WTCR : Tom Coronel secures maiden podium finish for new Audi RS 3 LMS

Tom Coronel finished third in the first of this weekend’s two races for the FIA WTCR – World Touring Car Cup at Motorland Aragón in Alcañiz in Spain. As a result, the Dutch driver secured the maiden podium finish for the new Audi RS 3 LMS that is competing in the global touring car series for the first time this year. With his Audi in DHL livery, run by Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport from Belgium, Coronel was also the best-placed privateer driver, so that he came out on top in the WTCR Trophy classification. In the second race, a technical failure forced him to retire early.

The first two race weekends of the season had revealed that the series’ organisers had probably been a little bit too cautious in their ‘balance of performance’ approach for the new Audi, because the Audi drivers were never in a position to compete for podium finishes by their own means. « I am totally confident that they will handle this in a professional way, » Tom Coronel said at the time and his confidence was rewarded, because the Audis were given a 30 kg weight break and a reduction of the minimum ride height by 10 millimetres prior to the third round of the season. These modifications paid off.

In first free practice, Coronel immediately topped the time sheets and he also came within just over a second from the fastest time in the second session. « It was clear from the very beginning that we were able to compete and that was a good feeling, » he reported. « Qualifying went really well, too: I was second-fastest in Q1 as the best-placed Audi driver. In Q2, I didn’t quite get the maximum out of it, so I ended up seventh, only one and a half tenth down on the top five. That was a pity, because otherwise, I would have made it into Q3, but now, I started fourth in the first race with reversed grid order and seventh for the second race. »

Coronel had a good getaway for the first race of the weekend. He briefly lost a position to his French teammate Berthon, but was soon able to reclaim the place and then quickly overtook Frenchman Ehrlacher as well, who then also had to let Berthon past just after that. For tactical reasons, Coronel and Berthon swapped positions twice as the race unfolded, but eventually, Coronel took the chequered flag in third place behind stalwart Gabriele Tarquini and Spaniard Mikel Azcona, securing the maiden podium result for the new Audi. « That was nice, this one is in the books, » a delighted Coronel said.

In the second race, Coronel had another good start: « A very good start, in which I moved up to sixth straight away and was able to attack for P5, but suddenly, the electronics died. Everything was off, the dashboard was black… I wasn’t able to reset or restart the engine, it was just all over, like somebody had flicked the switch. Too bad! But never mind, technical problems can happen. All in all, I am happy that we were competitive with the Audis, my teammate Vervisch won the second race, so we are now nicely in contention for the world championship as well and I have my first trophy of the season in the bag, which is nice. »

The next FIA WTCR races will be held at Adria Raceway in Italy on 1 August. On the same weekend, races for the TCR Europe Series have been scheduled at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Belgian Ardennes as well and the plan is for Coronel to participate in both events: « I will definitely be doing the first race at Spa and then fly to Venice so that I can take part in the WTCR races over there as well, » he says.

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