25||Luca FILIPPI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||3||3.020||1:24.547||3|
Quarter Finals – Pool Furious
In Quarter Final 1, Mattias Ekström, Mikel Azcona and Giovanni Venturini all made strong starts and went three abreast towards Turn 1.
But as Ekström edged Azcona over, the left-rear wheel of the Spaniard’s Hyundai made contact with the front-right of Venturini’s Alfa Romeo, breaking the latter’s suspension.
Azcona continued in the lead for just one corner, as he then had to slow due to the puncture on his left-rear.
That gave Ekström an unchallenged run to the win, with Azcona finishing a lap down after a pitstop whilst Venturini stopped on track.
“I had slightly the front position and just before turning into the corner I received contact on the rear wheel which caused me a puncture at the rear,” explained Azcona. “It could be worse, because I saved the car, so at least we have the points for second.”
Kevin Ceccon made a poor start when the barriers opened at the start of Quarter Final 2, with Romeo Ferraris’ Bruno Spenger assuming the lead.
The Canadian opened up a lead on the opening lap, but lost out on lap two, allowing Jordi Gené’s CUPRA to close in on the tail of the Alfa Romeo.
All three were nose-to-tail on the final lap, but finding a way past at Pau is a tricky affair, and Spengler held on to win his heat ahead of Gené and Ceccon.
Pool Furious Quarter Final 1
|1||1||Mattias EKSTRÖM||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||3||4:39.120||1:29.491||1|
|2||96||Mikel AZCONA||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||2||+ 1 LAP||N/A||2|
|R||21||Giovanni VENTURINI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||0||DNF||N/A||3|
Pool Furious Quarter Final 2
|1||7||Bruno SPENGLER||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||3||4:24.177||1:25.408||1|
|2||28||Jordi GENÉ||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||3||0.625||1:25.179||3|
|3||31||Kevin CECCON||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||3||1.123||1:25.008||2|
Ekström leads the standings at the end of the day with 35 points after topping all of his sessions, ahead of Blomqvist(29), who won his heat but wasn’t fastest in his qualifying, and Tambay and Azcona in joint third on 27 points.
Track action resume on Sunday with the Pool Fast Semi Finals commencing at 08:05 CEST (07:05 BST). The first SuperFinal gets underway at 14:16 CEST (13:16 BST).