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Race report: Ehrlacher shines with breakthrough WTCC win

Race report: Ehrlacher shines with breakthrough WTCC win

16/07/2017 23:24

Yann Ehrlacher scored a breakthrough maiden FIA World Touring Car Championship victory at WTCC Race of Argentina, converting a career-first standing start pole position into victory number one for him and the privateer RC Motorsport team.

The 21-year-old nephew of four-time WTCC champion Yvan Muller led away from the line only for contact with Tom Chilton to drop him back to second place. However, event officials deemed that the Sébastien Loeb Racing driver had gained an unfair advantage and handed Chilton a five-second time penalty, which dropped him from first to fourth at the finish of the Opening Race.

Nicky Catsburg made the most of his DHL pole position to lead the Main Race only to suffer a front-left puncture for the second race running. That let in Norbert Michelisz for his second consecutive win as factory Honda team-mate Tiago Monteiro gained the edge in the title chase with the runner-up spot. Heading into the summer break, Monteiro leads Thed Björk by an increased margin of 12 points with Michelisz up to third despite a non-score in the Opening Race following a puncture.

Björk’s Main Race podium gave the works Polestar Cyan Racing team some reason for cheer after Catsburg’s day of woe and a retirement for Néstor Girolami in the Opening Race following the onset of an electrical issue. With Honda out-scoring its rival make, it’s the Japanese firm that now leads the World Touring Car Championship for Manufacturers heading to the next event in China in the autumn. Catsburg, whose frustration was compounded when he stopped to change a second puncture in the Main Race, bagged the TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy for his early push.

Elsewhere, Rob Huff was twice in the top 10 from his lowly grid spot but his WTCC Trophy lead has been swallowed up with Mehdi Bennani – second overall in the Opening Race – now first on countback with he, Tom Chilton and Huff all tied on 87 points. John Filippi extended his point-scoring run with eighth in the Opening Race, while Ryo Michigami charged through from P16 to P10 for his first points since the season-opening WTCC Race of Morocco. Tom Coronel was a points finisher in both races, while American racer Kevin Gleason scored twice in the WTCC Trophy. Zsolt Dávid Szabó acquitted himself well on his WTCC debut, finishing P13 and P15 for Zengő Motorsport. His team-mate, Dániel Nagy, finished ahead in both counters.

In addition to extensive live global TV coverage WTCC Race of Argentina enjoyed substantial live airtime on FOX Sports Latin America and free-to-air channels TVPA and Canal 12.

RACE WINNER QUOTES
Yann Ehrlacher (Opening Race winner): “It’s a very nice feeling and I can’t really believe it. It was a tough race. I got a little hit from Tom at the beginning so I lose a place to him. I was pushing a lot because Mehdi was pushing from behind. Winning because Tom [Chilton] got a penalty is not fair racing but it’s a win so I take it.”

Norbert Michelisz (Main Race winner): “I was a bit down after the Opening Race collecting zero points and I knew I had to push. I really wanted to take Nicky at the start but he did the perfect getaway from the line and I wasn’t able to catch him. Then I tried to push but up until his puncture I was never in a position to really overtake. I’m sorry for him but happy for us, second Main Race win for me in a row and some really good points for the championship.”

RACE FACTS:
Opening Race DHL Pole Position: Yann Ehrlacher (LADA Vesta WTCC)
Main Race DHL Pole Position: Nicky Catsburg (Volvo S60 Polestar)
TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy: Nicky Catsburg (Volvo S60 Polestar) 1m43.480s

Zsolt Dávid Szabó completed his FIA World Touring Car Championship debut in Argentina last weekend by underlining his desire to return to the track when WTCC 2017 resumes in China in mid-October.

Yann Ehrlacher was applauded and praised by his rivals following his maiden FIA World Touring Car Championship victory.

Mehdi Bennani reckoned he over-achieved at WTCC Race of Argentina by scoring his third podium of 2017 to remain firmly in the hunt for the FIA World Touring Car Championship.

Four-time WTCC champion Yvan Muller isn’t surprised that his nephew, Yann Ehrlacher, is a winner in the FIA World Touring Car Championship – revealing that he always expected the 21-year-old would reach the top of the podium.

The chase for WTCC Trophy title success intensified when the FIA World Touring Car Championship visited Argentina last week.

Esteban Guerrieri used his home rounds of the FIA World Touring Car Championship to deliver one of his best weekends in the WTCC so far with a third and a fourth in the two races at Circuito Termas de Río Hondo.