Frédéric Vervisch became Audi’s first race-winner of the 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup in a damp opening race at the Slovakia Ring. The Comtoyou Team driver made a lightning start from ninth on the grid to vault to second place by the end of the opening lap, and later overtook early race leader Ma Qing Hua for the race lead.
A light rain shower fell just as proceedings were about to get underway, and the greasy track conditions made a smooth getaway off the starting grid that bit trickier. Pole-sitter Nicky Catsburg held the lead until Turn 1 before he slid wide and allowed Ma Qing Hua’s Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo into the lead from third on the grid.
Vervisch had already slotted into second place with a textbook launch off the grid, while further behind the Belgian there was opening lap drama for championship leader Néstor Girolami. The Münnich Motorsport driver slid into the Comtoyou Cupra of Tom Coronel and then Vervisch’s teammate Niels Langeveld; the contact tipped the Argentine into the gravel trap and immediate retirement. Also out of the action was Ma’s teammate Kevin Ceccon, who retired after contact.
The race was paused behind the Safety Car so Girolami and Ceccon’s damaged cars could be removed from the gravel, and when the race resumed Ma was left the defend against Vervisch while Norbert Michelisz maintained a watching brief from third place in his BRC Racing Hyundai.
Vervisch was able to get ahead of Ma on the next lap, easing past the Chinese driver at Turn 2 and quickly pulling clear. Ma spent the rest of his race fending off the attentions of Michelisz, securing his first WTCR podium and Team Mulsanne’s first top-three finish of the 2019 season. Behind the top-three, Jean-Karl Vernay finished fourth in his WRT Audi.
PWR Racing owner/driver Daniel Haglöf had an eventful race in his Cupra, initially holding fifth place before coming under attack by the BRC Racing Hyundais of Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus. Catsburg was carrying front-end damage after an earlier hit on Vernay, and a tactical switch to allow Farfus ahead paid dividends as the Brazilian was able to overtake Haglöf on Lap 8 at Turn 1.
Catsburg tried to follow Farfus through, but Haglöf closed the door and the pair made contact. Over the remaining laps both drivers lost further positions thanks to the damage from their contact, with Catsburg slipping to seventh behind teammate Gabriele Tarquini while Haglöf tumbled down to 19th.
There was also a collision on the penultimate lap between Mehdi Bennani’s SLR VW GTI and the Comtoyou Cupra of Aurélien Panis, with the former appearing to suffer a brake failure on the approach to Turn 3. Bennani hit Panis hard, leading to the instant retirement of both drivers.
The next race is at 15:15 CEST, with Rob Huff starting from pole position in the Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen.
|2019 FIA WTCR Race of Slovakia – Race 1 Final Classification (11 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Frédéric Vervisch||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||11||26:12.434||25|
|2.||Ma Qing Hua||Team Mulsanne||11||+ 2.834||20|
|3.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||11||+ 3.243||16|
|4.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||11||+ 7.503||13|
|5.||Augusto Farfus||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||11||+ 13.949||11|
|6.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||11||+ 14.426||10|
|7.||Nicky Catsburg||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||11||+ 20.055||9|
|8.||Tom Coronel||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||11||+ 20.274||8|
|9.||Mikel Azcona||PWR Racing||11||+ 20.463||7|
|10.||Luca Engstler (WC)||Hyundai Team Engstler||11||+ 21.657|
|11.||Yvan Muller||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||11||+ 22.328||6|
|12.||Gordon Shedden||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||11||+ 22.532||5|
|13.||Rob Huff||SLR VW Motorsport||11||+ 24.017||4|
|14.||Benjamin Leuchter||SLR Volkswagen||11||+ 24.373||3|
|15.||Esteban Guerrieri||Münnich Motorsport||11||+ 25.407||2|
|16.||Niels Langeveld||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||11||+ 26.665||1|
|17.||Tiago Monteiro||KCMG||11||+ 26.870|
|18.||Attila Tassi||KCMG||11||+ 28.405|
|19.||Daniel Haglöf||PWR Racing||11||+ 29.471|
|20.||Johan Kristoffersson||SLR Volkswagen||11||+ 29.757|
|21.||Andy Priaulx||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||11||+ 30.061|
|22.||Yann Ehrlacher||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||11||+ 31.896|
|23.||Thed Björk||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||11||+ 32.145|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||9||Collision|
|DNF.||Mehdi Bennani||SLR VW Motorsport||9||Collision|
|DNF.||Kevin Ceccon||Team Mulsanne||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Néstor Girolami||Münnich Motorsport||0||Collision|
- The top fifteen classified finishers (excluding wildcard entries) 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