The Round 6 in the 2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup in Slovakia saw a championship change of hands with BRC Racing Team’s Gabriele Tarquini taking over from M Racing YMR’s Yvan Muller.
After the controversial weekend of racing at the Vila Real circuit in Portugal, the WTCR moved to the SlovakiaRing in the Czech Republic last weekend as a replacement for the Argentine rounds that was dropped due to a Promoter Issue.
The weekend kick-started with some controversy during qualifying for Race 1 as the Hyundai’s of Norbert Michelisz, Muller and Thed Bjork were all excluded for running at illegal boost level.
Tarquini in the other Hyundai took pole for Race 1 and admitted that he was helped from the data from 2017. The Italian hoped to add Slovakia to his his winning tally, however it was Campos Racing’s Pepe Oriola in the CUPRA TCR to take his first win of 2018.
Pole-sitter was taken over the line by Aurelien Comte in the DG Sport Peugeot 308 TCR, with Oriola moving up to second and Jean-Karl Vernay to third in the WRT Audi RS 3 LMS. Tarquini was down to fourth.
But Comete suffered tyre wear issues and lost three places to fourth with Oriola leading from Vernay and Tarquini. Fabrizio Giovanardi in the Mulsanne Racing Alfa Romeo completed the Top 5.
The qualifying for Race 2 and Race 3 saw Michelisz secure pole for the latter while Zengo Motorsport CUPRA Leon TCR’s Norbert Nagy had reverse-grid pole from Tarquini for Race 2 of the Slovakia weekend.
Controversy didn’t leave the weekend as three Hondas were disqualified ahead of Race 2 for a boost violation. However, an appeal from Boutsen Ginion Racing and Munnich Motorsport saw them re-instated for the race.
The second race then started with the three Hondas of Esteban Guerrieri, Tom Coronel and Benjamin Lessennes, but Coronel’s Honda was wheeled off the grid with a damper failure. Tarquini, meanwhile, made a better start from the front row this time.
He led into the first few corners and despite Nagy’s attempts to overtake, the Hungarian could not pass the Hyundai driver. Instead, he faced heat from Muller behind but the Frenchman wasn’t successful in his pass.
Tarquini held on to win Race 2 with Nagy and Muller completing the podium positions as Oriola fought his way up to fourth following up on his Race 1 with as young Lessennes completed the Top 5.
The final race was even more frantic affair as Michelisz looked to have it easy off the line. The Hungarian did get a great start, however there was contact between Tarquini’s Hyundai running into Lessennes’ Boutsen Ginion Honda in Turn 3.
Lessennes spun and collected the Honda of Guerrieri along with the Campos Cupre of John Filippi, bringing out the safety car to clear the stricken cars. In separate incidents, the two WRT Audis of Vernay and Gordon Shedden.
They were both hit on the rear by Nagy and the SLR Volkswagen of Mehdi Bennani. Once the race resumed, Michelisz and Comte strolled off into the distance while the third place saw a four-way battle.
It involved Bjork, Giovanardi, Frederic Vervisch, and wildcard Petr Fulin. In the end, Michelisz held off Comte for the win as Vervisch managed to beat Bjork for third by a mere 0.003s with Fulin completing the Top 5.
A retirement for Muller helped Tarquini to take the points lead with the Italian on 202 points from Muller’s 199. Michelisz is third with 176 points followed by Yann Ehrlacher on 171 and Vernay on 166.
The series now takes a break until September when it heads to the first of four flyaway races, starting at the Ningbo circuit in China followed by races in Wuhan, Suzuka and Macau – rounding out the season.