On a very wet Sunday, Toyota drivers Bernardo Llaver and Fabián Yannantuoni were victorious in the TCR South America and TCR Brasil joint event at the Autodromo Internacional Velopark, in Nova Santa Rita.
Toyota Team Argentina’s Llaver won the first race that was neutralized for several laps behind the safety car due to worsening weather conditions; Llaver was followed by Ignacio Montenegro who topped the TCR Brasil’s results. In Race 2, Yannantuoni completed a superb defensive drive, leading from the start to the end under constant pressure from a pack of pursuers.
Montenegro has retained the lead in TCR South America, 23 points clear of Llaver, and also moved on top of TCR Brasil standings, 21 points ahead of Raphael Reis.
Race 1 – Montenegro sat on pole after topping a Qualifying that was disrupted twice by the red flag; Rafael Suzuki was alongside him, while Enrique Maglione took his P7 on the grid after Squadra Martino had rebuilt his Honda following a terrific crash in Q2.
Heavy rain was flooding the track at the start, and Llaver from P3 made the best start, leading from Montenegro, Suzuki, Juan Ángel Rosso, Pedro Cardoso and Juan Manuel Casella. At the end of lap 1, Fabio Casagrande pitted and rejoined having lost one lap, while Reis aquaplaned and dropped from ninth to 13th.
Up front, Llaver built a gap ahead of Montenegro, but the safety car was deployed in lap 5, as track conditions had worsened. Racing resumed in lap 12, with Cardoso dropping down the order from fifth before stopping at his pit with technical problems, while Casella and Yannantuoni advanced to P5 and P6. In lap 17, Galid Osman punted José Manuel Sapag into a half-spin, while they were fighting for P7, which enabled Diego Nunes to pass Sapag for P8. However, during the last lap Sapag dropped to tenth behind Nunes and Reis. Llaver claimed his second win of the season from Montenegro and Suzuki who were first and second in TCR Brasil, with Rosso completing the podium.
Race 2 – Yannantuoni and Reis shared the front row of the top-ten reversed grid. Rain was still pouring when Yannantuoni made good use of the pole to lead the field at the start, while Sapag and Cardoso from third and fifth on the grid jumped ahead of Reis. Rosso overtook Reis in lap 1 and Cardoso in lap 2, moving up into third, while Maglione was struggling to defend his fifth position. In lap 5, Reis passed Cardoso for P4, then the Hyundai driver began to drop down as he was passed by the quartet of Montenegro, Suzuki, Llaver and Casella who had already dispatched Maglione.
Yannantuoni in the lead was closely chased by Sapag and Rosso, while Reis was closing in on the trio. Behind them the battle for P5 heated up; in lap 14, there was a contact between Montenegro and Suzuki. The points leader dropped to ninth, while Llaver and Casella climbed to fifth and sixth. Then, in lap 16, Suzuki punted Casella into a spin, with the Honda driver losing several positions down to 11th.
The four cars in the leading train were covered by less than one-and-half second, with Llaver trying to join the pack. In lap 23, Reis passed Rosso for third and the latter found himself under the attacks from Llaver and Suzuki. In lap 25, Sapag and Reis collided, which resulted in Sapag dropping to fourth, while Suzuki overtook Llaver for P5. Yannatuoni rejected a late attempt from Reis and retained the lead until the end, with Reis and Rosso behind him, while Sapag, Suzuki, Llaver and Diego Nunes filled the positions between five and eight, with only three seconds covering the top eight cars. After the race, Reis and Suzuki were penalised for causing incidents and so dropped from second to fourth Reis, from fifth to ninth Suzuki.
TCR South America and TCR Brasil will race again on 20/22 October at the Autódromo Velocitta, where the Brazilian series will also compete in two stand alone races.
Velopark – Race 1 TCR South America
Velopark – Race 2 TCR South America
Championship points – TCR South America
Championship points – TCR Brasil
Picture: TCR South America/Duda Bairros