Photo: TCR South America

Girolami wins at home, Michelisz takes points lead in eventful Race 2 at La Pedrera

Squadra Martino’s Néstor Girolami won on home soil from reversed-grid pole in TCR World Tour Race 2 at La Pedrera in Argentina.

At no point did Girolami have to get defensive as he took his first victory in World Touring Cars in just over a year, but neither did he have it easy.

Scuderia Chiarelli’s Pedro Cardoso started second on the grid, and held the position through the opening corners of the race as Thed Björk and Frédéric Vervisch collided just behind and Mikel Azcona slammed into the outside wall at the opening corner.

Fabian Yannantuoni then spun backwards into the barriers at the first chicane, where Yann Ehrlacher cut across and wiped out the tyre stack used to mark the corner, and Frederick Balbi spun and stopped on track too.

It was the last incident that prompted the safety car to be called, and before that happened Comtoyou Racing’s Rob Huff had gone from seventh and made it into third place. Enrique Maglione retired in the pits at the end of the lap, and Matías Milla also came in to have his car inspected before retiring a lap later.

Racing resumed on lap four with 21 of the 25 drivers that had started the race. Huff then got past Cardoso at the second part of the double-apex left-hander that starts the lap. Cyan Racing’s Ma Qing Hua cleared Cardoso too at the hairpin, as Girolami pulled away.

Cardoso lost another spot to BRC Racing’s Norbert Michelisz at the start of the next lap, while his team-mate Azcona dropped down the order with a damaged front-right wheel from his lap one impact with the walls and then retired.

Girolami’s job up front was helped by the battle for second that started to take place on lap seven of 17 as Ma began attacking Huff. On lap 11 he dived down the inside of Huff at the hairpin after the Comtoyou driver left the door open with a wide entry into the corner, but no sooner was he into second was he having to think about the challenge of Michelisz who was chasing them in fourth.

However the fight for the podium positions stayed clean, with Girolami keeping himself around a second all the way to the finish. Ma followed up his Race 1 podium with second place, Huff dropped back several seconds in third and Michelisz held on to fourth despite a last-lap incident.

Pre-race TCR World Tour leader Ehrlacher tried passing him on the inside of a left-hander and actually had his car slightly ahead but not turned in enough to make the corner side-by-side with Michelisz. The result was the Cyan driver made contact and his car wrapped around the front of Michelisz’s before slamming into the barriers. And with Michelisz scoring a good haul of points, it meant the World Tour lead transferred to the Hyundai driver. He is now on 270 points, Ehrlacher is on 266 and Huff is on 247.

The incident promoted Ehrlacher’s team-mate Santiago Urrutia to fifth, with Vervisch and Björk also gaining places to finish sixth and seventh. Vervisch had a lap seven collision with Cardoso which sent the latter spinning down the order, and on the cool-down lap post-race there was contact between them again.

Toyota Team Argentina’s Bernardo Llaver ended up being the top TCR South America driver in eighth, with Cardoso finishing just 0.329 seconds behind in ninth and W2 ProGP’s Raphael Reis coming from last on the grid to finish tenth after Esteban Guerrieri copped a ten-second penalty for track limits abuse.

The next TCR World Tour race takes place at Sydney Motorsport Park in November.