Overall victory for Ehrlacher, as Pauwels wins in TCR Europe
27 May 2023
The Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 of Yann Ehrlacher took a lights-to-flag overall win in the joint Kumho TCR World Tour-TCR Europe Race 1 at Spa-Francorchamps, with Kobe Pauwels scoring maximum points in the European series after finishing fourth overall in his Comtoyou Racing Audi RS 3 LMS.
Pole-sitter Ehrlacher made a slow start, but his teammate Ma Qing Hua failed to get away from second on the grid which allowed the ALM Motorsport Honda Civic Type R FL5 of Néstor Girolami into P2 and Pauwels into P3 after the pair had started from the second row. Girolami was almost alongside Ehrlacher as they went through La Source hairpin at Turn 1, but Ehrlacher pulled clear as the pair headed down the hill towards Eau Rouge. Then, as the field headed into Les Combes, Santiago Urrutia in another Lynk & Co passed the Audi of Rob Huff for P4. The opening lap saw several incidents, including the Target Competition Hyundai Elantra N of Dušan Borković making contact with the RC2 Racing Team Audi of Rubén Fernández.
At the start of Lap 2, Borković and Ben Bargwanna made contact going into La Source, with the Serbian driver then colliding with Mikel Azcona’s Elantra before both Borković and Bargawanna pulled up on the outside of the hairpin. Tom Coronel then passed Huff for P5 before the Safety Car was deployed so that the Elantra and the Peugeot 308 stranded at Turn 1 could be recovered. Borković would later be taken to the local hospital with a hand injury.
Only one lap was completed behind the Safety Car before racing resumed on Lap 4. Urrutia passed Pauwels for third at Les Combes and Frédéric Vervish passed John Filippi for eighth. On the next lap, Vervisch was attacking Norbert Michelisz for P7, and the Audi passed the Hyundai.
By Lap 6, a four-way battle for third to sixth places developed, involving Urrutia, Pauwels, Coronel and Huff. Coronel was right behind his young teammate Pauwels, but the Belgian Rookie held the Dutch driver at bay. It looked as though there would be no further changes in position, but on the final lap – and after a reported discussion with the Comtoyou team on the radio – Coronel allowed both Huff and Vervisch to pass. Since both drivers are ‘invisible’ in TCR Europe, the move didn’t cost Coronel any points but enabled Huff to finish fifth and Vervisch sixth in the overall results.
But the race victory belonged to Ehrlacher. Apart from the brief challenge from Girolami on the opening lap, he had controlled the race from the front, including the restart, and crossed the finish line over 1.6 seconds ahead of Girolami’s Honda with Urrutia completing the podium. The victory meant that Ehrlacher has taken the lead in the Kumho TCR World Tour standings, four points clear of Michelisz, while Huff moved into third, three further points adrift.
Pauwels was the highest-placed TCR Europe driver, with Coronel second and Filippi third; Coronel has extended his lead in the standings to 21 points over the Frenchman, while Pauwels has closed the gap on second-placed Filippi to just three points.
Ehrlacher said: “I feel really good. You know, winning at Spa is always a pleasure. It wasn’t an easy race to win, and it was quite tough; we had a bad start but then we recovered it and pulled out a little gap. Then the Safety Car broke everything up and so we had to do everything again, but the car was amazing, and I’m pleased I was able to do this for the team. We’re looking at how we can optimise this for Race 2 tomorrow, and so we will see what will happen.”
Race 2 is set to start tomorrow at 11:40 local time/CEST, with live streaming on tcr-series.tv and YouTube.
Spa-Francorchamps – Race 1 overall
1. Yann Ehrlacher (Cyan Racing, Lynk & Co 03), 9 laps
2. Néstor Girolami (ALM Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R FL5), 1.637
3. Santiago Urrutia (Cyan Racing, Lynk & Co 03), 5.236
Spa-Francorchamps – Race 1 TCR Europe
1. Kobe Pauwels (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS), 9 laps
2. Tom Coronel (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS), 2.894
3. John Filippi (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS), 5.922
Championship points – TCR World Tour
1. Y. Ehrlacher, 73 pts; 2. N. Michelisz, 69; 3. R. Huff 66
Championship points – TCR Europe
1. T. Coronel, 183 pts; 2. J. Filippi, 162; 3. K. Pauwels, 159
Picture: WSC Group
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