FRUSTRATING WEEKEND AT NINGBO SPEEDPARK

FIA WTCR - Ningbo Speedpark - 29/30 September 2018. The Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team lived a difficult round in this first weekend in China. Due to mechanical issues and races’ incidents, team-mates Vernay & Shedden couldn’t get the results they’d deserve.

Located in Chunxiao in the rapidly-expanding Beilun coastal development Zhejiang province, the Ningbo International Speedpark runs in an anti-clockwise direction, is between 12-18 meters in width and features 22 turns. High kerbs on the edge of several corners proved very hard for the racing cars’ suspensions and transmission, leading to more than a few failures.

Despite drive-shaft and gearbox problems during both free practice sessions, title contender Jean-Karl Vernay quickly confirmed his ambitions by setting respectively the 5th and 8th positions. But it’s Thed Björk, after yet setting the fastest laps in both training sessions, who got the pole position for the WTCR Race 1: a very close qualifying session saw the 18 fastest drivers covered by only 1 second. Some of the title contenders remained just off the top-ten, like Jean-Karl Vernay (15th) who complained of brakes’ problem and Gordon Shedden (21st).

Race 1 started on Saturday at 15:30 and Björk claimed a dominant lights-to-flag victory, while the other competitors were fighting for positions behind the leader. Jean-Karl Vernay hit bad luck again, retiring on Lap 2 due to a driveshaft failure after already moving up 7 places thanks to a great first lap. Meanwhile, his Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil team-mate Gordon Shedden drove well to gain positions and claim the 14th place in this first race of the week-end.

Action resumed on Sunday, with Qualifying for Race 2 and 3 scheduled at 09:00 local time (03:00 CET). An impressive Thed Bjork did it again and snatched his second consecutive Pole Position of the weekend. Gaps were tiny though with Jean-Karl Vernay (13th) finishing 0’078 second short of moving up to the second part of the qualifying session.

Yvan Muller won Race 2 and jumped on top of the standings once again, with Tarquini and his own nephew Ehrlacher victims of race incidents; Jean-Karl Vernay’s difficult weekend continued when his Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team RS 3 LMS was pushed out of the track by another competitor at turn 5, leaving him with no chance to score any point

Björk claimed his second win of the week-end in Race 3 at Ningbo International Speedpark, rounding off a perfect weekend. The Swede made good use of the pole and took the lead at the start; Tarquini finished 2nd to reclaim the WTCR points lead he’d lost in Race 2. On Lap 3, a collision between Muller and Jean-Karl Vernay fighting for P8 dropped the Leopard Lukoil driver to 12th, under the checkered flag shadowed by his team-mate Gordon Shedden’s Audi RS 3 LMS in 13th place.

The WTCR will resume next weekend at Wuhan International Circuit for Rounds 22, 23 and 24.

#69 Jean-Karl VERNAY:
“A terrible weekend for us, no points in five races in a row: not good at all. The car is absolutely quick on the straight, but we had different problems, as the driveshaft or brakes despite my good start in the 3 races. Now we need to stay focused and work hard altogether, debriefing and seeing order on the negative points.”

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WTCR 2018 Race of China (GMT +8)
Circuit: Ningbo International Speedpark
Length: 4.010 m

Race 1:
1 – Björk / SWE / M Racing YMR / Hyundai i30 N / 13 Laps
2 – Guerrieri / ARG / All-inkl Motorsport / Honda Civic / +4.098
3 – Vervisch / BEL / Audi Sport Cometoyou / RS 3 LMS / +6.509

NC – Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +2 Laps

Race 2:
1 – Muller / FRA / M Racing YMR / Hyundai i30 N / 13 Laps
2 – Bennani / MAR / Sebastien Loeb Racingt / VW Golf GTi / +2.620
3 – Guerrieri / ARG / All-inkl Motorsport / Honda Civic / +8.569

NC – Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +10 Laps

Race 3:
1 – Björk / SWE / M Racing YMR / Hyundai i30 N / 17 Laps
2 – Tarquini / ITA / BRC Racing / Hyundai i30 N / +1.928
3 – Dupont / BEL / Audi Sport Cometoyou / RS 3 LMS / +4.020

12 – Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +14.678

WTCR DRIVERS’ STANDING:
1 – Tarquini/ 241 p.
2 – Björk / 233 p.
3 – Muller / 232 p.
4 – Michelisz / 195 p.
5 – Ehrlacher / 178 p.
7 – Vernay / 166 p.

WTCR TEAMS’ STANDING:
1 – MRacing – YMR / 477 p.
2 – BRC Racing Team / 443 p.
3 – All-inkl Motorsport / 358 p.
4 – Sebastien Loeb Racing / 269 p.
5 – Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team / 250 p.