Photo: TCR Europe

John Filippi ends nine-year wait for first win at touring car’s top level

Comtoyou Racing’s John Filippi won the second TCR World Tour and TCR Europe race at Spa-Francorchamps, marking his first win at touring car racing’s top level since debuting in 2014.

Filippi raced in the World Touring Car Championship from 2014 to 2017, with two fourth places being his best finishes, then in a single World Touring Car Cup campaign his best result was fifth. Since 2019 he has been racing in TCR Europe, and now has three wins in the series.

The Frenchman started on reversed-grid pole and was unchallenged at the start as Felipe Fernández made a slow getaway from the other side of the front row and immediately put his focus into defending second place from BRC Racing’s Norbert Michelisz.

A brave Michelisz passed Fernández at Raidillon but had no answer to Filippi who controlled the pace up front to keep his chaser just out of his slipstream all the way to the finish. Filippi won by 1.636 seconds, with Michelisz having to keep an eye on his mirrors throughout for Tom Coronel.

However Comtoyou driver Coronel could not challenge for second place as in the last laps he was having to hold off Cyan Racing’s Santiago Urrutia.

Fernández sank to sixth place behind Race 1 winner Yann Ehrlacher, who has lost the World Tour lead to Michelisz, with Comtoyou’s Kobe Pauwels initially ahead before an overheating engine on lap five of eight led to him coming to a stop on the hill down from La Source.

The most exciting battles of the race were for seventh and below, with a struggling Rob Huff trying to hold off many on his long-time TCR rivals. He spent several laps defending from Néstor Girolami, who initially had to battle past Ma Qing Hua and finally got past Huff with a great driving move at La Source on lap five.

Mikel Azcona was the next driver to hassle Huff, and they went side-by-side into Les Combes on lap seven. Azcona was ahead, but then Huff cut across the corner and got back past. He let Azcona through at Bruxelles, but that also allowed Hua to get his nose in and Volcano Motorsport duo Lewis Brown and Isaac Smith to involve themselves in the battle too.

Huff just kept Hua at bay in the middle sector of the lap, but had more trouble later on and they all ran wide exiting Blanchimont. Another spot was lost for Huff, to Hua’s Cyan Racing team-mate Thed Björk, while Hua dropped behind the Volcano cars and then had contact with Brown at La Source on the final lap before being passed by Brown and Smith at Raidillon.

Michelisz has claimed the lead in the standings on 94 points, three ahead of Ehrlacher and 18 ahead of Urrutia.

The next TCR World Tour race will take place on June 10-11 with the invitational TCR Italian Festival at Vallelunga.