Mikel Azcona wins at Sochi, Yann Ehrlacher is the 2021 champion

Zengo Motorsport’s Mikel Azcona drove a competitive race to take his first victory in the 2021 WTCR season at Sochi. Cyan Racing’s Yann Ehrlacher had a calm and conservative race to finish in sixth place and win his second consecutive drivers’ crown.

Heavy rain and a very wet track welcomed the WTCR field for Race 1 at Sochi, with poor visibility the biggest issue.

Jean-Karl Vernay (Hyundai Elantra N TCR) started strongly, taking the lead, but pole man Gilles Magnus (Audi RS 3 LMS) regained first position through straight line speed.

But the safety car would be called into action before the end of the opening lap as Münnich Motorsport’s Esteban Guerrieri (Honda Civic Type R TCR) crashed out whilst trying to overtake Frédéric Vervisch (Audi RS 3 LMS) for third place on the outside.

The race was relaunched on lap four, with the race distance increased to eleven laps. Magnus fended off Vernay’s attacks to retain the lead at the restart, with Vervisch having a look at the Hyundai.

Vernay had however a better exit of Turn 3, overtaking Magnus for the lead, as Zengo Motorsport’s Rob Huff fought Vervisch for third place. Both spent side-by-side most of lap four, with the Belgian managing to stay ahead.

Huff lost fourth place to his team-mate Mikel Azcona (Cupra Leon Competición) on lap five, as Vervisch overtook Magnus for second place.

But drama ensued for race leader Vernay, as his windscreen wipers didn’t work under the Russian rain. The Frenchman still managed to maintain a healthy lead over Vervisch. Championship leader Yann Ehrlacher (Lynk & Co. 03 TCR) sat in seventh place, a result good enough for him to secure the 2021 crown.

Azcona attacked Magnus for third place on lap six, with Huff also fancying his chances to overtake the Audi driver.

Vervisch was unable to close the gap to Vernay despite driving the lightest car on the field, coming under attack from Azcona on lap seven.

Vervisch’s problems allowed Magnus to take Azcona’s inside on lap seven, with both coming side-by-side three-wide with Huff. The Briton climbed to third place ahead of Azcona, with Magnus right behind the Cupras.

Vervisch found his rhythm on lap eight, closing the gap to Vernay to just half-a-second with three laps to go. The Audi driver tried the Hyundai’s inside at Turn 1 on lap nine, as the Cupras of Huff and Azcona caught up with the race leaders.

Vervish and Huff collided side-by-side on lap nine, with the Briton suffering a suspension failure and Azcona overtaking for second place.

Azcona closed the gap to Vernay, nudging the Hyundai at Turn 1 on the final lap. The Spaniard enjoyed bit traction on the way to Turn 4 to overtake for the lead.

At the chequered flag Azcona took his first victory of the season, with Vernay and Vervisch completing the podium.

Magnus finished fourth ahead of fellow Audi driver Nathanaël Berthon. Ehrlacher was sixth at the line, becoming the 2021 WTCR drivers’ champion for the second season in a row.

Attila Tassi (Honda Civic Type R TCR) finished seventh, ahead of the Lynk & Co. 03 TCRS of Yvan Muller, Santiago Urrutia and Thed Björk completing the top ten.

“It’s amazing to sit here and be the world champion again for the second year in a row!” Ehrlacher said after the race, winning the title with 212 points, 31 ahead of Vervisch.

Race 2 at Sochi is scheduled for 12:10 CET.