Photo: TCR South America

Azcona profits from Huff error for first TCR World Tour win in Argentina

BRC Racing’s Mikel Azcona claimed his first TCR World Tour victory in a chaotic Race 1 at La Pedrera in Argentina.

There was drama from the off on the wet track, with Azcona’s team-mate Norbert Michelisz racing into the lead at the start past Cyan Racing’s poleman Yann Ehrlacher.

Going into the first chicane, Ehrlacher tried reclaiming first place but set up a four-car battle for the lead. Comtoyou Racing’s Rob Huff profited to get into second place, with a brief bit of contact with Michelisz, then after going three-wide with Azcona and Ehrlacher took the lead.

Ehrlacher went down the inside of Azcona to then secure second, with Azcona spending the rest of the lap defending from Michelisz.

The safety car came out on lap two after Matías Milla stopped on track, with Cyan’s Santiago Urrutia – who had started 24th after an engine change – coming to a halt elsewhere and Raphael Reis retiring in the pits. Enrique Maglione also retired, while Pedro Cardoso lost two minutes to the rest of the field over the course of the lap but managed to avoid being lapped.

Racing resumed on lap six and Squadra Martino’s Néstor Girolami made the most of the BRC drivers battling to slip into fourth but was then passed back by Michelisz later in the lap as Cyan’s Thed Björk retired in the pits with rising engine temperatures.

Azcona and then Michelisz passed Ehrlacher on the next lap, the latter with a diving move which was so bold that it helped Girolami clear Ehrlacher at the final chicane.

That helped Huff grow his lead to 1.587 seconds, but Azcona then started chasing him down and was all over him before the safety car came out again on lap nine as Girolami had a race-ending off.

During this safety car period there was another retiree as Huff’s team-mate Frédéric Vervisch, who on lap seven passed two cars in one corner then lost four places two corners later, pulled into the pits at the end of lap 10. The race was supposed to restart at that point, and many drivers upped their pace going onto the pit straight. But the safety car was still on track and they had to slow down again as they began lap 11.

That meant the real restart was not until lap 12, which was the final lap, and Huff threw away the win by running through a lot of dust off-line and then going straight through a deep puddle that sent him off the track.

It dropped him to third behind the BRC pair, and he had to go through a corners of side-by-side action with Cyan’s Ma Qing Hua, who ran four slicks, before he asserted himself in a disappointing third place from fourth on the grid.

Azcona, in comparison, was elated with leading home Michelisz for victory, a result achieved with slick tyres at the front of his Hyundai Elantra N TCR and wet compound tyres at the rear. He said the track conditions made for the “most difficult race of the season so far”, and that his pass on Ehrlacher after the first restart was key to his win.

Paladini Racing’s Fabián Yannantuoni and Juan Ángel Rosso were the top TCR South America drivers in fifth and seventh, sandwiching TCR World Tour leader Ehrlacher after battles in the second half of the race.

Cardoso remarkably recovered all the way up to 10th in his Scuderia Chiarelli-run Hyundai.

Race 2 takes place tomorrow at 12:10 local time/17:10 CEST.