Engstler Motorsport has ended the 2021 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup season on a high, with Jean-Karl Vernay finishing third in the drivers’ standings and Luca Engstler securing the Junior Driver title at the final round of the year, Race of Russia.
Vernay’s impressive efforts in the rain at Sochi Autodrom saw him charge into second place with the Hyundai Elantra N TCR from third on the grid in Race 1, before his progress was halted by a safety car. Following the restart, he successfully mastered the tricky wet conditions to take the lead of the race. The Frenchman saw off various challenges for his position throughout the remaining laps, but ultimately had to concede the position on the final lap and take the chequered flag in second place.
Vernay also made a position at the start of Race 2, which he started in seventh place, before the safety car was called once again. He gained more positions at the restart, climbing to fourth as those ahead became entangled in incidents, but struggled to keep the chasing pack behind. Although he was firmly in the battle for second place in the final laps, he ultimately finished in fifth position.
His team-mate Engstler elected to gamble in qualifying and started the session with a mix of slick and wet weather tyres. On the out-lap the German discovered the conditions were worse than anticipated, and he had to pit to change to four wet tyres. This lost him time on track, and he qualified 15th overall. Engstler gained a position on the opening lap of Race 1, moving up to 14th, and managed to keep a cool head during a difficult race to finish in 13th.
Starting 14th in Race 2, Engstler powered up to ninth before the safety car briefly paused proceedings. The German was running as high as eighth following the restart of the race, but lost out to those behind in the closing laps. He crossed the line in tenth to secure his first WTCR title.
Following the WTCR season finale, Vernay finished third with 177 points and Engstler 15th on 86 in the drivers’ standings, while Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team ended the year fifth with 263 points in the teams’ classification.
Franz Engstler, Team Principal of Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team said: “It is fantastic to end our second season in WTCR on the podium and to win our first Junior Driver title in the series. We demonstrated our fighting spirit here in Russia, with Jean-Karl trying valiantly to stay in the lead all the way until the final lap of Race 1, and Luca claiming a last-gasp lead of the Junior Driver standings for the first time this season – when it truly mattered. 2021 has been difficult for us at times, and it is testament to the hard work and determination of the entire team that we have been able to triumph with Luca and help Jean-Karl bounce back to third in the drivers’ standings. Overall this season we’ve scored two wins and three second places, with Jean-Karl one of the few drivers who has scored a double victory this year. After our struggles in qualifying it was important we capitalised on the conditions of two wet and difficult races today – which is exactly what we did. Our motivation to come back stronger is higher than ever, and we look forward to the opportunities that next year will present.”
Jean-Karl Vernay said: “We started the weekend well and did a great job in Race 1 to finish second, which helped us to secure third place in the drivers’ standings. We couldn’t have done better in my opinion. In Race 2 we just needed to finish – everyone else in contention for the podium of the standings was out, so we kept the focus to bring the result home. We can be frustrated because the target was to win the title but I think finishing on the podium is still a good achievement. I’d like to say a big thank you to Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, Engstler Motorsport and our sponsor Liqui Moly for this season.”
Luca Engstler said: “I am very happy to secure the Junior Drive title in the end. Once again we didn’t have the qualifying we wanted but we had to take a risk in the damp conditions, and it didn’t work out. The races were good. The goal was to bring the car home; it was quite dangerous at times racing here but I enjoyed it. It’s an emotional day with Gabriele Tarquini retiring; he has helped me so much. I’m a bit sad this season is over, but at least we have secured another title. Now our focus turns to next year.”
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