Successful long weekend in Nederland for all the Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team committed at the Zandvoort Circuit. In WTCR the Frenchman shone in Qualifying and won Race3, while teammate Gordon Shedden got a superb Top5. After a brilliant pole position, local hero Van Lagen ended with a double podium in TCR Europe.
A foggy start on Sunday greeted the crowds who’d arrived at the circuit to watch the first session of the day, but the sun quickly began to burn through the fog. Former Leopard rider Rob Huff was the early pacesetter ahead Yann Ehrlacher. After around eight minutes of the session, the Audi RS3 LMS of Jean-Karl Vernay went four-hundredths of a second faster but the action was then halted for an incident at Turn 8 and the red flags came out. When the session resumed, Jean-Karl Vernay improved his best lap and teammate Gordon Shedden in the other Leopard Lukoil Audi was fourth. With a little over eight minutes remaining, Huff then retook provisional pole position and fellow British driver Gordon Shedden then set the third quickest time. Huff started Race 1 from pole position, with Ehrlacher alongside him on the grid. Shedden and Vernay formed an all-Leopard Lukoil second row, with the top 16 cars covered by just over a second.
Yann Ehrlacher took his second win of the season in a Race 1 at Zandvoort that started with a spectacular accident between the Hyundai cars of Michelisz and Muller. The young Frenchman took the lead at the lights and managed to pull away, while Comte defended second from Huff and Shedden. Jean-Karl Vernay and Esteban Guerrieri were right behind. On lap 10, Shedden attempted an overtaking manoeuvre on Huff at the Tarzan bend, but Huff reclaimed the position. After the safety car, the race resumed with only two laps left: it was a 1-2 finish for the two young Frenchmen ahead of Huff, Shedden and Vernay, both Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Teammates in the Top5.
WTCR returned to action this Monday morning for the second Qualifying session at 8:30 h. Jean-Karl Vernay signed an authoritative pole for Race 3, beating Rob Huff by over half a second, but started from last in Race 2, following an engine change on his Audi RS3 LMS. Q1 saw Vernay posting the best time of 1'44"491 quite early in the session, after Lessennes had taken a provisional lead. The Frenchman beat the former teammate Rob Huff by +0.018s and the other Audi of Vervisch by +0.046s. Ehrlacher’s Honda was fourth fastest ahead of Gordon Shedden’s Audi and Pepe Oriola’s Cupra. In Q2 Vervisch placed his Audi in P1 ahead of Huff, Vernay, Shedden, and Guerrieri who were all promoted to Q3, which immediately lost one of its stars, as Esteban Guerrieri: the Argentinian could not take part because the front right suspension of his Honda Civic had collapsed at the end of Q2. Jay Kay Vernay clocked an excellent lap time of 1'43"994 that Rob Huff was not able to beat, qualifying second with a gap of +0.459s. Flash Shedden ranked third and completed the Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team's triumph.
In Race 2 Thompson started from pole with Comte alongside on the front row. The Frenchman made a better start and claimed a near lights-to-flag win. The safety car came out following contact between Giovanardi and Panis, but Comte managed the restart well and then drove sensibly to the victory. Jean-Karl Vernay recorded a DNF after starting from the back of the grid following an engine change and then retiring to the pits on Lap 5. There were a number of battles within the Top10, including a series of passing moves by Gordon Shedden and Esteban Guerrieri for sixth place that eventually saw the Scottish driver claim the position.
Race 3 started at h 16:35 with Jean-Karl Vernay on pole position and Rob Huff alongside him. The Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil RS 3 LMS got the better start and led into Turn 1. From then on, it was a case of managing his pace and holding the British driver at bay. Vernay took an amazing lights-to flag victory, joining his compatriots Ehrlacher and Comte as race winners in the Netherlands. The fifteen-lap race began in robust fashion, with a number of glancing contacts on the opening lap. Vernay’s teammate Gordon Shedden reignited his battle with Guerrieri in the race’s later stages, that was only resolved when Shedden ran wide on the penultimate lap and so took the pressure off the Honda driver.
Vernay moves up to 4th in the Drivers’ standings with 121 points; teammamate Shedden is in 13th with 58 p. The Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil confirms itself as best Audi Team in WTCR. The series resumes in Vila Real in Portugal on 23-24 June.
In a grey and chilly Saturday morning on the shores of the North Sea, action at Zandvoort started with the free practice session, which ran smoothly and saw local hero Jaap Van Lagen, who replaced Jean-Karl Vernay at the Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS, posting the best time (1'45"226) quite early into the session. The Dutchman was able to lap under the previous TCR Record but in FP2 session Dušan Borkovič posted the best lap time beating the Leopard Lukoil Team Audi of Van Lagen by a mere 0.098 seconds.
In Q1 Jaap van Lagen improved the fastest lap time for TCR Europe, topping the Q1 part of the Qualifying with a lap of 1'44"821. He was the only driver capable of going under the 1'45" mark; in Q2 the Dutchman put in a great effort and claimed pole position, improving further his lap times to an impressive 1’44”536.
On Sunday in Race1 the local hero spoiled his chances with a slow start that dropped him down to fifth. When the race resumed after the safety car intervention, Van Lagen was able to overtake Dušan Borković’s Hyundai and Files to take third and also victory in the TCR Benelux.
Josh Files completed a spotless performance in Monday’s Race 2, taking a perfect start from fourth on the grid. Behind him, a great show in a series of tough fights with an only one protagonist: local hero Jaap van Lagen again, he elbowed his way through the field from ninth on the grid to second in eight laps. The TCR Europe will resume at Spa-Francorchamps on 8-10 June.
#69 Jean-Karl VERNAY:
“Q1 was good, Q2 was good but more difficult but I tried to do the best we can and make no mistakes, stay on track and it went well. We needed to do the pole position to save the weekend. Yesterday I only scored some points for P5 and we had an engine problem. I could have done a bit better but we start from the back of the grid in Race 2 so I’m pleased we did the job today and we start from pole. I’m really happy and congrats to all my team, my crew. They changed the engine for today and didn’t sleep well. Thanks also to the guys from Audi, we made it and I’m really proud of that.
Great day! A pole position this morning and a win in race 3 was absolutely fabulous. We could have done the same without the engine issue before. The team did a really great job, working all night long to make sure the car was ready with the engine change. Really proud of the team and thanks to Lukoil & Leopard. We did a great job today with pole position, we said we were going to do it and we did. Then we won the biggest race of the event so this is important and back to P4 in the championship. Couldn't be better!"
#52 Gordon SHEDDEN:
“What a difference a week makes! To Qualify third, the best position so far this year, feels really good with the work we have done on the car and the recent changes which means that we can actually fight now. It was a scrappy session and my second run wasn't great, but the third lap was really good. It is all really close here.
Finished P4 in Race 1, it was a fantastic race and so good to be able to fight with the front runners. Almost made it on to the podium, had a real last gasp move on Huffy but couldn't quite make it stick.
Just after Race 2 here, and I really enjoyed that one. Made a blistering start and earned two places into Turn 1. I had a great battle with a couple of guys and it's great to be able to fight again. The car was simply perfect in that race, looked after its tyres well and looking for a strong race 3…"
#46 Jaap VAN LAGEN:
“It was nice to be back on the TCR scene, and to do it here, at home. Of course, I do a lot of coaching at Zandvoort and the circuit has not many secrets for me, but still, to achieve a pole position requires having a very good car. This is exactly what Leopard Lukoil Racing and Team WRT have provided to me and I thank them for the excellent work. Race 1 was also good, except for the start, of course. I was too low on the revs and couldn't get the right grip. Unfortunately, I lost some positions, and with the long safety-car period, there was not enough time to catch up. Still, the pace and the car were good, I had nice fights and two overtakes, and made it to the podium...
It was a great Race 2 today and not easy starting from P9! It feels really special to be on the podium in front of this huge crowd. Unlike yesterday, I had a very good start and could gain some positions staying on the outside line. Then, I did a couple of overtaking manoeuvres and found myself behind Kroes. I noticed that he was having some trouble with his tyres, and eventually I could pass him. The car was really strong and allowed me to push hard throughout the entire race”
Saturday, May 19th:
TCR EUROPE - FP1: Jaap van Lagen - p 1
TCR EUROPE - FP2: Jaap van Lagen - p 2
TCR EUROPE - Q1: Jaap van Lagen - p 1
TCR EUROPE - Q2: Jaap van Lagen - Pole Position
WTCR - FP1: Gordon Shedden - p 3 / Jean-Karl Vernay p 7
WTCR - FP2: Jean-Karl Vernay - p 4 / Gordon Shedden p 10
Sunday, May 20th:
TCR EUROPE - Race 1:
1 - Azcona / ESP / PCR Sport / Cupra TCR / 12 Laps
2 - Tassi / HUN / Hell Energy Racing / Honda Civic Type R / +1.806
3 - Van Lagen / NED / Leopard Lukoil Team / Audi RS 3 LMS / +2.188
WTCR - Qualifying 1:
1 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 1’44.491
2 - Huff / GBR / Sebastien Loeb Racing / VW Golf GTi / 1’44.509
3 - Vervisch / BEL / Audi Sport Comtoyou / RS 3 LMS / 1’44.537
6 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 1’44.763
WTCR - Race 1:
1 - Ehrlacher / FRA / All-inkl.com / Honda Civic TCR / 14 Laps
2 - Comte / FRA / DG Sport Competition / Peugeot 308 / +1.217
3 - Huff / GBR / Sebastien Loeb Racing / VW Golf GTi / +1.566
4 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +1.879
5 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +2.440
Monday, May 21st:
TCR EUROPE - Race 2:
1 - Files / GBR / Hell Energy Racing / Honda Civic Type R / 14 Laps
2 - Van Lagen / NED / Leopard Lukoil Team / Audi RS 3 LMS / +4.296
3 - Kroes / NED / PCR Sport / Cupra TCR / +7.408
WCTR - Qualifying 2:
1 - Vervisch / BEL / Audi Sport Comtoyou / RS 3 LMS / 1’44.205
2 - Huff / GBR / Sebastien Loeb Racing / VW Golf GTi / 1’44.341
3 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 1’44.393
4 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 1’44.421
WCTR - Qualifying 3:
1 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 1’43.994
2 - Huff / GBR / Sebastien Loeb Racing / VW Golf GTi / 1’44.453
3 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 1’44.590
WTCR - Race 2:
1 - Comte / FRA / DG Sport Competition / Peugeot 308 / 14 Laps
2 - Thompson / GBR / All-inkl.com / Honda Civic TCR / +1.148
3 - Huff / GBR / Sebastien Loeb Racing / VW Golf GTi / +2.988
6 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +14.954
27 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS /
WTCR - Race 3:
1 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 15 Laps
2 - Huff / GBR / Sebastien Loeb Racing / VW Golf GTi / +1.199
3 - Vervisch / BEL / Audi Sport Comtoyou / RS 3 LMS / +3.065
4 - Guerrieri / ARG / All-inkl.com / Honda Civic TCR / +4.405
5 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +5.019
WTCR DRIVERS’ STANDING:
1 - Ehrlacher / 146 points
2 - Muller / 137 p.
3 - Huff / 130 p.
4 - Vernay / 121 p.
13 - Shedden / 58 p.
WTCR TEAMS’ STANDING:
1 - All-inkl Motorsport / 261 points
2 - MRacing - YMR / 261 p.
3 - BRC Racing Team / 227 p.
4 - Sebastien Loeb Racing / 207 p.
5 - Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team / 193 p.
TCR EUROPE DRIVERS’ STANDING:
1 - Borković / 66 points
2 - Azcona / 66 p.
3 - Files / 50 p.
4 - Nagy / 44 p.
5 - Tassi / 41 p.
6 - Van Lagen / 38 p.
7 - Vernay / 26 p.
TCR EUROPE TEAMS’ STANDING:
1 - Hell Energy Racing / 91 points
2 - PCR Sport / 89 p.
3 - Target Competition / 88 p.
4 - Leopard Lukoil Team / 64 p.
5 - M1RA / 62 p.