Esteban Guerrieri recorded the seventh WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup podium finish for the Honda Civic Type R TCR in the first of three races at Ningbo International Speedpark on Saturday.
Starting fourth, the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport driver produced a sensational first half-lap to climb to second and then held his position commandingly for the remainder of the 13-lap race in China.
His team-mate Yann Ehrlacher was set to move up from 11th on the grid to sixth in the final minute of qualifying, only for a late red flag to force him to call off his effort. After being hit several times at the start, he was only 15th at the end of the first lap.
The Frenchman set about a series of impressive overtaking moves to climb to eighth by the chequered flag; his race establishing a pattern nearly replicated by new team-mate – and front-wheel-drive debutant – Timo Scheider.
Timo, a two-time DTM champion, climbed to 11th by the chequered flag and notably passed two cars in the same corner during the first half of the race.
Münnich remain third in the Teams’ Championship with Yann and Esteban fifth and seventh in the Drivers’ points table.
After starting 22nd, Boutsen Ginion Racing’s Tom Coronel made some courageous moves on the opening lap to avoid the midfield contact and climb to 15th in his Civic Type R TCR.
He made up one more spot before half-distance and looked set to hold on to it before suffering a slow right-front puncture, which dropped him a place in the final sequence of corners.
Team-mate Ma Qinghua, on his WTCR debut, made good early progress from 17th, but was hit several times midway during the opening laps and suffered damaged suspension.
The Chinese racer managed to keep his car on-track and finished the race 19th; closing in on a long train of cars headed by the puncture-stricken Coronel on the last lap.
Esteban Guerrieri #86 : « This is a very good result to start the weekend. In practice and qualifying we’ve always been around fourth, fifth or sixth place, but we knew there was some extra pace to be unlocked. We changed a few things after qualifying and I made a good start to move up to second on the first lap. Those were the two keys. I could hang on to the tail of the leader early on, but over the full race distance this wasn’t possible. It’s a good positive result, but we’ll try to improve things again for tomorrow’s two races. »
Yann Ehrlacher #68 : « I started 11th and I finished eighth. It doesn’t sound great when you’re trying to get every point you can for the championship, but when you see that I got hit a few times on the first lap and dropped back to 15th, I’m pleased with my performance to finish eighth and make five proper overtaking moves at a track where that’s not easy. Without the red flag in qualifying, I’m confident I’d have started next to Esteban, so that was maybe a podium race that we’ve missed through an unfortunate circumstance this morning that had nothing to do with us. »
Timo Scheider #42 : « After starting 18th, I’m pretty happy to end my front-wheel-drive debut in 11th, although a point would have been really sweet. The gap between myself and my team-mates was a bit too big in practice and qualifying, so I’m really pleased to pull some of that back in the race. Yann got a bit bashed up by some other drivers so I let him pass me to help the team. I’m pleased with a couple of the moves I made and the tyres were still good at the end, so I think the set-up changes we made after qualifying really worked. »
Tom Coronel #9 : « I had a pretty good start and went from 21st to about 15th when so many cars in front of me started hitting each other all over the place. I passed Kevin Ceccon, which was a good move. It was tough to run at a constant pace and I had a few cars lining up behind me, but I was pretty confident I could keep them behind me. Then with a lap-and-a-half to go I had a slow puncture, which got worse over the rest of the race. I don’t know how I managed to finish, but I got it to the line. »
Qinghua Ma #55 : « It was a tough race. I was hit about four or five times on the first lap through the middle section by many different drivers, who all seemed to want to use me as a brake. That left me with some damage to the suspension – I could hear a ‘tut tut tut’ noise from the corner of the car all the race, but that damage had a big effect on the pace I could run. I was able to catch up with the few cars ahead of me towards the end, but the damage was done early on. »
Dominik Greiner – Team Manager : « I’m extremely pleased for Esteban to take a great result with second place; his first podium since Vila Real, and I have to congratulate the team for unlocking the potential of his car since qualifying. I think Yann would have been up there too had we not had the red flag this morning when he was about to make a big improvement. Timo’s had a very good first race and was very close to scoring a point on his debut; it’s promising for tomorrow. »
Olivia Boutsen – Team Manager : « It’s been a tough day for both of our drivers. Points were the target, but we knew this would be a big challenge after qualifying. Tom made an amazing start and made up nearly 10 places, but was very unlucky to get the puncture. Ma Qinghua had a difficult race trying to handle a car that took some big hits on the first lap and had some rear-end damage that affected his pace. We’ll aim for better tomorrow. »
Mads Fischer – TCR Project Leader, JAS Motorsport : « I’m very pleased with the result by Esteban, which shows what a great job the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport team did after qualifying with the Honda Civic Type R TCR. It’s a shame for Yann that he was forced off on the first lap, because without that he might have finished a couple of places higher. I thought all three Münnich drivers made some very good overtaking moves as they each finished the race. Ma Qinghua wasn’t so happy with the rough driving in the midfield, but he’s gained more experience of the track and this can only be a help tomorrow. »
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