Fabio Casagrande and Esteban Guerrieri won the TCR South America’s endurance race at Termas de Río Hondo, sharing a Squadra Martino Honda Civic Type R. When Casagrande replaced Guerrieri, the Argentine’s strong performance had put the car in a solid lead; Casagrande dropped to fourth, but eventually benefitted from the troubles that hit the three drivers up front and found himself back into the lead, 90 seconds to the chequered flag.
José Manuel Sapag got away well from the pole and led at the start; behind him Néstor Girolami who was fifth on the grid passed Juan Àngel Rosso for P2 and Guerrieri advanced from P8 to P4. The three Honda cars moved ahead as they overtook Sapag’s Lynk & Co in lap 3, while the fifth-placed Bernard Llaver in the W2 PRO GP CUPRA he shared with Raphael Reis went wide and returned to the pits. The battle between the Honda drivers resulted in contact between Girolami and Rosso in lap 5, with the latter dropping to third behind Guerrieri, who passed Girolami for the lead in lap 6. At the same time, Sapag pitted with a broken front right rim, losing two laps. Behind the leading trio, Matías Milla’s CUPRA advanced to fourth ahead of Thiago Camilo’s Toyota Corolla, Carlos Okulovich’s Lynk & Co and Martín Scuncio’s Hyundai i30 N. In lap 10, Rosso overtook Girolami for second, while Camilo’s Toyota pitted with a problem to the front suspension.
Pit stops began at the end of lap 14, with Rosso, Girolami, Milla, Okulovich and Pedro Aizza handing their cars to Ricardo Risatti, Ignacio Montenegro, Alceu Feldman, Fabricio Pezzini and Mikel Azcona. They all rejoined one lap behind Guerrieri who pitted at the end of lap 21 and was replaced by Casagrande.
After all pit stops, with 20 minutes left on the clock, Casagrande was leading by 7.5 seconds over Feldman, with Montenegro in third, one further second behind, while Azcona took fourth from Risatti who dropped down the order. In lap 25 Jorge Barrio drove the Toyota back on track after a long stop.
At the end of lap 27, Casagrande, Feldman and Montenegro were covered by 7 tenths, with Azcona three seconds behind. In lap 28, Feldman passed Casagrande, but Montenegro seized the opportunity to pass them both and take the lead; soon after, Azcona overtook Casagrande for third. The last two minutes were full of drama: Azcona and Feldman swapped positions a couple of times while fighting for second, until they clashed and rejoined behind Casagrande. With 90 seconds left, the 17-year-old Montenegro who was comfortably in the lead, saw his hopes of victory vanishing when his engine overheated. Casagrande inherited the first place and won ahead of Feldman, Azcona and Pezzini.
After the race, Feldman was excluded for the incident with Azcona, which lifted the Spaniard and Pezzini to second and third.
With his rivals in the title fight all running into troubles, Pezzini has stretched his leadership in the standings to 72 points over Rosso, 84 over Reis and 92 ahead of his teammate Sapag.
TCR South America will revert to the twin-sprint-race format for the next event at Buenos Aires on September 16/18.
Termas de Río Hondo – Race
1. F. Casagrande/E. Guerrieri (Squadra Martino, Honda Civic Type R), 32 laps
2. P. Aizza/M. Azcona (Scuderia Chiarelli, Hyundai Elantra N), 8.831
3. F. Pezzini/C. Okulovich (PMO Motorsport, Lynk & Co 03), 16.104
1. F. Pezzini 401 pts; 2. JÁ. Rosso 329; 3. R. Reis 317
Picture: TCR South America/Hernán Capa