Event preview: Super six all set for Sochi WTCR title showdown

Six drivers remain in the hunt to become the King of WTCR for 2021 as the all-action, wide-open fourth WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup season heads for its climax at Sochi Autodrom in Russia next week (November 26-28).

Yann Ehrlacher, the reigning King of WTCR following his 2020 title triumph for Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, tops the provisional standings by 36 points as the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader. But with a maximum of 60 up for grabs at the inaugural WTCR VTB Race of Russia, the outcome is far from settled with two races remaining.

Comtoyou Team Audi Sport’s Frédéric Vervisch and Honda-powered Esteban Guerrieri (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport) trail Frenchman Ehrlacher by 36 and 37 points respectively, while Lynk & Co-equipped Cyan pair Santiago Urrutia and Yvan Muller, Ehrlacher’s four-time FIA World Touring Car Cup title-winning uncle, are also in contention.

Jean-Karl Vernay is not out of the fight either but with a 55-point deficit to Ehrlacher, the Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team driver faces a tall order to take the title. Nevertheless, the gap between second and sixth is only 19 points, while Gabriele Tarquini, currently 12th in the provisional order, can finish second.

For Tarquini (BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse), the first King of WTCR in 2018, WTCR VTB Race of Russia marks the end of an era with the Italian legend announcing on the eve of his home round of the series earlier this month that the current campaign will be his last as a full-time driver. However, the 59-year-old’s charge from P11 on the grid to fifth place in Race 2 at Adria International Raceway was proof that he won’t be slowing down just yet.

Having clinched the WTCR Trophy for independent racers at WTCR Race of Italy, Gilles Magnus switches his focus to trying to wrap up the FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title in Sochi, although Luca Engstler can still deny the Belgian federation-backed talents. Magnus can also help Comtoyou Team Audi Sport stop Cyan Racing Lynk & Co from taking the entrants’ award for the third time.

Néstor Girolami will head to Russia on the back of winning a two-driver TCR South America endurance race in Buenos Aires last weekend, where Guerrieri and Tom Coronel (Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport) were also in action. Mikel Azcona (Zengő Motorsport), meanwhile, will also be on winning form following his triple victory in the TCR Spain finale at the wheel of a CUPRA Leon Competitión.

Azcona is ninth in the provisional WTCR standings after 14 races, nine points behind seventh-placed Norbert Michelisz and five behind Thed Björk. Along with Bence Boldizs, Rob Huff and Tiago Monteiro they will all aim to score big during the season finale.

Built to host the 2014 Russian Grand Prix, the 5.858-kilometre Sochi Autodrom is new for the bulk of the WTCR grid, although Jordi Gené, Attila Tassi and Vernay have all raced at the track with Gené winning the first of two TCR International counters in 2015. Urrutia and Nathanaël Berthon have raced single-seaters in Sochi in the past.

WORLD FIRST AS LADA SPORT ROSNEFT REVS UP FOR WTCR DEBUT AT HOME
LADA Sport ROSNEFT will make its debut in the WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup when the 2021 season reaches its title-deciding climax at Sochi Autodrom. As well as competing in the all-action WTCR for the first time, LADA Sport ROSNEFT’s participation at WTCR VTB Race of Russia will provide fans of the series the chance to see the LADA Vesta Sport TCR in action when drivers Kirill Ladygin and Mikhail Mityaev will become the first Russians to take part in a WTCR event. Ladygin, the TCR Russian Touring Car champion for 2021, and Mikhail Mityaev, who placed third in the standings, will compete as wildcard racers, which means they won’t be able to chase WTCR points and will also have to carry an additional 10 kilograms of compensation weight

WHAT HAPPENED AT WTCR RACE OF ITALY?
Ehrlacher flies to Race 2 victory and 36-point title advantage for Cyan Racing Lynk & Co
French flyer lands maximum score of 10 points after going fastest in Qualifying Q1 and Q3
Urrutia triumphs in Race 1 after overtaking Guerrieri and holding off Coronel
Magnus secures WTCR Trophy title and edges closer to FIA WTCR Junior Driver crown
Vervisch remains in the overall title fight with second place in Race 2 ahead of Magnus
Audi-powered Belgian’s pace secures TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy
Tarquini enjoys emotional reception as he completes penultimate weekend of career at home
Baldan makes first WTCR appearance as fully-fledged driver following earlier wildcard appearance

WTCR 2021 OVERVIEW
Representing 12 countries, the 2021 WTCR line-up features six FIA world title winners − including current King of WTCR Yann Ehrlacher − plus seven drivers 25 or under.

All drivers count on fuel from P1 Racing Fuels and tyres from Goodyear. Along with a Balance of Performance and a compensation weight formula, their use helps to create a level playing field. Meanwhile, significant cost-control measures help maintain strong grid numbers and allow privateer teams with limited technical support from manufacturers to fight at the front.

The 2021 season is set to comprise eight weekends with practice, qualifying and two races timetabled at each event. All events enjoy extensive live global broadcasting.

As well as the FIA Drivers’ and Teams’ titles, the FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title is for the best racer 24 or under at the start of 2021 with no WTCC/WTCR experience prior to 2019. Independent racers competing without direct manufacturer funding are eligible for the WTCR Trophy, while the TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy and TAG Heuer Most Valuable Driver accolade are awarded at each event.

The Goodyear #FollowTheLeader recognises the driver at the head of the title standings after each qualifying session or race. They are presented with the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader blue jacket and carry the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader yellow windscreen strip on their car until such time that they no longer top the points classification.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2021?
There will be double-headers only in 2021 with two rather than three races at each event
New cars from Audi (second-generation Audi RS 3 LMS) and Hyundai (Elantra N TCR) join the grid
P1 Racing Fuels is WTCR’s Official Fuel Supplier
Jordi Gené is a WTCR newcomer, while Rob Huff and Frédéric Vervisch are back having missed out on the action in 2020
Adria, Estoril, Most, Pau-Arnos and Sochi are new venues for 2021, while Czech Republic, France Italy and Russia host the WTCR for the first time
The Rookie driver award is redefined and renamed as the FIA Junior Driver Title
WTCR promoter Discovery Sports Events (previously Eurosport Events) holds the FIA’s Three Star Environmental Accreditation following a rigorous auditing process in line with the motorsport world governing body’s Environmental Certification Framework. Click HERE for more information.

DID YOU KNOW?
The 2021 WTCR season has been wide open from the start with 10 winners from 14 races so far, 16 podium finishers and a different driver on top in all seven Q3 pole position shootouts. In addition, nine out of 11 all-season entrants have finished on the podium so far while seven out of 11 teams have won races.
Esteban Guerrieri is the WTCR’s most successful driver in terms of race wins with the Honda-powered driver triumphing 10 times for ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport.
The Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition as the Official Safety Car of the WTCR for a second season. Bruno Correia from Portugal is the Official Safety Car Driver at WTCR VTB Race of Russia.

WTCR VTB RACE OF RUSSIA ESSENTIALS
Rounds: 15 and 16 of 16
Date: November 26-28
Venue: Sochi Autodrom
Location: 26 Triumfalnaya Street, Sochi 354340, Adler District, Sochi
Track length: 5.858 kilometres
Race 1 distance: 9 laps (52.632 kilometres)
Race 2 distance: 11 laps (64.328 kilometres)
WTCR qualifying lap record: To be established
WTCR race lap record: To be established

EVENT DESCRIPTION
Based around the Sochi Olympic Park that was home to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Sochi Autodrom is a 5.848-kilometre permanent track which staged the first Russian Formula One Grand Prix in 2014. The work of architect Hermann Tilke, Sochi Autodrom has hosted the TCR International Series in the past and will bring WTCR racing to Russia for the first time as the setting of the 2021 season decider in late November. Current WTCR racers Jordi Gené, Attila Tassi and Jean-Karl Vernay have all raced in Sochi with Gené winning the first of two TCR International counters there in 2015.

WHO SAID THAT?
Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR / Lynk & Co 03 TCR: « I’m not thinking too much about the title but we are in a quite a good position and it would be very good to win back-to-back titles, which has never been done before in WTCR. It’s my job, it’s why I am doing this and I would be super-happy, but we have quite a long way to go until the end of the race weekend. When you have won the title once the pressure is less because you’ve done it and nobody can take that away from you, you are more free. As I have been in this position last year I know a little bit more how to manage the pressure. I am in a place I know and I feel more comfortable. It doesn’t mean it’s more easy but it means I know where to go. I’m not worried about going to a new track for the last race, I am more worried if the track will suit well the Lynk & Co. There are two places where you take sixth gear and we know that’s not our strength but we will try to adapt the car as good as possible and as quickly as possible. It’s a big gap but (36 points is) nothing at the same time. In two races 36 points can quickly disappear. I just feel lucky to be in a position to win the title again so I’ll go flat out and make the best out of it. »

Esteban Guerrieri (ARG) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport / Honda Civic Type R TCR: « I have to say I can still win because it’s an eight-event season and one event doesn’t always go the way you want and this happened to me in the first two events, after which it’s been very hard. I’m not wishing bad things to anybody of course, but for as long as we have the chance to maximise our potential I will try to do it and obviously it will depend on the others not to be scoring well. Yann and his team have been very consistent during the year, which is a big credit to them and it’s a great job they have done so far but the season is not finished and there is still one event to go. »

Yvan Muller (FRA) Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR / Lynk & Co 03 TCR: « My chance to win the title is still there, mathematically it’s still possible but there is only a small chance. But the main target is not that, the main target is to help Cyan Racing Lynk & Co to win the Teams’ title and for Yann to win the Drivers’ title, they are the two main goals. If I can be on the podium at the end of the season then I will be pleased because it will be the 14th time in a row I will be in the top three in FIA World Touring Car racing, that can be great but it’s not the main goal. »

Santiago Urrutia (URY) Cyan Performance Lynk & Co / Lynk & Co 03 TCR: « With two wins I am in a good position to finish well in the standings. I’m a title contender but I don’t really look at the Drivers’ standings, I’m focused on the Teams’ standings and then to help Yann because it’s pretty much done for him, he really just needs to arrive at the finish of the races. Then I will focus on myself to try to finish on the podium, in only my second season in WTCR that would be great. I will keep collecting experience to get better and better. I was at Sochi in 2014 but it was in formula cars and a long time ago so I don’t really take that as an experience because I will be like a rookie again and I believe pretty much everyone is in the same position. »

Jean-Karl Vernay (FRA) Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team / Hyundai Elantra N TCR: « It was not the weekend we expected in Italy. Now we have to focus on finishing on the podium; we are only 19 points behind second place, so we still have the possibility to finish in that position. »

Frédéric Vervisch (BEL) Comtoyou Team Audi Sport / Audi RS 3 LMS: « The gap to Yann is 36 points so it’s a lot and not a lot in the sense there is always drama in WTCR. I hope we have really strong pace to put on some pressure. And when we put pressure on things can happen. But I also expect Esteban to be very alert and play a big role. However, with some good luck we can have everything on our side and the gap will be closed very quickly which is possible but difficult. We need to have our best weekend so far. It would be my first FIA title in my life, which would be a big deal for me. »

Kirill Ladygin (RUS) LADA Sport ROSNEFT / LADA Vesta Sport TCR: « The last time I participated in World Touring Car racing was already 12 years ago and, of course, I am looking forward to returning. There are a lot of unknowns waiting for us. Firstly, we pretty quickly have to get used to Goodyear tyres, which we have never worked with. Secondly, our cars will be much heavier than the cars of our competitors, which will greatly affect the speed, considering the features of the Sochi Autodrom. On our side will be knowledge of the track because we participated there in the RSKG finals. Nevertheless, we will do our best to please the fans and just enjoy the weekend. »

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