Esteban Guerrieri and birthday boy Attila Tassi put the virtual version of the Honda Civic Type R TCR on top of the world by winning the two Salzburgring races that kicked off the Pre-season Esports WTCR Championship.
Argentinian Esteban made it through to the superpole session for the first of the series’ six rounds and qualified third at the virtual version of the Austrian circuit, which is due to host the opening round of real-life 2020 season in September.
Having held his position on the run to the tricky Turn 1/2 chicane at the start of race one, the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport driver was gifted the lead when the two front-row starters tangled, and drove a commanding race thereafter – keeping the chasing pack out of slipstream range to win by 1.733 seconds.
A solid run to eighth in race two gave Esteban, who finished runner-up in the real-life 2019 WTCR season, an early five-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport racer Attila suffered a disappointing opening race, as he was eliminated on the opening lap, but responded in the best way possible with victory in race two.
Starting second on the partially reversed grid, Attila held position into the chicane but quickly pounced and took the lead when the polesitter skipped over the gravel, before setting about gapping the rest of the field.
Though the Hungarian was caught late on, he put up a stout defence of the lead and resisted a last-lap challenge – with his reward for doing so a victory on the day of his 21st birthday. Attila holds fifth place in the standings after the opening round.
Nestor Girolami mistimed his qualifying run and started races one and two from 13th, but fought his way up the order in both counters.
Having avoided trouble at the chicane on lap one, ‘Bebu’ steadily climbed the pack to finish race one in sixth place, then headed ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport team-mate Guerrieri home over the line in race two.
Tiago Monteiro made it three Civic Type R TCRs in the top 10 in race one with a fine seventh place, but dropped out of race two on the opening lap while on the cusp of the top 10.
Esteban Guerrieri said: “It was a good beginning to the Championship. In the first race, I just tried to stay out of trouble in the first chicane and by doing that I got the lead and then pulled the gap – it was a good first victory, I was very happy with that. In race two, I just tried to recover a little bit from my grid position, but I didn’t want to get too involved in any possible crashes or pick up damage, so I just made sure to score good points. It was a positive event overall, especially to leave leading the scores after the first round.”
Nestor Girolami said: “In practice I felt really strong and I was always in the top three, but in qualifying I tried to follow the other guys but waited a little bit too long and couldn’t catch up to Esteban to get the slipstream – and I couldn’t complain to my engineer to tell him to wait for me! That put me out of position starting 13th, but in both races I made up six places or more which was a good recovery. That was a very good result considering I didn’t get the advantage of the reversed grid, and matched my target after a bad qualifying.”
Attila Tassi said: “I started with a good qualifying, taking ninth, but race one didn’t last long. I got a good run up on the outside on the way to the first corner, but someone crashed into me and put me into the tyre barrier, so that was my race over. But I had a very good reversed-grid position, starting second, and managed to overtake Thed Bjork at the start. After that I built quite a nice gap. In the final two laps, Mikel Azcona was catching me quite hard, but I managed to defend to take a win! All in all I was pretty happy about it despite the DNF in race one.”
Tiago Monteiro said: “Overall, this felt like a good start. My time in qualifying was OK, although it was slightly disappointing to miss out on the top 10 by one position, and then finishing seventh in race one was actually a really pleasant result. I wasn’t quite able to stay with Nestor, but I kept clear of trouble and got some good points on the board to start the Championship. A similar result might have been on the cards in race two as well, as I was part of the main pack on the opening lap, but then I went off.”