Jean-Karl Vernay converted his DHL Pole Position into a strong victory in Race 1 at WTCR Race of China-Wuhan as five customer racing brands finished in the top seven places at the Wuhan International Street Circuit this afternoon.
The Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team driver from France headed fellow front-row starter Pepe Oriola in his Team OSCARO by Campos Racing Cupra TCR, as Vernay’s team-mate Gordon Shedden overcame Yann Ehrlacher to claim his first podium in the all-action WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO in third.
“I was focused on my start to make sure it was good,” said Vernay, who led into Turn 1 and maintained his advantage all the way to the chequered flag for his third win of the season. “I managed to stay focused – it’s a technical track, it’s tricky and it’s easy to make a mistake. Now I will try and do it again tomorrow.”
Vernay also paid tribute to his British team-mate Shedden. “It’s a good day for the whole team and also for Gordon. It had been hard for him, but we have stayed confident in him and now he’s back where he should be.”
As Vernay and Oriola made clean starts to maintain their grid positions through the opening corners, there was plenty of shuffling behind them. Denis Dupont, who started fourth in his Comtoyou Audi RS 3 LMS, ran wide and at the first turn, rejoined and then tagged team-mate Nathanaël Berthon, who did a great job to hold a big moment.
Fast starting Ehrlacher rose from seventh on the grid to complete the first lap in third place, from Shedden (fifth on the grid), Comtoyou’s Frédéric Vervisch and a recovering Berthon. Dupont had dropped to P11.
The Audi R8 V10 RWS Coupé safety car was called to intervene on lap four when Tom Coronel’s Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda Civic Type R TCR ran into Fabrizio Giovanardi’s Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR causing heavy damage to both cars. Giovanardi lost a rear wheel, while Coronel retired to the pits with repairs required to his Honda’s front end. The pair are enduring tough weekends following their separate crashes in the first practice session on Friday.
At the restart on lap seven Vernay and Oriola once again sprinted away as Shedden piled pressure on Ehrlacher’s ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda. The three-time British Touring Car champion chased his prey hard and made his decisive move on lap 12, as Vervisch joined the battle. He would now chase Ehrlacher, but the Honda driver would hold off the Audi to claim fourth. However, his rapid getaway was adjudged to have been too rapid and he received a 30-second penalty for a jumped start.
Aurélien Comte drove well in his DG Sport Compétition PEUGEOT 308TCR to finish what would become fifth from ninth on the grid, while Kevin Ceccon delivered an encouraging sixth place for Team Mulsanne in his Alfa Romeo, gaining two positions from his qualifying placing to ensure a wide diversity of racing brands in the top positions.
ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Honda-powered Esteban Guerrieri had to work hard for his eventual seventh place after pressure from Berthon, who had lost further places on lap eight when a challenge on Vervisch and Shedden ahead of him cost him dear.
Behind Berthon, his Comtoyou team-mate Aurélien Panis was ninth ahead of the team’s third Audi of Dupont who inherited P10, although it was a disappointing return after such a strong qualifying by the RACB National Team member.
Boutsen Ginion Racing’s Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua finished a battling P11 after an entertaining duel with the Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCRs of Mehdi Bennani and Rob Huff. The Golfs also lost out to double Ningbo race winner Thed Björk, who was the highest placed Hyundai i30 N TCR driver in P12.
His YMR team boss Yvan Muller finished behind the Golfs in P15, while WTCR OSCARO points leader Gabriele Tarquini was P17. His BRC Racing team-mate Nobert Michelisz had a difficult race, having started from the back of the grid following an engine change, the Hungarian pitted at the end of the first lap, although he did briefly return to the action later in the race to gain some much needed track time.