Esteban Guerrieri survived a multi-car accident to claim a hard-fought second-place finish in the first WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup race of the weekend on the streets of Vila Real.
After a delay of over two hours from the original start due to an opening-lap incident that involved over half the field, the action resumed with the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport driver slotting into second place early on and never losing his position.
His result was all the more remarkable as his Honda Civic Type R TCR had sustained significant damage in the original incident, in which his team-mates Yann Ehrlacher and James Thompson – who had started fourth and 11th – were also involved.
While the cars of Yann and James were unfortunately too heavily-damaged to take the restart and remain a doubt for tomorrow’s pair of races, the Münnich mechanics all descended on Esteban’s machine and incredibly had it race-ready.
The day’s results mean that Yann and the Münnich team lie second in the Drivers’ and Teams’ Championships while Esteban has climbed to sixth in the standings.
Boutsen Ginion Racing’s Benjamin Lessennes and Tom Coronel were lucky to survive the first-lap melee without serious damage.
Benjamin turned his 14th-place qualifying result into seventh place in the race on what was his first time competing on the Vila Real street circuit in Portugal. Tom was also on course for a top-10 finish when he was forced to stop in the pits with a faulty electrical cable.
Jose Rodrigues and Target Competition are making their WTCR debuts in a 2017-specification Civic Type R TCR.
After making strong progress into the second practice session, the Portuguese driver holed his sump guard after running over a large kerb and was forced to miss qualifying while the damage was repaired. His race lasted just a few laps as his car developed a gearbox issue.
Esteban Guerrieri #86 : « This is an incredibly emotional result for me. I don’t really know how I escaped the big accident without enormous damage, but it was still a huge job for my mechanics to fix the car for the restart. It was amazing to see them all hugging and high-fiving each other when they finished, but then I still had to get in the car and drive the restarted race, which was pretty straightforward. I’m thrilled to give this podium to the team because this really was a true team effort. I’m sure that we can make more progress tomorrow and hopefully we will have more than just my car out there. »
Yann Ehrlacher #68 : « Well it hasn’t been the greatest day of my life, but I’m OK and that’s a huge testament to the strength of the Honda Civic Type R TCR, because I was in a very heavy accident and I still don’t know if my car will be repairable for tomorrow. On the plus side, I only lost championship points to one other driver and I’m still second in the drivers’ standings. Also my mechanics did an amazing job to help Esteban’s crew get his car ready for the race; they’re an amazing team and I was proud to go to the podium to cheer on his second-place finish. »
James Thompson #15 : « It’s hugely disappointing to be involved in such a big accident that’s nothing to do with you or most of the cars involved, and even more so because my Honda took a lot of damage and I wasn’t able to make the re-start. I’m not sure if the car is repairable here or whether we’ll have to take it back to base, but I’m sure that if there’s even a glimmer of hope, the boys will do their very best to get me back on-track tomorrow. We made progress through practice and qualifying and my start was good too, so it’s promising. »
Benjamin Lessennes #6 : « I started 14th and I finished seventh, so I have to be happy with that. I did get a fair bit of damage in the first-lap accident at the front and underneath, but the team did a great job to fix the car and I’m glad I could score this result for them. It’s a little disappointing that I was fighting for fifth all race and then, on the penultimate lap I lost sixth, but it’s my first time here and after I lost all of the first practice session because of a small technical issue, it’s a pretty good result. »
Tom Coronel #9 : « I was pretty lucky to get through the big accident with nothing more than a few bits of bodywork damage, and because so many cars were not able to re-start, my 16th place in qualifying became a top-10 position. The car was working well and I was driving quite comfortably, but then I had a problem with an electrical cable, which stopped working, and I had to stop the car in the pits. The good thing is it’s quite clear where we can find the time tomorrow, so we’ll work to hone the car in these areas and I’m sure we can be further up. »
Jose Rodrigues #26 : « Today was very tough. I have the heaviest car here because the Honda is heaviest on compensation weight and I have to carry 20kg extra as a wildcard. Despite this, we made great progress and my FP2 time was faster than I went in the ETCC here last year. Unfortunately, I went over a kerb, holed the sump and had to miss qualifying while the car was repaired. We got through the first-lap crash without much damage, but then on the restart my gearbox developed an issue and I had to stop. Tomorrow, I’m sure we can continue our progress. »