Nathanaël Berthon claimed a lights-to-flag victory in WTCR Race 1 at Jeddah Corniche Circuit. At the wheel of his Comtoyou Racing Audi RS 3 LMS, the French driver kept Norbert Michelisz’s Hyundai Elantra at bay throughout the whole race and moved only five points behind the second-placed Néstor Girolami in the standings. Tom Coronel completed the podium, while TCR Europe’s reigning champion Franco Girolami came close to finish on the podium on his second appearance in WTCR.
Grid penalties had demoted Gilles Magnus (from P5 to P7, for collision with Mehdi Bennani in Bahrein’s Race 2), Esteban Guerrieri (from P8 to P10, for impending Rob Huff in Qualifying) and Néstor Girolami (from P12 to P15, for technical infringement in Qualifying).
At the start, Berthon sprinted from the pole and led ahead of Michelisz and Coronel, while Mikel Azcona went wide at T1 and dropped to fifth behind Franco Girolami; during the first lap the new champion was also passed by Magnus, but the safety car was deployed to recover Attila Tassi’s Honda that had stalled on the grid.
Racing resumed in lap 4, with Néstor Girolami who had already moved up into P11. In lap 8, Nicky Catsburg overtook Viktor Davidovski for seventh; behind them Guerrieri and Huff were fighting for P9, with the latter who passed his rival in lap 9. Guerrieri then let his teammate Girolami pass through into P10.
Berthon didn’t manage to shake Michelisz off, while Azcona was chasing the fifth-placed Magnus. Despite gaps remained small, positions froze until the few final laps when Magnus made a mistake and was passed by Azcona; the Belgian driver repassed and his Audi came together with Azcona’s Hyundai, but Magnus retained the fourth place. At the same time, Michelisz tried his best to defend the second place from Franco Girolami, which gave Coronel the opportunity to pass Girolami for P3. Berthon took his second win of the season from Michelisz, Coronel, Franco Girolami, Magnus and Azcona.
Race 2 will start at 22:15 local time (20:15 CET) with Tassi’s Honda Civic on pole and Davidovski’s Audi in P2 of the top-ten reversed grid.
Jeddah – Race 1
1. Nathanaël Berthon (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS), 28 laps
2. Norbert Michelisz (BRC Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N), 1.869
3. Tom Coronel (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS), 4.573
1. M. Azcona 317 pts; 2. N. Girolami 245; 3. N. Berthon 240
Picture: FIA WTCR/DPPI
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