*Belgian scores his and Comtoyou Team Audi Sport’s first WTCR / OSCARO win of 2019
*Ma takes maiden WTCR podium by a Chinese driver having led in slippery conditions
*Michelisz completes top three, Farfus flies from P19 to fifth after brilliant drive
Frédéric Vervisch scored his first WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO victory of the year in an action-packed Race 1 at WTCR Race of Slovakia after rising from ninth on the grid.
The Comtoyou Team Audi Sport driver made a great start to jump up to second on the first lap, then passed Team Mulsanne’s Ma Qinghua for the lead to claim a maiden 2019 win for the Audi RS 3 LMS.
“Great race, great result,” said Vervisch after his second career win in WTCR / OSCARO. “The start was great, although I got hit from behind at Turn 3, but didn’t go off. Maybe I took more risks than the others, then just kept my pace. I was surprised at our good pace.”
From the lights, Ma made a great start from the second row to drive through the middle of DHL Pole Position starter Nicky Catsburg and fellow Hyundai driver Norbert Michelisz to take the lead in his Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR, as Vervisch made up a fantastic eight places on that opening lap.
Behind them, #ROADTOMALAYSIA points leader Nestor Girolami was in trouble, as he and Vervisch’s team-mate Niels Langeveld went off in a gravel trap. Team Mulsanne’s Kevin Ceccon was another to retire early.
The safety car was called upon in the wake of the incidents, but racing resumed on lap four as Ma was forced on the defensive. Vervisch made a great move for the lead on lap five and was through. “Ma was quicker on the straights, but I was better in the corners,” said the winner. “He was very fair when I challenged him.”
As Vervisch opened a gap, Ma now faced attention from Michelisz, who worked hard to pass. But the Chinese driver held on to claim a welcome podium finish for Team Mulsanne, with Michelisz also happy with third.
Jean-Karl Vernay was fourth for Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport after rising from seventh on the grid, while the action came thick and fast behind him.
BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team’s Augusto Farfus was another to rise up the order, coming from P19 on the grid to finish an astonishing fifth. He was ahead of fellow BRC Hyundai ace Gabriele Tarquini, the 2018 WTCR / OSCARO title winner claiming sixth.
Farfus’s team-mate Catsburg faded from his DHL pole to finish seventh, sporting heavy damage to the front left of his Hyundai which was sustained early in the race. He was ahead of Tom Coronel in eighth, with PWR Racing’s Mikel Azcona and wildcard entry Luca Engstler, from Germany, completing the top 10.
The other points scorers were Yavn Muller – up from P17 on the grid in his Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR – Gordon Shedden, Rob Huff (up from P24), SLR Volkswagen’s Benjamin Leuchter and ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Esteban Guerrieri.
PWR Racing’s Daniel Haglöf, who had run in fifth early in the race after starting fourth, was another to suffer problems and had dropped to P19 by the flag.
Race 2 of WTCR Race of Slovakia takes place at 15h15 local time, with Race 3 due to follow at 16h45.