WTCR Slovakia: Pepe Oriola survives investigation to win opener

Pepe Oriola survived an investigation into a safety car restart procedure to win the opening World Touring Car Cup race at the Slovakia Ring

WTCR Slovakia: Pepe Oriola survives investigation to win opener

Campos Racing Cupra driver Oriola led the majority of the extended 11-lap race, and avoided a penalty for backing the field up ahead of a mid-race restart to comfortably beat the WRT Audi RS3 LMS of Jean-Karl Vernay.

From third on the grid, Oriola was gifted a place at the start when polesitter Gabriele Tarquini bogged down in his Hyundai.

He then pursued early leader Aurelien Comte (Peugeot 308TCR), before grabbing the lead early on the second lap.

Despite Vernay swiftly following Oriola through on Comte, around the outside of the long Turn 3 right-hander, the Spaniard was quickly able to pull away at the front - setting the fastest lap of the race on lap three.

But an advantage of more than a second was wiped out when a safety car was called to recover the Comtoyou Audi of Frederic Vervisch.

After a delay in getting recover vehicles to the scene, Vervisch's car was quickly retrieved - allowing the race to resume on lap seven, but only after Oriola had backed the pack up on the back straight before restarting.

Oriola was investigated for that manoeuvre, but was let off with a black and white flag warning and again eased clear, eventually claiming his first win of the season by 1.734 seconds.

Behind Vernay, Tarquini - the only Hyundai driver not to be excluded from qualifying for a boost pressure issue - completed the podium, recovering from his sluggish start by re-passing Comte on the third lap.

Comte held on to fourth, but only after resisting pressure from Fabrizio Giovanardi - who ended the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo outfit's long wait for points with a fine fifth place, advancing seven places from his grid position.

The 52-year-old found a way into the top 10 on the opening lap, then reeled off a string of overtakes into the Turn 1 right-hander to score his first points in any World Touring Car race since 2006.

The last of Giovanardi's overtakes was on title hopeful Yann Ehrlacher, who was the only Munnich Motorsport driver to complete the race.

Team-mate Esteban Guerrieri, who started fourth, was hit from behind on the opening lap and lost plenty of time in the pits. He rejoined the race, only to return to the pits before the end of the race.

Veteran Tom Coronel equalled his best finish of the campaign so far with seventh in his Boutsen Ginion Honda Civic, ahead of a trio of Comtoyou Audis.

First-time points scorer Denis Dupont beat Aurelien Panis to eighth, with Nathanael Berthon claiming the final point.

From the back of the grid, the YMR Racing Hyundai i30 Ns of Yvan Muller and Thed Bjork were able to advance to 12th and 13th respectively.

Both Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTIs again struggled for pace, with Rob Huff finishing 19th and Mehdi Bennani 21st.

Race one result

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Pepe Oriola Campos Racing Cupra 26m24.640s
2 Jean-Karl Vernay WRT Audi 1.734s
3 Gabriele Tarquini BRC Racing Team Hyundai 2.374s
4 Aurelien Comte DG Sport Competition Peugeot 5.525s
5 Fabrizio Giovanardi Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 5.773s
6 Yann Ehrlacher Munnich Motorsport Honda 7.357s
7 Tom Coronel Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda 7.725s
8 Denis Dupont Comtoyou Racing Audi 8.190s
9 Aurelien Panis Comtoyou Racing Audi 8.993s
10 Nathanael Berthon Comtoyou Racing Audi 9.813s
11 Norbert Nagy Zengo Motorsport Cupra 11.557s
12 Yvan Muller YMR Hyundai 12.383s
13 Thed Bjork YMR Hyundai 12.594s
14 Mat'o Homola DG Sport Competition Peugeot 13.395s
15 Petr Fulin Fulin Race Academy Cupra 13.767s
16 Kevin Ceccon Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 14.019s
17 Gordon Shedden WRT Audi 15.569s
18 John Filippi Campos Racing Cupra 15.856s
19 Rob Huff Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen 22.247s
20 Benjamin Lessennes Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda 22.917s
21 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen 24.338s
22 Andrej Studenic Brutal Fish Racing Team Volkswagen 24.575s
23 Norbert Michelisz BRC Racing Team Hyundai 1 Lap
24 Zsolt Szabo Zengo Motorsport Cupra 2 Laps
- Esteban Guerrieri Munnich Motorsport Honda Retirement
- Frederic Vervisch Comtoyou Racing Audi Retirement

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Series WTCR
Author Jack Cozens
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