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John Filippi scores lights-to-flag win in opening race at Le Castellet

John Filippi scored a dominant lights-to-flag win in the opening TCR Europe race at Circuit Paul Ricard, leading a Comtoyou Racing 1-2-3-4 ahead of new team-mate Nicola Baldan.

Before the race began, there was controversy as Target Competition announced it was immediately withdrawing from the series due to discontent about the current Balance of Performance situation – reducing the field to 12 cars through the loss of Dušan Borković and Marco Butti.

When the lights went out, Frenchman Filippi assumed the lead, with fellow front-row starter Tom Coronel sluggish away from a quick change of the lights, allowing both Kobe Pauwels and Baldan past.

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Baldan held the outside line on Pauwels through Turn 1, giving the Italian the favourable line into the next corner, as Pauwels had to settle for third.

That left Dutchman Coronel in fourth, and the order at the front wouldn’t change thereafter in a processional race in the evening light in the south of France.

Filippi would go on to record his fourth outright victory in TCR Europe, and his second of the season, by just over a second from Baldan, who is returning to the series after the opening round when he raced with a different outfit.

“It feels great – I missed this victory in 2020 with the Hyundai i30 when I started on pole and finished third,” said Filippi. “But now it’s like I’ve corrected something from the past – it’s unbelievable!

“I would say that this season is amazing, everything is going well with the team and with the car. I am always happy to jump in and do my best and especially here because I like this circuit a lot.

“Honestly, it was not easy; I saw Nicola behind me after the start and I was completely surprised. I was expecting to fight very hard with my teammates, but he arrived behind me and made me push hard.

“It was not an easy win for sure, since I had to push really hard to keep the gap to make sure he couldn’t pass me. He had nothing to lose and I needed this victory for the championship and I was worried that it would be too much of a risk if he passed me.”

Pauwels completed the podium – his third in a row and sixth of the season in TCR Europe – but was unable to keep to within a second of Baldan.

After his sluggish start, Coronel couldn’t come back at the leading trio and brought his Audi home in fourth, a further half second back.

No one could keep pace with the dominant Audis at the front, and fifth-placed Aurélien Comte was the best of the rest, the SP Compétition CUPRA racer almost ten seconds adrift of race winner Filippi.

ALM Motorsport’s ruben Volt was sixth in his Honda, although the Estonian racer had dropped behind Comtoyou’s Viktor Davidovski on the opening lap before gaining the place back on lap six.

Davidovski took the chequered flag in seventh, ahead of Volcano Motorsport’s Lewis Brown in eighth. The Brit had an uneventful race and finished where he started – although he had earlier qualified in sixth before being handed a two-place grid penalty for making a practice start in qualifying.

The top ten was completed by the now sole Hyundai Elantra N of Levente Losonczy for Aggressive Team Italia, and the Lynk & Co of MA:GP’s Viktor Andersson, the duo having swapped places at the start of the race.

Rookie Sacha Bottemanne retired his CUPRA on the opening lap following contact with the Audi of Daniel Tkachenko, which later resulted in the Ukrainian also retiring. Tkachenko later received a formal reprimand for the incident.

Filippi’s win moves him up to second overall in the drivers’ championship standings, with Coronel leading on 327 points ahead of Filippi (299), Pauwels (278), Borković (190) and Davidovski (177).

Race results

1 27 John FILIPPI Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR II 10 22:27.672 2:13.991 1
2 8 Nicola BALDAN Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR II 10 1.141 2:14.014 4
3 22 Kobe PAUWELS Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR II 10 2.755 2:13.954 3
4 34 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR II 10 3.222 2:13.904 2
5 76 Aurélien COMTE SP Competition CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 10 9.960 2:14.311 5
6 127 Ruben VOLT ALM Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FL5 TCR 10 13.822 2:14.723 6
7 11 Viktor DAVIDOVSKI Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR II 10 17.531 2:14.950 7
8 39 Lewis BROWN Volcano Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS TCR II 10 18.329 2:14.968 8
9 264 Levente LOSONCZY Aggressive Team Italia Hyundai Elantra N TCR 10 23.512 2:15.595 10
10 10 Viktor ANDERSSON MA:GP Lynk & Co 03 TCR 10 33.665 2:16.919 9
R 7 Daniel TKACHENKO Volcano Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS TCR II 6 DNF 2:16.105 13
R 78 Sacha BOTTEMANNE SP Competition CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 0 DNF N/A 14
WD 18 Marco BUTTI Target Competition Hyundai Elantra N TCR DNS N/A 12
WD 62 Dušan BORKOVIĆ Target Competition Hyundai Elantra N TCR DNS N/A 11
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