Benjamin Lessennes scored a strong fifth place on the first day of WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup racing at the Slovakia Ring near Bratislava.
The Belgian started third on the partially-reversed grid and, after losing positions at the start, made up several places during the first half of the race to take his third top-five finish of 2018 for Boutsen Ginion Racing. He climbed from 23rd on the Race-One grid to 20th by the chequered flag.
His team-mate Tom Coronel started Race One from a season’s-best sixth place after an impressive run in qualifying and followed that up with seventh in the race – equalling his best result of 2018.
Unfortunately, a damper issue on the Race Two formation lap prevented him from taking the start and adding to his points total for the day.
ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport driver Yann Ehrlacher maintained his third place in the Drivers’ Championship with a hard-fought sixth place in Race One.
The Frenchman agonisingly missed out on a spot in Q2 later in the day by just three hundredths of a second, meaning he qualified 13th. From there, he made up three positions to finish Race Two in 10th.
His team-mate Esteban Guerrieri was an impressive third-fastest in qualifying, which put him eighth on Race Two’s partially-reversed grid. After being forced to race with his qualifying set-up, he found the balance of the Civic Type R TCR was not ideal and finished ninth.
In the earlier race, which he started from sixth, opening-lap contact from a rival driver broke a left-rear toe-link and necessitated a pitstop for repairs, which dropped him out of contention.
The results from Race Two remain provisional pending the result of protests lodged by ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport and Boutsen Ginion Racing against exclusion from Saturday qualifying due to what were deemed to be incorrect boost pressures on all three cars.
Benjamin Lessennes #63 : « Fifth place is a strong result; one of the best I’ve achieved in the WTCR. Of course, when you start third, you’re aiming for the podium and it’s a bit disappointing that I couldn’t achieve this. I was pushed out wide at the first corner, lost a lot of momentum and dropped four places, so that made the challenge a bit bigger. I was able to overtake two cars in one lap, manage my tyres so I still had grip at the end, and find a good balance. In Race One, starting from 23rd meant points were never going to be achievable, but I made up some places and we found some useful steps we could take for qualifying and Race Two. »
Tom Coronel #9 : « Sixth place is my best qualifying position of the season and seventh in Race One equals my best finish in 2018 too. Right from FP1, when I was fastest, the balance of the car and the speed has felt like a step forward from previous races, which is very positive. In second qualifying I focused on getting good corner exits and probably wasn’t aggressive enough on the entries. I lost some time and with the session being so tight, I ended up 18th. Then I had a clip come out of a damper on the warm-up lap and couldn’t start the race. Tomorrow’s another day and I’m looking forward to it. »
Yann Ehrlacher #68 : « I was hoping for more from today, but sixth and 10th still means I’ve scored enough points to keep me third in the championship. Qualifying was pretty unlucky. I had cars either get in my way or make a mistake right in front of me on each of my fast laps, which meant I lost the chance to improve. Even then, my Q1 lap was only one tenth off fourth place, and I ended up 13th! It was hard to overtake on the track because in the conditions we’re in currently, there are some cars with some very high top speeds, and these are tough to race against. »
Esteban Guerrieri #86 : « The Honda was extremely strong in qualifying trim. I felt confident to push all the time and a spot on the second row is exactly what was needed, so that’s good for tomorrow’s race. In Race One I was really unlucky because I had some contact on the first lap that broke my left-rear toe-link and that was that, so we lost the chance to see what the car was like running in the pack. When I was right behind another car, the loss of downforce really affected the balance and it wasn’t possible to make any progress. »
Olivia Boutsen – Team Manager : « We’ve scored a fifth and a seventh place today, which is pretty good points for the team and for Benjamin and Tom. Benjamin lost track time in practice, so to have this level of pace today shows what a good job he’s done with his crew. I think with two more laps, he would have been even higher up in Race Two because he’d kept his tyres in a much better condition than the cars ahead of him. I’m sorry that Tom couldn’t start Race 3, because he showed good pace in Race One to equal his best finish of the season. »
Dominik Greiner – Team Manager : « Pace-wise, we’re pretty pleased with what the cars were capable of today. Esteban’s qualifying performance was very strong. Unfortunately, because we only got the car back from Parc Ferme 15 minutes before the pre-grid, we were not able to change his set-up and this affected his race performance. Yann’s sixth place was strong this morning in Race One and he finished three places higher than he started Race Two, which is also good progress. We look forward to tomorrow. »
Mads Fischer – TCR Project Leader, JAS Motorsport : « The performance of the cars this weekend has been solid and some useful points have been scored. Both teams have worked incredibly hard to find extra pace, Esteban did a very good job to qualify third for tomorrow’s third race, and I’m particularly happy to see Tom Coronel get his best qualifying result of the year. In the conditions we’re facing this weekend, some cars are much faster than we’re used to seeing and this has affected the results the Honda Civic Type R TCR could achieve today. »