Zandvoort WTCR: Ehrlacher eases to Race 1 win

Munnich Motorsport driver Yann Ehrlacher claimed his second World Touring Car Cup victory of the 2018 season with a controlled drive in a busy opening race at Zandvoort.

Zandvoort WTCR: Ehrlacher eases to Race 1 win

Ehrlacher got ahead of polesitter Rob Huff at the initial start, and twice resisted attention from the fast-starting Peugeot of Aurelien Comte to jump into a share of second place in the drivers' standings.

The race started chaotically, with a handful of drivers - in particular those in Volkswagen Audi Group cars - slow to react to the lights going out.

That bunched the field up through the first handful of corners, with Norbert Michelisz - who dropped five places on the grid to 19th for a penalty carried over from the Nurburgring - and Yvan Muller getting together on the exit of the Turn 3 Hugenholtz left-handed hairpin.

Four-time World Touring Car champion Muller had nosed his ahead of the similar Hyundai of Michelisz around the outside of the corner, but the pair collided as Michelisz took the natural line out, with Muller - who called Michelisz "fucking stupid" on his team radio - part-mounting the barrier on the outside of the corner after a second touch.

The race was quickly neutralised and, a lap later, red flagged to allow for the recovery of both cars and barrier repairs, which resulted in the race resuming more than half an hour after its original start time.

Ehrlacher backed the field up before accelerating away at the penultimate corner, taking the impressive Comte - who had leapt from seventh on the grid to second at the standing start - with him through the opening sequence of corners.

But Ehrlacher gradually eased away in his Honda and had built a comfortable lead before a second safety car intervention to recover Fabrizio Giovanardi's Alfa Romeo Giulietta with a little over three laps remaining.

The 21-year-old had to have hits wits about him once more on the two-lap dash to the finish, with Comte harrying him for the lead on the restart, but Ehrlacher had enough in hand to hold his lead and crossed the line 1.217 seconds clear.

Having fended off Huff in the middle part of the race, Comte came through to score his first World Touring Car podium - and the first for the Peugeot - with Huff completing the podium.

The Sebastien Loeb Racing driver almost had third taken from him by fellow Brit Gordon Shedden, but the WRT man could not get his Audi stopped in time at the looped Tarzan first corner hairpin in the latter stages and slotted back in behind the Volkswagen Golf GTi.

Shedden was not presented with any further opportunities to attempt a pass, but fourth still marked the three-time British Touring Car champion's best result since joining the WTCR world cup as he beat teammate Jean-Karl Vernay home over the line.

Ehrlacher's Munnich teammate Esteban Guerrieri came home sixth ahead of the similar Honda of home favourite Tom Coronel and Huff's SLR stablemate Mehdi Bennani.

Comtoyou Audi drivers Nathanael Berthon and Aurelien Panis completed the points.

With two Hyundais out on the opening lap and Gabriele Tarquini returning his BRC Racing-run car to the pits, Thed Bjork was the only Hyundai driver to complete the race.

The 2017 WTCC champion crossed the line 14th, behind the Alfa Romeo of Gianni Morbidelli.

Race 1 Results:

1 68 FRA Yann Ehrlacher Honda  
2 7 FRA Aurélien Comte Peugeot 1.217
3 12 GBR Rob Huff Volkswagen 1.566
4 52 GBR Gordon Shedden Audi 1.879
5 69 FRA Jean-Karl Vernay Audi 2.440
6 86 ARG Esteban Guerrieri Honda 5.280
7 9 HOL Tom Coronel Honda 5.816
8 25 MAR Mehdi Bennani Volkswagen 6.665
9 23 FRA Nathanaël Berthon Audi 7.044
10 21 FRA Aurelien Panis Audi 8.120
11 20 BEL Denis Dupont Audi 8.586
12 15 GBR James Thompson Honda 8.896
13 10 ITA Gianni Morbidelli Alfa Romeo 9.383
14 11 SWE Thed Björk Hyundai 9.918
15 27 FRA John Filippi Seat 10.371
16 66 HUN Zsolt David Szabo Seat 11.022
17 8 HUN Norbert Nagy Seat 12.440
18 70 SVK Mato Homola Peugeot 13.216
19 63 BEL Benjamin Lessennes Honda 13.424
20 3 HOL Michael Verhagen Audi 15.384
21 2 HOL Bernhard van Oranje-Nassau Audi 16.364
  88 ITA Fabrizio Giovanardi Alfa Romeo 4 Laps
  74 ESP Pepe Oriola Seat 4 Laps
  30 ITA Gabriele Tarquini Hyundai 6 Laps
  22 BEL Frederic Vervisch Audi 11 Laps
  5 HUN Norbert Michelisz Hyundai  
  48 FRA Yvan Muller Hyundai  
Zandvoort WTCR: Huff on pole, Hyundai continues to struggle
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