Photo: PSP Images

Jean-Karl Vernay secures his first win in Spa-Francorchamps, leads WRT 1-2-3

Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay bounced back from a difficult Friday by securing his first win in the TCR International Series in the heat at Spa-Francorchamps, taking the lead from pole-sitter Antti Buri at the start and scoring the first win for Volkswagen in 2016, leading a 1-2-3 for the German manufacturer.

Vernay started from second on the first grid and made his move around the outside of Buri’s identicial Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR at the first turn, with both cars in effect run by Team WRT.

Further down the order there was trouble as WestCoast Racing’s Gianni Morbidelli and B3 Racing’s Dusan Borkovic came together, with Morbidelli losing a tyre and retiring on circuit, while Borkovic limped his SEAT León back to the pits.

By the end of the first lap, Comini had made his way past Buri for P2, putting both the Leopard-backed cars first and second, while Race 1 winner Aku Pellinen moved his WestCoast Honda up to fifth ahead of James Nash’s Craft-Bamboo SEAT.

Mat’o Homola made a move on Buri’s Volkswagen for third on lap three, briefly taking the position, but went wide at the following corner, handing the spot back to the Finn, who would hold the place until the finish to score a podium on his debut.

Stefano Comini put a brave move on Vernay on lap four to take the lead from Les Combes, but Vernay produced a copycat manoeuvre on the following lap to reclaim the position, and went on to build over a two second lead before the finish.

The closest battle behind was for sixth, with Nash’s SEAT falling back into the clutches of both of his Craft-Bamboo SEAT team-mates Pepe Oriola and Sergey Afanasyev, as well as the Honda of Kevin Gleason, who’d been held up in the early stages by Jimmy Clairet’s Peugeot 308.

A mistake by Afanasyev on the final lap allowed Gleason through to eighth, with Pierre-Yves Corthals completing the top ten at his home race.

Oriola now assumes the championship lead on 84 points, two ahead of team-mate James Nash, but will also carry 20kg of success ballast in two weeks’ time at Imola as a result of having scored the second most points over the weekend in Spa.