FIA WTCR - Macau - 17/11/2019 • It was a typical Macau weekend for Team WRT, with the inevitable combination of satisfaction and frustration that racing in the uncomparable street circuit of Guia always leave. In the FIA WTCR, Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport, despite seeing prematurely its entry reduced to one car, took the best out of the events, with Jean-Karl Vernay back on the podium in Sunday’s Main Race and taking very valuable points. Ahead of the final round of the season, the Frenchman is still in contention for the final P5 in the championship, with the team and JKV also fighting for best Audi and VW Group honours.

The FIA WTCR event lived this year an almost incredible feat at Macau, as the safety-car had not a single intervention in any of the three races! This allowed a clean unfolding of the races but certainly prevented the possibility of second chances by ‘reshuffling’ the order…

Things started well for the two Audi RS 3 LMS of the squad, with Vernay third in both free practice sessions and Shedden in the top-15 in FP2. Unfortunately, they could not confirm in Qualifying for Race 1, as the Frenchman’s efforts were ruined by a puncture and traffic, taking P16 in the grid, and also the Scot hit trouble in his fast laps, taking P24.

The Qualifying session for Race 2 and 3 yielded very contrasting outcomes. Gordon Shedden, who was putting on very good times, made a small mistake at Moorish Bend, one of the treacherous sharp and blind corners of Macau, hitting the barriers at the exit of the corner. There was not a lot of damage on the front left of his car, but the still-standing RS 3 LMS was hit violently from behind by Michelisz, who was in a fast lap. The resulting chassis damage was not repairable on site and sadly, the team had to withdraw the #52 entry from the rest of the event. Vernay, on his side, progressed well through the sessions, being 5th and 4th in Q1 and Q2, respectively, and making it to Q3, eventually signing the third-fastest time.

Later on the day, he was performing well in Race 1, despite his mid-grid position, having climbed up to P12, but had to take the escape road at the end of the straight while fighting with Azcona and Leuchter; the two latter colliding and blocking Vernay’s return to the Lisboa corner. He rejoined last in the order, eventually finishing 21st.

In Race 2, starting 8th in the reversed grid, Jean-Karl took a good start but was soon disturbed by an injector problem that made inconsistent the power output. Still, he managed to keep his position in the group, finishing ninth. In Race 3, he had a good start but found himself stuck behind Huff in the long stretch up to Lisboa and the entire first lap. The situation remained unchanged for the entire race with Jean-Karl third behind Priaulx and Huff, taking an excellent final third position that left him happy.

Jean-Karl Vernay: “It was a good weekend, the whole team did a great job and I am very happy with the results and the points we got, which promise a very close battle at Sepang to be in the final top-5. We were not very lucky with the puncture in the first qualifying, which hindered our chances in Race 1. I was being quite aggressive and then got blocked in a typical jam… The objective though were Sunday’s races, for which we qualified well. The car was going really well, I took very good points in Race 2 despite the injector problem. In Race 3, we made a good job, but Huff had a weird start and I got stuck behind him. It’s hard to overtake someone here. I had to hope for a safety car and a restart because as everybody knows, the Audi has pretty good top speed and that was my chance. He was obviously a bit quicker in sectors two and three, then, it was impossible to pass him, but the podium is an excellent result, although I think we had the pace to fight for more.
I’ve never finished third. I’ve always finished first or second here so that’s a new cup! We had some issues in Race 2 and I was not sure we would be able to fix it for Race 3 and to make this podium, here it is very special. The pressure in the race, it’s difficult to make no mistakes to stay focused in front and also watch in the mirrors what they guy is doing. So I’m very, very happy. I’m very proud of my guys and thanks Audi Sport and to my sponsors Leopard. They have been supporting me for 10 years now and I’m just smiling. Let’s see what we can do for the next race.

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Race 1 Result
1. Yvan Muller (Lynk Co 03) 8 laps
2. Norbert Michelisz (Hyundai i30N) + 0s405
3. Kevin Ceccon (Alfa Rome Giulietta) + 1s644
4. Rob Huff (VW Golf GTI) + 2s153
5. Thed Björk (Lynk Co 03) + 2s882

21. Jean-Karl Vernay (Audi RS 3 LMS) +34s821

Race 2 Result
1. Yvan Muller (Lynk Co 03) 8 laps
2. Thed Björk (Lynk & Co 03) + 0s455
3. Kevin Ceccon (Alfa Romeo Giulietta) + 0s932
4. Esteban Guerrieri (Honda civic) + 1s896
5. Johan Kristoffersson (VW Golf GTI) + 5s305

9. Jean-Karl Vernay (Audi RS 3 LMS) +10s222

Race 3 Result
1. Andy Priaulx (Lynk & Co 03) 11 laps
2. Rob Huff (VW Golf GTI) + 0s352
3. Jean-Karl Vernay (Audi RS 3 LMS) + 1s193
4. Johan Kristofferssson (VW Golf GTI) + 1s855
5. Nicky Catsburg (Hyundai i30N) +20s030

WTCR Driver’s standing:
1 – N. Michelisz / 316 p.
2 – E. Guerrieri / 307 p.
3 – Y. Muller / 305 p.
4 – T. Björk / 288 p.
5 – Y. Ehrlacher / 209 p.

10 – JK. Vernay / 196 p.