Pepe Oriola broke through to claim his and Cupra’s first FIA World Touring Car Cup race win at the Slovakia Ring, crossing the line ahead of Jean-Karl Vernay and pole-sitter Gabriele Tarquini.

One of the form drivers in the mid-season with four podium finishes so far, the Spaniard emerged as a genuine challenger for victory just seconds after the starting lights went out.

With his fellow Hyundai runners kicked to the back of the grid for excessive boost settings in qualifying, Tarquini was on his own at the front of the 26-car grid. His reputation for lightning getaways deserted him today as he fluffed his start and dropped to fourth place on the run to Turn 1.

Aurélien Comte in the DG Sport Peugeot 308TCR was the chief beneficiary. The French youngster blasted off the line from his front row starting position to lead the chasing pack – headed by Oriola and Vernay – through the opening high-speed complex of corners.

2018 FIA WTCR Race of Slovakia - Race 1 start

An uncharacteristically poor getaway from Tarquini allowed Comte, Oriola and Vernay to get the jump at the start of Race 1.

The pace at the front was frenetic and Comte could not hold back either Oriola or Vernay, passed by the former at the start of Lap 2 and by the latter just two corners later.

The two YMR Hyundais of Yvan Muller and Thed Björk were steady progress from their back-of-the-grid starting positions, although the same could not be said of Tarquini’s teammate Norbert Michelisz who would ultimately retire his BRC Racing i30 at the end of the penultimate lap.

Another driver carving his way through the field was none other than Fabrizio Giovanardi in the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo. The 51-year-old’s Giulietta has been a largely uncompetitive prospect for much of the season, but the veteran driver found the car to his liking today. Starting from twelfth on the grid, he had progressed into the top six by the end of the second lap.

Back at the front of the field, Tarquini made short work of Comte to move into third place. Ahead of him, Oriola was building a gap to Vernay, although his advantage came to an end when the Safety Car was called on Lap 5 so Frédéric Vervisch’s abandoned Comtoyou Racing Audi could be safely retrieved from the side of the circuit at Turn 10.

Oriola got the jump on the field at the restart – quickly receiving a warning from race officials for slowing the pack up too much before the green flags – and moved clear of Vernay and Tarquini once more.

Giovanardi continued his progress, passing Yann Ehrlacher’s Honda on Lap 8 and closing up to Comte’s Peugeot. The young Frenchman fought hard to keep the former champion behind him, eventually prevailing.

Ehrlacher finished sixth to take 10 points off Muller’s championship lead, with the veteran and teammate Björk finishing out of the points in twelfth and thirteenth positions respectively. Tarquini’s victory vaulted him to second overall in the Drivers’ Championship standings, just five points behind Muller.

Tom Coronel finished seventh in his Boutsen Ginion Honda ahead of the remaining Comtoyou Racing Audis of Denis Dupont (scoring his first points of the season), Aurélien Panis and Nathanaël Berthon who completed the top ten.

Qualifying for Race 2 and 3 takes place today at 15:10 local time (GMT +2), with the reversed-grid second race following at 19:00. The weekend’s final race takes place at 11:45 on Sunday.

2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup Race of Slovakia – Race 1 Final Classification (11 laps)
Driver Team Laps Result Pts
1. Pepe Oriola es Team OSCARO by Campos Racing 11 26:24.640 27
2. Jean-Karl Vernay Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team 11 + 1.734 20
3. Gabriele Tarquini it BRC Racing Team 11 + 2.734 17
4. Aurélien Comte DG Sport Compétition 11 + 5.525 14
5. Fabrizio Giovanardi it Mulsanne SRL 11 + 5.573 12
6. Yann Ehrlacher ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 11 + 7.357 10
7. Tom Coronel Boutsen Ginion Racing 11 + 7.725 8
8. Denis Dupont be Comtoyou Racing 11 + 8.190 6
9. Aurélien Panis Comtoyou Racing 11 + 8.993 4
10. Nathanaël Berthon Comtoyou Racing 11 + 9.813 2
11. Norbert Nagy Zengõ Motorsport 11 + 11.557
12. Yvan Muller MRacing – YMR 11 + 12.383
Thed Björk MRacing – YMR 11 + 12.594
14. Mat’o Homola DG Sport Compétition 11 + 13.395
15. Petr Fulin Fullin Race Academy 11 + 13.767
16. Kevin Ceccon it Mulsanne SRL 11 + 14.019
17. Gordon Shedden Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team 11 + 15.569
18. John Filippi Team OSCARO by Campos Racing 11 + 15.856
19. Rob Huff Sébastien Loeb Racing 11 + 22.247
20. Benjamin Lessennes be Boutsen Ginion Racing 11 + 22.917
21. Mehdi Bennani Sébastien Loeb Racing 11 + 24.338
22. Andrej Studenic Brutal Fish Racing 11 + 24.575
23. Norbert Michelisz BRC Racing Team 10 Mechanical
24. Zsolt Dávid Szabó Zengõ Motorsport 9 Mechanical
Not Classified Team Laps Reason
DNF. Esteban Guerrieri ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 6 Suspension
DNF. Frédéric Vervisch be Audi Sport Team Comtoyou 3 Mechanical

* Post-Race Penalties:

  • None

Images via FIA WTCR Media

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.