Yann Ehrlacher remains firmly in the hunt for the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup despite a tough weekend on the streets of Vila Real, Portgual.
The Frenchman’s JAS Motorsport-built Honda Civic Type R TCR – and that of ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport team-mate James Thompson – were unable to start the opening race after sustaining huge levels of damage in an opening-lap accident triggered when the leaders collided.
The close confines of the street track meant that with nowhere to go, all but two of the 27 cars on-track suffered damage of some level and necessitated a three-hour clean-up before the race was resumed.
While Thompson’s car was sadly unfixable due to a cracked gearbox, the mechanics worked through the night without sleep and had Ehrlacher’s car fixed in time for Sunday qualifying.
Fifth on the grid and two seventh-placed finishes were a welcome reward for their efforts on a weekend when poor driving standards ruined things for many competitors.
He is second in the Drivers’ Championship while Münnich are third in the Teams’ points race.
Esteban Guerrieri, in the third Münnich car, scored the best result of the weekend for a Honda with second in Race One; his Münnich car suffering lighter damage than the others in the ‘big one’.
The Argentinian suffered a luckless Sunday. He was driven into the wall by a rival in Race Two and suffered damage to his car that was not fixable in the allotted ‘repair time’, meaning he had to start the finale from the back of the grid. He finished 13th.
Boutsen Ginion Racing’s Benjamin Lessennes continued his impressive rookie year with seventh and eighth places; his car and that of team-mate Tom Coronel both being repairable on after sustaining lighter damage than the Munnich cars in the first-lap accident on Saturday.
Coronel was on-course for a top-10 finish of his own in Race One before suffering an electrical issue. Punctures in all three Sunday sessions put paid to any hopes of a strong result.
Target Competition – the TCR Germany Champions with a Civic Type R for the past two seasons – made their WTCR debut as wildcards in Vila Real.
Driver Jose Rodrigues was disadvantaged by carrying an additional 20kg ‘wildcard weight’, making his Civic Type R the heaviest car in the field.
Race Three was his strongest as he became involved in an entertaining battle for the final point, but suffered a final-lap puncture and came home 15th.
Lubner Motorsport made their first appearance of the season in the Nurburgring Nordschleife-based VLN endurance series.
The three-man crew of Roland Schmid, Roger Vogeli and Frederic Yerly qualified third in he hotly-contested TCR class in their Civic Type R TCR and finished there too; lapping even faster in the race than they had done in practice.
Mads Fischer, JAS Motorsport TCR Project Leader, said: « This weekend we saw our customer teams at their very best; pulling a sort of mini triumph from extreme adversity; especially the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport mechanics, who worked all night to repair Yann Ehrlacher’s car and were rewarded with two points finishes that might be vital come the end of the season. Boutsen Ginion Racing and Target Competition both showed great team spirit too as they came through a tough period earlier in the weekend to deliver solid results. The reality is that it could have been even better for them, but concerning driving standards across the board have cost their drivers. When you look at how many cars have been damaged heavily this weekend, how many mechanics had to work without sleep and how many drivers were put in a risky situation across all three races, people need to calm down. Moving onto the VLN, I’m very pleased to see a strong result for the Civic Type R TCR in endurance racing. It’s Lubner Motorsport’s first VLN contest of the season and their team put on a very strong performance to show the ability of the car to be competitive in endurance trim. »