Yann Ehrlacher battled to a pair of top-10 finishes on the streets of Vila Real to keep himself in contention for the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup.
The Frenchman and his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport team-mates Esteban Guerrieri and James Thompson were innocent victims of a major opening-lap incident on Saturday that involved nearly the entire 27-car grid.
While Esteban’s car was able to take Saturday’s re-started race, the Honda Civic Type R TCRs of Yann and James looked beyond repair.
Incredible work overnight by the German team miraculously returned Yann’s car to near-showroom condition, enabling him to qualify fifth and finish the day’s two races in seventh; results that keep him second in the championship at the season’s midway point.
After finishing second on Saturday, Esteban’s car suffered a mechanical issue in qualifying that restricted him to 19th on the grid.
Having been put into the wall in Race Two by another driver, the Argentinian had to start Race Three from the back and came home 13th; the allowed ‘repair time’ not being sufficient to fix the damage to the left-front corner. James’ car was unfortunately too-badly damaged to fix on-site.
Belgian teenager Benjamin Lessennes scored a fine eighth place in Race Three for Boutsen Ginion Racing.
Having started 12th, he took his joker lap early. His team’s canny strategy paid off as several safety-car periods meant that the majority of the field were forced to wait until the final lap, which gained him four places in one go.
Team-mate Tom Coronel showed top-six pace in morning qualifying, but was unlucky to suffer front punctures in Q1 and both races, which ended his chances of adding to his points total.
Portuguese wildcard Jose Rodrigues kept his nose clean as attrition levels were high. Driving an older-spec Civic Type R TCR, the Target Competition racer qualified 23rd and finished Race Two in 16th place.
He was on the verge of a points-scoring top-10 finish in Race Three when he sustained a last-lap front puncture, which put him in the wall. Although he did not cross the finish line, he was classified in 15th spot.
The next WTCR round takes place at the Slovakia Ring near Bratislava, on July 13-14.
Yann Ehrlacher #68 : « I cannot even begin to describe how amazing the mechanics are in this team. The worked all night without sleep and got my car ready for today’s races. It was a fast car too and if I hadn’t made a mistake on my Q3 lap, I could have been on the front row. Two seventh places could be very important for the championship, because it could easily have been two non-starts today. I’m second in the points and we have a fast car, so there’s every reason to stay optimistic for the next event in Slovakia. »
Esteban Guerrieri #86 : « Yesterday we had a great result with a podium, but today didn’t go so well. A couple of little mechanical issues in qualifying left me 19th and put me in fightback mode for the Races. Unfortunately, in Race Two, Frederic Vervisch made a completely amateur move and simply drove me into the wall. The car had too much damage to fix without breaking Parc Ferme and that meant I started last in Race Three. From there, it’s impossible to recover. »
Benjamin Lessennes #63 : « I feel pretty good about today. On the one hand, I missed the reversed-grid pole by just two hundredths of a second, but I did the maximum possible with the car in that session. In Race Two I was battling with Nathanael Berthon on the first lap and he came across on me way too late and we had contact, which put me out. In Race Three I went from 12th to eighth because we made a great call on the joker lap strategy, and I have to thank my team for that. »
Tom Coronel #9 : « It’s been a frustrating day. I had a front puncture in qualifying, so I hit the wall and had to start at the back. Then I got front punctures in both of the races, which made a good result possible. It’s a real shame because in Q1 the car was extremely fast. I lost a couple of laps because of minor track-limit violations, but my best lap would have put me in Q2 with a top-six time and that speed was genuine as well. »
Jose Rodrigues #26 : « What a day! I’ve raced here five times now, and that final race today was by far the toughest I’ve had. The heat was incredible and my car is heavier and less powerful than anything else here due to the compensation weight, wildcard weight and BoP, but despite this, I think I could have points in Race Three because I was up from 24th to 12th and keeping pace with Tom Coronel and Esteban Guerrieri. Unfortunately, I got a puncture and hit the wall, but I’m so pleased with the job we’ve done as a team today in the circumstances. »
Dominik Greiner – Team Manager : « Today’s results were only possible because of the incredible effort that the entire team made to get Yann’s car ready. They didn’t sleep and they worked all night and those two seventh places might be the most important results of the year when we get to the crunch time for the championship. They’re superhuman and deserve all the credit. Unfortunately, James’s car wasn’t repairable, and Esteban had some misfortune too, but we’re still in the hunt and we’ll bounce back in Slovakia. »
Olivia Boutsen – Team Manager : « It’s been a very hectic weekend, but Benjamin has come through very well with a strong eighth position in Race Three. We had some luck because the number of safety cars in Race Three meant that our joker-lap strategy worked perfectly, but it was also our decision to get him to take it when he did, and that paid off. It’s a real shame that the punctures stopped Tom from scoring the points that he deserved, because he had strong pace today. »
Andreas Gummerer – Team Principal : « In the circumstances, today’s race results were OK. It was incredibly tough on track with the temperatures and with a lot of hard racing, so Jose did a good job to be classified in both races. We made some improvements overnight and they definitely made things better today. The reality is we have the oldest car here and the BoP and compensation weight also makes it the heaviest, so keeping up with some of the other cars was a big challenge. It was an interesting experience to come here as a wildcard entrant. »
Mads Fischer – TCR Project Leader, JAS Motorsport : « Today showed what incredible levels of team spirit exist within our customer WTCR teams. The Münnich team did an amazing job to fix Yann’s car and Boutsen Ginion Racing have also done a very good job to get both cars on-track today. Yann is still in the hunt and I’m sure the Civic Type R TCR will be competitive when we get to Slovakia next month. I think this weekend we’ve seen a lot of cars take a lot of damage and I’d like to see less contact in races from now on, because nobody benefits when these kinds of weekends happen. »
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