A mixed weekend for Engstler Motorsport has seen its title ambitions take a hit at the Race of Italy, the seventh round of the 2021 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup season.
Both Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team drivers were compromised in the first phase of qualifying at Adria International Raceway, which placed them outside of the top twelve despite them having the pace to progress into the second session. As a result, Jean-Karl Vernay and Luca Engstler started both races in the middle of the field.From 12th, Vernay gained a place on the opening lap and went on to break into the top-ten at the start of the fifth lap. The Frenchman then went door-to-door in a sustained campaign for ninth, which he secured on lap ten. For the remainder of the race, he enjoyed good pace with his Hyundai Elantra N TCR that enabled him to keep the chasing pack behind. Although he finished ninth, a post-race penalty dropped him to 14th. His team-mate Engstler moved up to 15th on the first lap, and although he later slipped back to 16th, the German went on to regain the place later in the race.A stellar start to Race 2 saw Engstler gain an impressive six positions on the opening lap. An emphatic move on the third lap saw him move up to ninth, after which he maintained the gap to those behind to covert his hard-fought efforts into another points-scoring finish, though he later dropped a position to tenth after a penalty. In contrast, Vernay’s race was practically over soon after it began. Having been sandwiched in the middle of several cars at turn four, the Frenchman was forced to pit on the second lap with a tyre puncture. Although he was able to re-join the race, he finished in last place as his title hopes slipped away.Vernay now sits sixth overall, with the gap to second place in the drivers’ standings just 19 points, while Engstler is 14th. Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team is also sixth in the teams’ battle.
Franz Engstler, Team Principal of Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team said: “Once again we have seen that qualifying can have a huge impact on the entire weekend. While we should have progressed into the second session with both cars, our target today was to recover as much as possible in the races. Both Jean-Karl and Luca did stellar jobs moving up the field, but Jean-Karl was unable to avoid the incident on the opening lap of Race 2 and as a result, it appears as though the title is no longer within our grasp. We will do everything we can to secure second overall in the final round in Russia and end the season with a strong performance.”
Jean-Karl Vernay said: “Starting 12th & 13th in the races could have been quite difficult, but I had a good start in Race 1 and found a good rhythm. I tried to gain positions quickly and managed to make my way up the grid to finish ninth, which I think was the best we could have done. My start in Race 2 was absolutely super and I gained a place, but after that I was sandwiched by a few cars. I tried to brake to avoid it, but I picked up a puncture and had to pit. It’s not been the weekend we expected here at Race of Italy. Now we have to focus on finishing on the podium of the championship; we are only 19 points behind second place, so we still have the possibility to finish vice-champion.”
Luca Engstler said: “Race 1 was tough. I was hoping for a bigger mess in turn one, and looking back I think I was too careful. A lot of the cars around me were more aggressive, so I lost a bit of ground to them at the start. I managed to make it up again and finished in 15th, but in all honesty it was nothing special. The second race went a bit better, we made a few changes to the set-up which helped us to make a positive step forward.It was good to go from 15th to ninth on-track with some strong pace in my Hyundai Elantra N TCR, but it was sad Jean-Karl was effectively out of the race and I am very disappointed for him.”For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.