Mikel Azcona played a brilliant ‘joker’ lap strategy to claim his first FIA World Touring Car Cup victory in the reversed-grid Race 2 on the streets of Vila Real.

The Spaniard started third in his PWR Racing Cupra TCR, but used the joker – a unique feature at the 4.785-kilometre Circuito Internacional de Vila Real – to pass both Esteban Guerrieri (Münnich Motorsport Honda) and pole-sitter Ma Qing Hua (Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo). The win is also PWR’s first in the category and the first for the CUPRA brand this season.

“At the beginning of the weekend this race was very difficult for us because it’s our first time at this track,” said Azcona, who is the tenth different race winner of the season. “But we improved the car over the weekend and I was able to do a good lap this morning in qualifying, and I was more confident too. It’s unbelievable to win here. My family and my people are here, and to overtake two cars with the joker is amazing. It’s crazy.”

The result has also lifted Azcona to fifth in the Drivers’ Championship standings. “We have a chance of the championship,” he said. “The championship is very long, so we will see where we end up.”

Ma made a clean start after his clutch problems in Race 1 to lead in his Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR, from fellow front-row starter and title leader Guerrieri, with Azcona running ahead of Nicky Catsburg, Jean-Karl Vernay, Rob Huff and Yvan Muller.

But the ‘joker’ lap changed the complexion of the race at the front. Guerrieri was the first to take it at the end of Lap 3, as Vernay, Muller, Yann Ehrlacher and Tiago Monteiro followed him. Azcona took his joker at the end of Lap 4, jumping Guerrieri who was now running behind Catsburg.

Ma waited until Lap 6, but got his line wrong through the ‘joker’ lap as Azcona, who had already closed in on the Alfa, swept into a lead he would hold until the flag. Ma finished second ahead of Guerrieri, who added to his points lead.

Vernay finished fourth having gained a place on Catsburg with his joker, the Dutchman having left it late to take his alternative route. Muller was sixth after overtaking Huff with his joker, followed by Ehrlacher, Néstor Girolami and local hero Tiago Monteiro.

Race 3 pole-sitter Attila Tassi was in P11, ahead of Frédéric Vervisch, Thed Björk, Johan Kristoffersson and Andy Priaulx in P15.

Race 1 winner and title contender Norbert Michelisz failed to finish after incurring damage following contact with Kevin Ceccon’s Alfa Romeo.

2019 FIA WTCR Race of Portugal – Race 2 Final Classification (11 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. Mikel Azcona PWR Racing 11 22:36.529 25
2. Ma Qing Hua Team Mulsanne 11 + 4.832 20
3. Esteban Guerrieri Münnich Motorsport 11 + 5.538 16
4. Jean-Karl Vernay Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport 11 + 6.812 13
5. Nicky Catsburg BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team 11 + 7.482 11
6. Yvan Muller Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 11 + 9.221 10
7. Rob Huff SLR VW Motorsport 11 + 9.537 9
8. Yann Ehrlacher Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 11 + 11.374 8
9. Néstor Girolami Münnich Motorsport 11 + 14.253 7
10. Tiago Monteiro KCMG 11 + 14.626 6
11. Attila Tassi KCMG 11 + 15.109 5
12. Frédéric Vervisch be Comtoyou Team Audi Sport 11 + 19.969 4
13. Thed Björk Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 11 + 20.988 3
14. Johan Kristoffersson SLR Volkswagen 11 + 22.388 2
15. Andy Priaulx Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 11 + 25.873 1
16. Aurélien Panis Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing 11 + 26.825
17. Benjamin Leuchter be SLR Volkswagen 11 + 27.787
18. Niels Langeveld Comtoyou Team Audi Sport 11 + 30.562
19. Mehdi Bennani SLR VW Motorsport 11 + 31.255
20. Gordon Shedden Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport 11 + 34.815
21. Daniel Haglöf PWR Racing 11 + 35.585
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Reason
DNF. Gabriele Tarquini BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse 7 Mechanical
DNF. Norbert Michelisz BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse 5 Collision
DNF. Kevin Ceccon Team Mulsanne 3 Collision
DNF. Augusto Farfus BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team 3 Mechanical
DSQ. Tom Coronel Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing Boost Limit

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:

  • Tom Coronel – who was provisionally classified P19 – 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

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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.