WTCR @ Vila Real
Yvan Muller returns on top of the standings
Muller returned to the top of the WTCR Drivers’ standings after a
dramatic fifth event in Portugal that marked the halfway point of the
The Vila Real street circuit proved to be tricky and
merciless. Every mistake was paid dearly and not only by those who
committed it. The lack of run-off areas and the narrowness of the track
that allows high speeds but not clear overtaking manoeuvres resulted in a
long sequence of safety car interventions that influenced the race
results. The drivers who committed fewer mistakes, or were lucky enough
to escape the carnage, were rewarded.
Race 1 was spoilt by a massive
crash at the start that eliminated one third of the field including the
Volkswagen Golf GTI cars of Rob Huff and Mehdi Bennani that had come
together at high speed and were collected by the rest of the field in a
huge pile up.
When the race restarted, Muller took the lead and
never looked back, as he was followed by Esteban Guerrieri and Gabriele
Tarquini; the latter was slowed by a flat front tyre on the last lap and
handed third place to Pepe Oriola.
Mat’o Homola achieved an
authoritative victory in Race 2, the maiden win for him in the WTCR and
the second for DG Sport Compétition and Peugeot. The young Slovak made a
great start from the second row of the top ten reverse grid and
squeezed into second position between pole sitter Gordon Shedden and
Muller. Homola took the lead when Shedden took his joker lap and
resisted the pressure from Muller for a number of laps. When Homola took
the joker lap himself, Muller inherited the lead and the result was
decided on the penultimate lap, when the French went for his own joker
lap and Homola regained the lead. Oriola finished third, courtesy of a
5-second penalty imposed on Shedden for cutting a chicane.
from pole position, Thed Björk won Race 3 and led home the two other
Hyundai cars of Tarquini and Norbert Michelisz. While the Swede proved
to be in a league of his own, showing a superior pace and taking his
joker lap with a comfortable margin in the early stages, the drivers
behind him formed a long line, running nose-to-tail. Three safety car
periods had a crucial impact on the final results, as most of the
drivers were obliged to take their joker lap just before the finishing
line. Tarquini, Michelisz, Oriola and Homola retained their positions –
from second to fifth – while Muller dropped out of the points.
performance in Sunday’s qualifying and races were made possible by the
tireless work of the YMR’s crew that was able to rebuild his Hyundai
overnight after it had been massively damaged in the Race 1 incident.
the fact that he remained scoreless in the final race, a victory and a
second place propelled Muller back to the top of the standings with 182
points. Tarquini joined Ehrlacher on 160 points, Björk climbed to
fourth, 34 points off the leader and Vermay dropped from third to fifth,
two points behind the Swede.
The WTCR will resume at the Slovakia Ring, 14/15 July.