Nathanaël Berthon was relieved to score a podium result in the opening FIA World Touring Car Cup race in Bahrain, after getting ‘the worst start of the year’.
Berthon had put his Comtoyou Racing Audi on the front row of the grid, just a tenth of a second behind Hyundai’s Mikel Azcona, earlier in the day.
But the Frenchman made a poor start and was swamped by BRC Racing’s Norbert Michelisz and Münnich Motorsport’s Néstor Girolami before also dropping behind Team Engstler’s Attila Tassi and BRC’s Nicky Catsburg at the first corner.
Berthon was back up to fourth further around the lap when he fought past Catsburg, before he breezed past Tassi on the start-finish straight.
He then picked off Girolami’s Honda with ease to claim third two laps later, although he was unable to close in on the leading Hyundais for any further progress.
Berthon was relieved to salvage a fourth podium finish of the year, citing a straight-line speed advantage in his RS3 LMS TCR.
“Where to start, eh? My worst of the year,” said Berthon. “I did a bad start of course, it was not easy. It was tough. A lot of cars everywhere – I think I was P6 at the first corner.
“So it’s good to be back on the podium from P6. I had very good straight-line speed…
“It’s not the acceleration speed, it’s after 210kph maybe the aerodynamics of the car is good. But I did two moves not in the straight, so I think it was still good.
“But the two guys close to me they were just flying. No way, no way I could compete. Not today.”
Berthon admitted that his poor start was in part down to a desire to quickly gain the advantage over Azcona when the lights went out.
“By taking risk, I did a bad start. This is it, because I knew it was at the start or nothing. It’s like that. But I’m happy to be on the podium.
“It is not easy to compete against them. But my team gave me a very strong car again, especially the first five, six, seven laps. It was really good.”
Having lost strong results due to tyre failures earlier in the season, Berthon admitted to having some nerves when he felt a late-race vibration.
“I was feeling really good and then I started to have some vibration. I have had so many issues with the tyres this year, so many points lost and podiums, so I thought not this time again please. I was just managing. I don’t think I would have caught them anyway.”