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Girolami beats Muller to win opening WTCR Hungary race from pole

Hungaroring WTCR 2019 race one start

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

PosDriverTeamCarTimeGap
1Nestor GirolamiMunnich MotorsportHonda23m19.369s-
2Yvan MullerCyan RacingLynk & Co23m19.844s0.475s
3Esteban GuerrieriMunnich MotorsportHonda23m20.295s0.926s
4Jean-Karl VernayWRTAudi23m21.215s1.846s
5Aurelien PanisComtoyou CupraCupra23m21.634s2.265s
6Frederic VervischComtoyou AudiAudi23m22.220s2.851s
7Thed BjorkCyan RacingLynk & Co23m22.815s3.446s
8Johan KristofferssonSLR VolkswagenVolkswagen23m23.407s4.038s
9Augusto FarfusBRC Racing TeamHyundai23m24.276s4.907s
10Norbert MicheliszBRC Squadra CorseHyundai23m24.628s5.259s
11Daniel HaglofPWR RacingCupra23m28.236s8.867s
12Andy PriaulxCyan PerformanceLynk & Co23m30.931s11.562s
13Gabriele TarquiniBRC Squadra CorseHyundai23m32.544s13.175s
14Rob HuffSLR VW MotorsportVolkswagen23m33.131s13.762s
15Attila TassiKCMGHonda23m34.672s15.303s
16Mehdi BennaniSLR VW MotorsportVolkswagen23m35.240s15.871s
17Tom CoronelComtoyou CupraCupra23m37.023s17.654s
18Tiago MonteiroKCMGHonda23m37.883s18.514s
19Kevin CecconTeam MulsanneAlfa Romeo23m38.433s19.064s
20Benjamin LeuchterSLR VolkswagenVolkswagen23m43.188s23.819s
21Tamas TenkeZengo MotorsportCupra23m50.406s31.037s
22Mikel AzconaPWR RacingCupra24m06.373s47.004s
23Nicky CatsburgBRC Racing TeamHyundai24m06.664s47.295s
24Niels LangeveldComtoyou AudiAudi24m07.663s48.294s
25Ma Qing HuaTeam MulsanneAlfa Romeo24m36.203s1m16.834s
-Gordon SheddenWRTAudi12m25.550sRetirement
-Yann EhrlacherCyan PerformanceLynk & Co10m17.681sRetirement
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