Photo: TCR South America

Diego Nunes wins season finale at Cascavel, Ignacio Montenegro is the champion

Diego Nunes scored victory in the final race of the TCR South America season at Cascavel as Squadra Martino’s Ignacio Montenegro claimed the drivers’ crown after finishing in eighth place.

Fabio Casagrande started from the reverse grid pole position, with his team-mate Juan Manuel Casella retiring to the pits at the end of the formation lap.

At the start, Pedro Cardosa’s Hyundai took the lead ahead of Nunes and Juan Ángel Rosso, both with Toyota Corolla TCRs – with Casagrande stuck on the grid for a brief moment. Nunes then took the lead on lap two as Cardoso retired to the pits.

Bernardo Llaver was the best-placed championship contender in fourth place in his Toyota, with Montenegro in sixth.

Rosso kept a tight grip on Nunes, with the gap between the two drivers under half-a-second. The leaders opened a discreet gap over Fabián Yannantuoni in third ahead of Llaver and the Cupra of Galid Osman. Montenegro sat a second behind the Brazilian on lap 12, with PMO Motorsport’s Rafael Suzuki – the race one winner – right under his rear bumper.

The pressure increased for Montenegro, as Raphael Reis joined Suzuki in his pursuit on lap 15, with the three cars separated by less than a second. The trio made contact with Osman on lap 18.

Reis came side-by-side with Suzuki on lap 19, but the PMO Motorsport driver defended. The Cupra driver would overtake for seventh place at the end of the lap. Reis also took Montenegro’s inside on the following lap, with Suzuki taking advantage to overtake the Honda, as Montenegro fell to eighth place.

Adalberto Baptista suffered a puncture on lap 26, having to retire to the pits. The incident didn’t cause any obstacle to the rest of the contenders.

At the chequered flag, Nunes claimed the victory, with Rosso and Yannantuoni completing the podium.

Llaver was fourth, ahead of Osman, Reis and Suzuki. Montenegro struggled with a hydraulic issue but crossed the line in eighth place, enough to clinch the drivers’ title, to add to Squadra Martino’s success in the teams’ championship.

José Manuel Sapag finished ninth, with Marcio Basso completing the top ten.

Montenegro finishes the season with 468 points, 16 more than Llaver. Osman took the crown in TCR Brazil.

“The last lap was very difficult, it was nearly impossible to drive the car,” said Montenegro at the end of the race. “I want to thank the team for this season and winning the championship together.”

“It was our second victory with Toyota, here it was very hot and it was a difficult race, but it was a good weekend,” added winner Nunes after the race.