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 be 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 be 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

Championship Points:

  • 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.

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.