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TCR Europe Series – Jean-Karl Vernay claims an authoritative victory

As it was expected following his dominating performance in Practice and Qualifying, Jean-Karl Vernay won the first of the TCR Europe races at Monza. The Frenchman was forced to chase Mikel Azcona during the first five laps, after the young Spaniard had taken a better start.

However after he managed to pass Azcona, Vernay had no further problems in controlling the race and claimed his second win of the season; as for his rival, he was quite happy to settle in a second position that helped him to stretch his leading margin in the standings to ten points over Dušan Borković who finished fifth behind Josh Files and Maxime Potty.

The victory also relaunched Vernay’s hopes in the title fight, in fact the Frenchman has moved up to third, 24 points behind the leader and ten over Dániel Nagy who retired after an incident on the opening lap.

As usual, Touring Car racing at Monza provides a lot of contacts and clashes. This race wasn’t an exception and a few incidents are under investigations: Giovanardi-Møller, Potty-Borković, Richard-Abreu and Barberini-Sapag. Race 2 will start tomorrow at 12:10, with Francisco Abreu and Benjamin Lessennes sharing the front row of the top-ten reverse grid.

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Key facts Start – Azcona sprints to the inside of Vernay and takes the lead from Tassi, Vernay, Files and Potty Lap 1 – Vernay overtakes Tassi for second; Files overtakes Tassi for third; Tavano goes off at the first chicane; Nagy drives wide at Lesmo 2 and retires; Lessennes crashes at the Parabolica Lap 2 – the safety car is deployed Lap 4 – the race resumes; Møller overtakes Baldan for 8th; Terting overtakes Baldan for 9th; Paulsen overtakes Giovanardi for 11th; Abreu overtakes Giovanardi and Baldan in one move at the Parabolica Lap 5 – Vernay overtakes Azcona for the lead at T1; Abreu cuts the first chicane after clashing with Giovanardi; Potty overtakes Tassi for fourth; Paulsen overtakes Møller for 9th Lap 6 – Borković overtakes Tassi for fifth; Barberini and Sapag make contact and stop in the gravel Lap 7 – the safety car is deployed once again Lap 9 – racing resumes with less than four minutes to go; Abreu and Giovanardi clash door-to-door at T1; Comini, Terting and Paulsen fight for 7th Lap 10 – Terting goes straight at T1 and loses 9th to Paulsen, but the latter goes wide at Lesmo; Giovanardi benefits from the situation and overtakes Møller for 8th; Richard and Abreu make contact at the first chicane Lap 11 – Vernay wins from Azcona, Files, Potty, Borković, Tassi and Comini

Driver quotes after the first race

Jean-Karl Vernay (1st): « It was good. We knew before coming here that we would be the guys to beat because we know that the Audi has a great top speed. We did a perfect job, the car was great and I knew I had to be as quick as possible, but it wasn’t easy. The Cupra guys are almost certain to win the (Teams’) championship because the car is quick everywhere and Azcona is doing a good job. It’s not going to be easy to take a lot of points from him this weekend but we’ll try to do the best we can. It made sense to go out alone rather than risk being in traffic and then maybe doing no laps. I think it was a good strategy and so I could focus on being quick in Sector 2. Let’s finish the job this afternoon! »

Mikel Azcona (2nd): « I am very happy, because we knew that the Audi of Jean-Karl Vernay would be very fast on the straights here in Monza. To be in second position, only three-tenths or something behind Vernay, is fantastic for us; to be on the front row of the grid is perfect for us. The best thing for me is that Borković is behind us, so we have to take advantage of that and not make any mistakes. I think I have a psychological advantage here because I know the track and I’ve been here a lot of times. I want to leave Monza as the championship leader and then I will be at my home track for the final fight for the title. »

Attila Tassi (3rd): « I have to give huge thanks to the team and to Josh (Files) in particular. Yesterday was hard for me but I got some really good data from Josh and I watched his onboard camera so that helped me a lot in my driving. I only had one lap remaining in Q1 because of the red flag and I was able to get P3 thanks to a tow from Josh. In Q2 he towed me again and although I made a slight mistake in Lesmo 1, I was able to stay in his slipstream and it was enough for P3 so I’m very happy. We’re going to discuss our tactics for the race now but the aim is to finish on the podium and collect as many points as we can. »

Vernay set pole position in Qualifying

The Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS of Jean-Karl Vernay set pole position after going fastest in both stages of Qualifying. Vernay, in fact, was the only driver to beat the 1:58 barrier in both sessions, with Mikel Azcona also beating the benchmark in Q2 and so the PCR Sport Cupra lined up alongside Vernay on the grid.

Scoring four Qualifying points, the Spaniard moved up to the top of the standings, two points clear of Dušan Borković.

Behind the pair there were the two Hell Energy Racing with KCMG Honda Civic cars of Attila Tassi and Josh Files, with Row 3 of the grid consisting of the Comtoyou Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI of Maxime Potty and the Target Competition Hyundai i30 N of Borković. Thanks to the reverse grid for Race 2, the Sports & You Peugeot 308 of Francisco Abreu will start from pole on Sunday.

Daniel Nagy, the winner of Race 1 at Assen – and currently in third place in the standings – failed to go through to Q2 and so started both races way behind his rivals for the title, while Vernay’s strong showing in Qualifying and both of yesterday’s Free Practice sessions suggested that the reigning TCR International champion would move himself back into contention for the 2018 TCR Europe crown following this weekend.

There were few problems during the two sessions, although the Subaru WRX STI of Roberto Russo didn’t take part in Qualifying due to an administrative formality and Q1 was red-flagged when the sister car of Cosimo Barberini went off the track at the first Lesmo corner and had to be recovered.

Press release TCR


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