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Girolami beats Muller to win opening WTCR Hungary race from pole

Nestor Girolami converted pole position into victory in the opening World Touring Car Cup race at the Hungaroring, beating the Lynk & Co 03 of Yvan Muller to the win

Munnich Motorsport Honda driver Girolami crucially held off Muller at the start of the race and maintained the lead from there to claim only his second World Touring Car victory, and first for 18 months.

Girolami launched his Civic Type R well off the line but was quickly forced to move over to the right to block off the faster-starting Muller on the run to the first corner.

With first position safe, Girolami did not threaten to run clear but the Honda's edge in a straight line always made a Muller attack unlikely, and the Argentinian ran unchallenged to the finish - with victory promoting him to third in the standings.

Girolami's only previous win came in the main World Touring Car Championship race at Ningbo in 2017, which was run entirely behind the safety car.

Muller's second position was briefly threatened by the second Munnich Motorsport Honda of Esteban Guerrieri, who got close to the Cyan Racing car in the braking zone for the first corner on lap 10 of 12.

Guerrieri took a wider approach into the corner than Muller, who took a more defensive apex, which allowed Guerrieri to get alongside the Lynk & Co car on the run to Turn 2.

But Muller resisted Guerrieri by hugging the inside line and, despite the Honda getting close again on the final lap, held on to claim second and his first podium of the season.

Behind Guerrieri, who reclaimed the points lead by finishing third, the battle for fourth was effectively settled by a mid-race altercation between the WRT Audi RS3 LMS of Jean-Karl Vernay and Yann Ehrlacher (Cyan Lynk & Co).

Ehrlacher had taken advantage of a Guerrieri move to reclaim third from Aurelien Panis on the opening lap by also working his way past the Comtoyou Cupra, but spent the following laps defending from Panis.

Both had been ahead of Vernay, but he got the jump on Panis and Ehrlacher at the start of lap five, going around the outside of the Lynk & Co at Turn 2.

Ehrlacher positioned himself on the outside line for the Turn 3 right-hander but was hit by Vernay's Audi as the Frenchman went to take the racing line through the corner.

That left Vernay in a clear fourth place - which he held until the finish - but forced Ehrlacher to hobble his car back to the pits with left-rear suspension damage.

Panis was fifth over the line from the Comtoyou Audi of Frederic Vervisch, while erstwhile points leader Thed Bjork was seventh in his Lynk & Co - ahead of the lead Volkswagen Golf GTI of Johan Kristoffersson.

BRC Hyundai pair Augusto Farfus and Norbert Michelisz completed the top 10, though only after Farfus had made contact with the PWR Cupra of Daniel Haglof at the Turn 6/7 chicane.

Haglof was able to recover and finished 11th, ahead of an almighty scrap for the final points.

His team-mate Mikel Azcona was passed at the Turn 12 right-hander on the penultimate lap by the fourth Lynk & Co of Andy Priaulx, with reigning champion Gabriele Tarquini attempting to follow Priaulx through.

Azcona resisted this by hugging the inside line for the following Turn 13 hairpin, but then ran wide at the final corner - allowing Tarquini, Rob Huff (Sebastien Loeb Racing VW) and Attila Tassi (KCMG Honda) through on the main straight and into the final points positions.

Race result

Pos Driver Team Car Time Gap
1 Nestor Girolami Munnich Motorsport Honda 23m19.369s -
2 Yvan Muller Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 23m19.844s 0.475s
3 Esteban Guerrieri Munnich Motorsport Honda 23m20.295s 0.926s
4 Jean-Karl Vernay WRT Audi 23m21.215s 1.846s
5 Aurelien Panis Comtoyou Cupra Cupra 23m21.634s 2.265s
6 Frederic Vervisch Comtoyou Audi Audi 23m22.220s 2.851s
7 Thed Bjork Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 23m22.815s 3.446s
8 Johan Kristoffersson SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen 23m23.407s 4.038s
9 Augusto Farfus BRC Racing Team Hyundai 23m24.276s 4.907s
10 Norbert Michelisz BRC Squadra Corse Hyundai 23m24.628s 5.259s
11 Daniel Haglof PWR Racing Cupra 23m28.236s 8.867s
12 Andy Priaulx Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 23m30.931s 11.562s
13 Gabriele Tarquini BRC Squadra Corse Hyundai 23m32.544s 13.175s
14 Rob Huff SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen 23m33.131s 13.762s
15 Attila Tassi KCMG Honda 23m34.672s 15.303s
16 Mehdi Bennani SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen 23m35.240s 15.871s
17 Tom Coronel Comtoyou Cupra Cupra 23m37.023s 17.654s
18 Tiago Monteiro KCMG Honda 23m37.883s 18.514s
19 Kevin Ceccon Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 23m38.433s 19.064s
20 Benjamin Leuchter SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen 23m43.188s 23.819s
21 Tamas Tenke Zengo Motorsport Cupra 23m50.406s 31.037s
22 Mikel Azcona PWR Racing Cupra 24m06.373s 47.004s
23 Nicky Catsburg BRC Racing Team Hyundai 24m06.664s 47.295s
24 Niels Langeveld Comtoyou Audi Audi 24m07.663s 48.294s
25 Ma Qinghua Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 24m36.203s 1m16.834s
- Gordon Shedden WRT Audi 12m25.550s Retirement
- Yann Ehrlacher Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 10m17.681s Retirement

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