Monday, 11 October 2021 18:09

Azcona grabs a second TCR Europe title

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Victory in Barcelona's Race 1 gives Azcona a second TCR Europe title

Mikel Azcona, driving a Volcano Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición, took a lights-to-flag victory in Race 1 at Barcelona to record his sixth race win of the year and so secured the 2021 TCR Europe Drivers’ title with one race in hand – the second time the Spaniard has won the championship after he took the title in 2018. Teddy Clairet brought his Team Clairet Sport Peugeot 308 home in second place while the Sébastien Loeb Racing Hyundai Elantra N of Sami Taoufik completed the podium places.

Race 1
A lights-to-flag win despite a safety car period
Starting from pole position, Azcona made a good start and led into Turn 1, while Teddy Clairet passed Taoufik for second place away from the grid and so it was the Peugeot in P2 as the field streamed through the first corner. Azcona’s only rival for the title, Franco Girolami, started from the back of the grid after a water pump belt problem in Qualifying and the PSS Racing Team Honda appeared to be involved in an incident on the opening lap in which the Hyundai of Felice Jelmini made contact with Tom Coronel’s Audi. The steering on the Elantra was broken by the contact and that resulted in Jelmini hitting the CUPRA of Felipe Fernandez into the gravel at Turn 11. The safety car was deployed while both cars could be recovered.

Racing eventually resumed at the start of Lap 7, with the race distance having been increased from 12 laps to 14. Jimmy Clairet soon passed Evgenii Leonov for tenth place, with Leonov then dropping to 14th. The Volcano Motorsport CUPRA briefly recovered a position when Leonov passed Mat’o Homola for P13 on the next lap, but a string of cars were battling for positions outside the top ten and Leonov quickly found himself back in P16 when he was passed by Girolami.

The four-way fight for 11th to 14th between Klim Gavrilov, Viktor Davidovski, Homola and Jáchym Galáš would become a five-way contest when Tom Coronel passed Girolami for 15th and joined the rear of the pack. Further up the leaderboard, Isidro Callejas passed his Brutal Fish Racing teammate Martin Ryba for sixth place, with Jack Young then passing Mehdi Bennani for eighth place so that the three Brutal Fish Honda cars were running together. Bennani was then passed by Jimmy Clairet for ninth.

Over the final few laps, the only change to the top ten places was when Callejas passed Niels Langeveld for P5 on the final lap. Azcona then took the chequered flag to win by 1.369 seconds from Teddy Clairet with Taoufik finishing third, a little over three seconds behind the Peugeot. A dejected Girolami eventually finished 17th and so was outside the points, which meant that he is unable to catch Azcona despite there being one race of the season left to run tomorrow. The new TCR Europe Champion, meanwhile, will head back to Most in the Czech Republic for the WTCR event tomorrow in which he will start Race 2 from pole position.

Twenty-two of the twenty-four cars entered started the race, with the Audi of Dušan Borkovič having been withdrawn before the start with an engine issue and the CUPRA of Gilles Colombani failing to leave the pit lane as the grid formed up.

Quotes from the podium finishers

Mikel Azcona (1st) “I have to say it was not a difficult race because I had a comfortable gap between Clairet and me. Over the first few laps he was pushing quite strongly, and I thought I had to push to avoid getting into a battle with him. Then I saw in the mirror that he was a second or so behind me, so I said to myself that if I stay like this I can win the race and the title. No mistakes, no kerbs, no issues – I tried to save the car. I have to say that I am very happy to be the European champion for a second time. Thanks to my team, Volcano Motorsport, to CUPRA Racing and to everyone that supports me; I really appreciate them. Of course, it means a lot to me to be able to win the title at home. I have my family, my girlfriend, my brother and my sponsors here and it feels really good to have the atmosphere at my home track to have everybody supporting me. Tonight we will have a really good dinner with my WTCR team to celebrate, but we also have to focus on two important WTCR races tomorrow.”

Teddy Clairet (2nd): “The start was a bit strange, I have to say, because it seemed to be really quick between the five-second board and the lights going out, but okay I made a better start than Sami so I could overtake him. It was a good point for me because I knew Azcona was faster, but if I could stay with him I could maybe open a gap to the cars behind and that was what happened. Sami was fast until lap four or five and then I could open a gap until the chequered flag. I thought Azcona would take the restart quite soon and when we were in the chicane I said to myself that we would go at the last moment so I had to concentrate. It was important to follow him because it’s always a tricky moment and you can easily lose a position or two because everyone is so close. It was a key moment, I think, and then I was really happy because the car was really good and the team worked well. We will see tomorrow what will happen in Race 2.”

Sami Taoufik (3rd): “I’m happy to finish on the podium; it’s nice to be up there to show my flag and get support from my family – there were lots of smiles around the team as well. The main issue was at the start; I had a really good start relative to Azcona, but when I tried to upshift it missed a gear and so I did a double upshift and left that left me at the mercy of Clairet. Overall, it was a difficult race, quite boring in my opinion, related to tyre management. There were barely any overtakes in the race, including myself. I hope tomorrow I can make up some positions. Obviously it’s the reversed grid and I start from P9, so there’s definitely a lot to do. If I am going to make up positions, it’ll have to be in the first few corners because we’re going to have the same issues as today with tyre management. In the last race in Monza I went from P14 to P4 so nothing’s impossible. I hope to find some gaps tomorrow for me to stick my nose in.”

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