The Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil teammates, both closed in 5th and 9th respectively a dramatic Saturday afternoon as Race of Portugal was red-flagged on lap one following a collision involving most of the cars on the grid. Strong Race 2 for JayKay and Flash with the two cars in the Top6 while a driveshaft failure and three safety car periods on Sunday’s Race3 crucially impacted the final race results.
The Red Flag was the great protagonist on Saturday at Vila Real, as it appeared several times on each and every session of the day. It finally reached a climax as a catastrophic collision at the start eliminated one third of the field and resulted in a 2 hour suspension for recovering the wrecked cars and repairing the barriers.
In Qualifying 1 session, Jean-Karl Vernay rounded off the top ten of the grid in a sensational lap but he crashed on his last attempt to improve while teammate Gordon Shedden could only reach the 18th spot on the grid.
Race1 (13 Laps), originally scheduled at 4pm local time, resumed instead at 18:15 once all trackside barriers were repaired. Teammates Huff & Bennani, that had started from the front row came together at high speed a few meters down the track: they hit the barrier, bounced back and were caught by the rest of the field in a massive pile up.
When the action restarted behind the safety car, seven cars were missing. The race eventually resumed with the original starting positions, apart from those whose cars were damaged beyond immediate repair. Yvan Muller claimed a lights-to-flag victory at Vila Real as Guerreri and Oriola joined him at the podium. Initially starting from the pit-lane after a breathtaking effort from his Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil mechanics’ to repair the strong Audi RS 3 LMS in 50 minutes time, Vernay benefited from the new start to defend a strong fifth position, jumping third in the series’ standings.
Action resumed at 9:00 on Sunday morning with the Second Qualifying split into 3 sessions. The Swede Thed Björk completed a lap in less than two minutes as he clocked the fastest lap of the day. Jean-Karl Vernay achieved the 7th position while Gordon Shedden found himself qualifying in P10 at the sun-baked street circuit, which allowed him to start from Pole Position for Race2 thanks to the Top-10 reversed grid rule.
Race 2 (11 Laps) took place at 15:45 local time: Starting from the second row Homola took a great start to squeeze in second position between pole sitter Gordon Shedden and Yvan Muller. The young Slovak ultimately took the lead while Shedden was stuck in the traffic following the mandatory Joker Lap. A 5-second penalty inflicted to Shedden for cutting a chicane finally dropped the Scotsman from third to sixth; his Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil team-mate Jean-Karl Vernay maintained his starting position to finish fourth.
Björk obtained the victory in Vila Real’s Race 3 (15 laps distance , started at 17:10 local time) ahead of the two other Hyundai cars of Tarquini and Michelisz. But three safety car periods (the last one being deployed when Gordon Shedden had to stop his car on the track while in the points) had a crucial impact on the final results, as most of the drivers including JayKay were obliged to make their joker lap just before the finishing line, dropping the Frenchman in P10.
With the championship leader Muller scoreless and Vernay pocketing only one point, the gaps between the top positions of the standings got closer promising a close fight between championship contenders as the 1st half of the season is now completed. The WTCR will resume at Slovakia Ring, on 14-15 July race weekend.
#69 Jean-Karl VERNAY:
Saturday: “Good day at the end, some very good points for the championship and into the top three which is very good. It was a really long day with a lot of red flags. We could qualified P10 which was a pretty decent result when you see where all the other Audis were. I was happy with this. Unfortunately I made a mistake at the end of Qualifying and crashed the car. I started from the pit lane, but this was maybe a bit lucky with the massive crash at Turn 1 where most of the cars were damaged. We were able to restart the race in P4 so it was good. We just need some more rhythm and stay in the top ten for tomorrow’s Qualifying.
Sunday: Good day, I scored some good points. P7 in qualifying was not too bad and a big improvement compared to yesterday. My starts were not great but I was able to take fourth. We are still missing a few things but remain in the fight for the championship so it's a pretty good weekend overall”.
#52 Gordon SHEDDEN:
Saturday: “A bit of a strange race after the accident at the start. A tricky Qualifying with a lot of red flags affected me quite a bit but to score points for ninth after starting 18th was good. Hopefully we can qualify further ahead tomorrow.
Sunday: One of the hottest weekends ever here! A weekend that promised a lot but maybe didn't deliver quite as much as we had hoped in terms of results. It has given us a lot of good things to think about moving forward for the next round. Great to get both cars in the top ten for Race 2. We look strong to score points in all races but some bad luck in the end”.
Free Practice 1 : p 15 - Vernay / p 21 - Shedden
Free Practice 2 : p 5 - Vernay / p 13 - Shedden
1 - Huff / GBR / Sebastien Loeb Racing / VW Golf GTi / 2’00.924
2 - Bennani / MOR / Sebastien Loeb Racing / VW Golf GTi / 2’00.951
3 - Michelisz / HUN / BRC Racing / Hyundai i30 N / 2’01.280
10 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 2’02.357
18 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 2’03.333
1 - Muller / FRA / M Racing YMR / Hyundai i30 N / 13 Laps
2 - Guerreri / ARG / All-Inkl.com / Honda Civic / +2.060
3 - Oriola / SPA / Campos Racing / Cupra TCR / +10.596
5 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +13.926
9 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +20.169
1 - Bjork / SWE / M Racing YMR / Hyundai i30 N / 1’59.946
2 - Ehrlacher / FRA / All-Inkl.com / Honda Civic / 2’00.365
3 - Tarquini / ITA / BRC Racing / Hyundai i30 N / 2’00.424
7 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 2’00.636
10 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 2’01.114
1 - Homola / SVK / DG Sport Competition / Peugeot 308 TCR / 11 Laps
2 - Muller / FRA / M Racing YMR / Hyundai i30 N / +0.764
3 - Oriola / SPA / Campos Racing / Cupra TCR / +2.025
4 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +3.635
6 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +6.335
1 - Bjork / SWE / M Racing YMR / Hyundai i30 N / 15 Laps
2 - Tarquini / ITA / BRC Racing / Hyundai i30 N / +3.193
3 - Michelisz / HUN / BRC Racing / Hyundai i30 N / +3.640
10 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +7.216
NC - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +
WTCR DRIVERS’ STANDING:
1 - Muller / 182 p.
2 - Tarquini/ 160 p.
3 - Ehrlacher / 160 p.
4 - Bjork / 148 p.
5 - Vernay / 146 p.
11 - Shedden / 70 p.
WTCR TEAMS’ STANDING:
1 - MRacing - YMR / 342 p.
2 - BRC Racing Team / 302 p.
3 - All-inkl Motorsport / 295 p.
4 - Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team / 230 p.
5 - Sebastien Loeb Racing / 207 p.