Tiago Monteiro is the hero of Portugal following his emotionally-charged home win in the FIA World Touring Car Cup’s third race on the streets of Vila Real.
The KCMG Honda driver, who suffered serious head and neck injuries in a testing crash in September 2017 and fought a long and arduous recovery, took the lead when his teammate and race leader Attila Tassi hit trouble with a spark plug issue, holding his nerve to the finish for his first victory since he triumphed in Hungary two years ago.
“God knows how much we worked for this,” said Monteiro. “The accident two years ago – you’ve no idea how hard we worked to come back. I always dreamed of this, but to actually do this… it’s unbelievable. I’m so sad for Attila who could have had his first win, but someone was watching out for me, just as they were in hospital. I lost focus in the last two laps – they were probably the hardest of my career.”
Behind the triumphant Monteiro, Yvan Muller finished second for Cyan Racing Lynk & Co with nephew Yann Ehrlacher joining him on the podium for the first time in a second Lynk & Co 03 TCR. Afterwards, Muller explained that it had been difficult decision to race following the passing of a team technician, who fell ill overnight.
Tassi led away from pole position, with Monteiro slotting in behind him as Muller passed his nephew Ehrlacher on Lap 1 to lead the Lynk & Co-powered challenge behind the two Hondas.
Tassi lost his lead on Lap 4 when he began to slow, with the 20-year-old Hungarian eventually pulling in to retire. Muller played his ‘joker’ lap having just passed Tassi, with Monteiro following suit a lap later. The Honda just emerged ahead of the Lynk & Co, but it was close. From there, Monteiro pulled a gap to secure a dream victory in front of a joyful Portuguese crowd.
As Muller fell back from the leader, Ehrlacher closed up, the pair both coming under pressure from Race 2 winner Mikel Azcona in his PWR Racing CUPRA TCR. It seemed Muller was holding up the pair, but he held on to lead home a Lynk & Co two-three, with Azcona capping a great first weekend in Vila Real with a fourth to go with his earlier win.
Jean-Karl Vernay beat Rob Huff in a race-long duel for fifth, the Audi having beaten the Volkswagen off the grid.
Néstor Girolami claimed seventh for Münnich Motorsport, but his teammate Esteban Guerrieri was out of luck. The WTCR points leader was forced out after a first-lap collision with BRC Hyundai driver Nicky Catsburg, denting his advantage at the top of the table.
Thed Björk added to Lynk & Co’s haul with eighth, ahead of Ma Qing Hua who just held off Race 1 winner and Guerrieri’s closest title rival Norbert Michelisz.
The other points finishers were led by Johan Kristoffersson in P11, from Aurélien Panis, Kevin Ceccon – paying back Team Mulsanne for repairing his Alfa Romeo after his big qualifying accident on Sunday morning – Mehdi Bennani and Gabriele Tarquini.
There was bad luck for Comtoyou Team Audi Sport’s Frédéric Vervisch, who retired from P11 with a suspension failure with just two laps to run.
|2019 FIA WTCR Race of Portugal – Race 3 Final Classification (14 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|2.||Yvan Muller||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||14||+ 2.295||20|
|3.||Yann Ehrlacher||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||14||+ 2.647||16|
|4.||Mikel Azcona||PWR Racing||14||+ 2.959||13|
|5.||Rob Huff||SLR VW Motorsport||14||+ 6.999||11|
|6.||Néstor Girolami||Münnich Motorsport||14||+ 10.041||10|
|7.||Thed Björk||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||14||+ 12.507||9|
|8.||Ma Qing Hua||Team Mulsanne||14||+ 22.317||8|
|9.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||14||+ 22.596||7|
|10.||Johan Kristoffersson||SLR Volkswagen||14||+ 23.570||6|
|11.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||14||+ 24.108||5|
|12.||Kevin Ceccon||Team Mulsanne||14||+ 24.900||4|
|13.||Mehdi Bennani||SLR VW Motorsport||14||+ 24.916||3|
|14.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||14||+ 25.258||2|
|15.||Niels Langeveld||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||14||+ 26.028||1|
|16.||Tom Coronel||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||14||+ 26.602|
|17.||Benjamin Leuchter||SLR Volkswagen||14||+ 37.092|
|18.||Andy Priaulx||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||14||+ 1:44.342||1|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Frédéric Vervisch||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||12||Suspension|
|DNF.||Daniel Haglöf||PWR Racing||7||Retired|
|DNF.||Augusto Farfus||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||6||Accident|
|DNF.||Gordon Shedden||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||1||Retired|
|DNF.||Nicky Catsburg||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Esteban Guerrieri||Münnich Motorsport||0||Collision|
|DSQ.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||Boost Limit|
- 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.
- Esteban Guerrieri was issued a three-place grid penalty for Race 1 at Ningbo for causing an avoidable collision with Nicky Catsburg.
- Jean-Karl Vernay – who was provisionally classified P10 – was excluded when his car was found to have exceeded the boost limits set by the FIA Balance of Performance chart in the race.
Text and images via FIA WTCR Media