Frédéric Vervisch goes from ninth to win Slovakia Race 1
Frédéric Vervisch took his first win of the 2019 World Touring Car Cup season at a slightly damp race at the Slovakiaring, after the Belgian launched his Comtoyou Racing Audi RS 3 LMS from ninth to second at the end of the first lap, before picking off early race leader Ma Qing Hua for the lead.
Nicky Catsburg started from pole position in the BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR, but with light rain falling just as the race started made the conditions tricky, with Catsburg losing grip at the outside of Turn 1 and falling to fourth, while Ma Qing Hua in the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce drove through into the lead from third on the grid.
Vervisch, who’d also opted for the outside line at Turn 1, was already battling for the lead and had moved up to second place.
Further back, there was trouble for championship leader Néstor Girolami, who slid into the Cupra of Tom Coronel, and then the Audi of Niels Langeveld in quick succession and went off the track and into the gravel trap and became the first retirement of the race.
The race was paused behind the safety car before restarting on lap four, with Ma having to fight hard to defend against Vervisch, with Norbert Michelisz keeping a watching brief in third in his Hyundai.
It took just one lap before Vervisch made his move for the lead at Turn 2 on lap five, and then quickly broke away from the Chinese driver.
Behind them was Jean-Karl Vernay in the WRT Audi, with Daniel Haglöf running fifth in his PWR Racing Cupra, but a tactical switch between the two BRC team-mates of Augusto Farfus and Nicky Catsburg, with Catsburg’s car carrying damage from an earlier run-in with Jean-Karl Vernay, allowed Farfus to take the position from Haglöf at Turn 1 on lap eight.
Catsburg followed him past, but turned in too early and the two made light contact. As the race wore on, both cars fell down the order with damage, with Catsburg dropping to seventh behind team-mate Gabriele Tarquini, while Haglöf dropped all the way to 19th.
At the bottom of the points positions, Mehdi Bennani and Aurélien Panis had a coming together on the penultimate lap at Turn 3, with Bennani’s Volkswagen piling into the Frenchman’s Cupra, with both taken out of the race.
Up front, Vervisch held on to win by three seconds over Ma, with Michelisz third.
All five Hyundais were in the top ten, with wild card Luca Engstler making his way up to finish tenth on his World Touring Car Cup debut, while Yvan Muller was the only one of the Lynk & Co drivers to rescue a result for Cyan Racing with 11th, with Tom Coronel the best-placed Cupra driver in eighth, and Rob Huff the top Volkswagen in 13th.
Girolami still leads the championship on 100 points, but is now just seven points clear of team-mate Esteban Guerrieri, with Gabriele Tarquini now up to third in the standings, 11 behind.
The next race is at 15:15 CEST, with Rob Huff starting from pole position in the Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen.