Engstler Motorsport has claimed its second win of the 2021 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup season with a dominant performance from Jean-Karl Vernay at his home event, Race of France.
The Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team driver showed great pace around the undulating Circuit Pau-Arnos and progressed into the third phase of qualifying. Although disappointed to miss out on pole position, Vernay made a determined start in Race 2 to move into the lead in the run down to the first chicane. As others scrapped for the final podium positions behind him, the Frenchman began to build a sizeable gap with his Hyundai Elantra N TCR. A late safety car brought the chasing pack back together, but with one final racing lap Vernay resisted pressure to secure his second win of the season.
Starting eighth in the reverse-grid Race 1, Vernay gained a position on the opening lap to sit in seventh as a safety car was called. In the closing stages of the race, he climbed a further place to secure sixth position and bring home an important haul of points for his championship aspirations.
His team-mate Luca Engstler narrowly missed out on the second qualifying session on Saturday and started both races in 13th. The German powered his Hyundai Elantra N TCR up the order as the race got underway, moving into tenth on the first lap and finishing ninth overall. Although he dropped a position at the start of Race 2, he regained it on the fifth lap with an excellent overtaking move and went on to cross the line in 11th place.
Vernay’s victory sees him vault up the standings to second in the battle for the drivers’ crown, just 16 points behind the leader. Engstler is 16th, while the team sits fifth with two rounds remaining.
Franz Engstler, Team Principal of Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team said: “The whole team is absolutely delighted to take our second win of the season – congratulations to Jean-Karl for his impressive victory. With two more events in Italy and Russia, he is still firmly in contention for the 2021 WTCR title and his win is the best motivation. We want to do everything in our power to help him secure the drivers’ crown, but on the whole we have to focus on our qualifying performance. We feel Jean-Karl should have been on pole yesterday and Luca just missed out on the second qualifying session to challenge for the reverse pole, so we still have a lot of work to do between now and the next event.”
Jean-Karl Vernay said: “I had a good start in Race 2 and as soon as I gained the advantage on Yvan, it was just a question of controlling him and the tyres to make sure we didn’t have any problems. It is quite easy to make mistakes here and we had to keep our focus, which I did. I’d like to say a huge thanks to the team – I’m very happy to be back in the championship fight and to have shown a great performance this weekend. I was disappointed to miss out on pole yesterday but we had a strong Sunday, and that was important.”
Luca Engstler said: “It was another tough qualifying at Race of France; I didn’t have the best of luck, and just missed out on progressing into the top 12. The races were much better, coming up from 13th on the grid to ninth and 11th, scoring some good points for the team. Now we need to focus on the next event, but I am very happy for my team-mate Jean-Karl today. His win was very important for us and I will give my best to help him win the title in the remaining two rounds of the season.”
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