Thed Björk has taken the lead of the FIA WTCR Drivers’ Championship standings and given the Lynk & Co brand its first race win on its competitive debut with victory in the final race of the weekend at Morocco.
In a repeat of the earlier Race 2 – won by BRC Racing’s Gabriele Tarquini after his teammate Nicky Catsburg crashed out with a brake failure – Björk’s victory came off the back of the retirement of teammate Yvan Muller, who retired from the race with broken steering.
Björk hard started Race 3 from the second row of the grid behind Muller, but within seconds of the starting lights going out they were running first and second. Frédéric Vervisch will not look back on his first ever WTCR pole position with a great deal of fondness after totally fluffing the start in his Comtoyou Racing Audi, with the Belgian driver dropping to third place by Turn 1.
There was plenty of action further back, with WTCR rookie Mikel Azcona (PWR Cupra) putting a firm move on Tiago Monteiro’s KCMG Honda at Turn 4 to claim fourth place from the Portuguese driver. Azcona’s ‘hip and shoulder’ move forced Monteiro wide and allowed fellow Honda runner Esteban Guerrieri to draw up the inside of Monteiro as the pair approached the Turn 5/6 chicane.
Monteiro refused to yield and shortcutted the chicane to rejoin the circuit ahead of Guerrieri’s Münnich Motorsport Honda and the Cyan Performance Lynk & Co of Yann Ehrlacher at Turn 7.
Guerrieri and Ehrlacher both had better exit speed than Monteiro and drew either side of the ex-F1 driver down the back straight, with Race 1 winner Guerrieri slotting on the inside line and Ehrlacher on the outside.
Ehrlacher left his braking late and attempted to sweep around the outside of Monteiro into the Turn 8 left-hander. He probably would have made the move stick if Guerrieri and Monteiro hadn’t touched, with the tipping Monteiro into the left-rear corner of Ehrlacher.
The contact was enough to tip Ehrlacher into the barriers at the outside of the corner and straight into Monteiro’s path, leading to a heavier second impact and instant retirement for both drivers.
The Safety Car was dispatched for six laps while Monteiro and Ehrlacher’s cars could be retrieved. When the race resumed, Muller once again led from Björk, who had to defend from Vervisch and Azcona.
The top-four held position until Lap 14 when Muller slowed at the exit of Turn 1 with broken steering, allowing Björk into the lead. At the same time, ninth-placed Augusto Farfus retired his BRC Racing Hyundai with a broken gearbox.
Björk counted down the laps and kept Vervisch and a charging Azcona at bay, with the pressure alleviated thanks to another Safety Car that ran until the end of the race.
Its second appearance of the race was triggered by a dramatic accident for Jean-Karl Vernay, running fifth at the time, whose WRT Audi suffered a total brake failure at Turn 13 which sent the Frenchman backwards into the barriers.
Björk was able to lead the neutralised field to victory and in doing so claimed a five-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings over Guerrieri, who finished the race in fourth place ahead of Race 2 winner Gabriele Tarquini.
The second round of the 2019 FIA WTCR season takes place at the Hungaroring on April 26-28.
|2019 FIA WTCR Race of Morocco – Race 3 Final Classification (23 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Thed Björk||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||23||37:58.474||25|
|2.||Frédéric Vervisch||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||23||+ 0.680||20|
|3.||Mikel Azcona||PWR Racing||23||+ 3.039||16|
|4.||Esteban Guerrieri||Münnich Motorsport||23||+ 6.182||13|
|5.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||23||+ 10.174||11|
|6.||Néstor Girolami||Münnich Motorsport||23||+ 12.127||10|
|7.||Gordon Shedden||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||23||+ 14.725||9|
|8.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||23||+ 15.455||8|
|9.||Ma Qing Hua||Team Mulsanne||23||+ 16.128||7|
|10.||Daniel Haglöf||PWR Racing||23||+ 17.223||6|
|11.||Attila Tassi||KCMG||23||+ 20.473||5|
|12.||Mehdi Bennani||SLR VW Motorsport||23||+ 20.773||4|
|13.||Andy Priaulx||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||23||+ 21.143||3|
|14.||Tom Coronel||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||23||+ 21.725||2|
|15.||Rob Huff||SLR VW Motorsport||23||+ 22.785||1|
|16.||Kevin Ceccon||Team Mulsanne||23||+ 23.307|
|17.||Johan Kristoffersson||SLR Volkswagen||23||+ 23.780|
|18.||Niels Langeveld||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||23||+ 24.829|
|19.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||23||+ 26.067|
|20.||Benjamin Leuchter||SLR Volkswagen||23||+ 27.895|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||19||Brakes|
|DNF.||Yvan Muller||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||14||Steering|
|DNF.||Augusto Farfus||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||13||Gearbox|
|DNF.||Yann Ehrlacher||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||0||Collision|
|DNS.||Nicky Catsburg||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||Damage|
- The top fifteen classified finishers and their respective teams are awarded championship points on a 25-20-16-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 sliding scale.
Images via FIA WTCR Media