FIA WTCR - Race of Russia / Sochi - 26-28/11/2021 • Although the world crown was no longer in his sights, Jean-Karl Vernay, 6th before Sotchi, was hoping to get on the "box" for the final drivers' ranking of the WTCR - FIA World Touring Car Cup. And he did!
After a decent qualifying session – 8th overall – the Frenchman had all the cards in his hand, especially in Race 1 where he was positioned on the second row.
Race 1: what a start!
At the end of the race, in the pouring rain and on a soggy track, Vernay surprised everyone and briefly took control of the race before Magnus took over his pole position. But a crash by Guerrieri led to the safety car coming out.
The race was restarted on the fourth lap and Jean-Karl Vernay regained the lead after a great battle with Magnus. He remained in the lead until the last lap after some impressive driving in the rain, but with degraded tyres, he could not resist to the return of Azcona who took the victory and finished in a very good second place.
This result allowed the Hyundai Elantra N TCR holder to move up to 5th place in the drivers’ standings, just three points off the podium. This first race also saw Ehrlacher take the world crown for good and Luca Engslter win the junior driver title, much to the delight of the Engstler Motorsport team.
A decisive race 2
7th on the grid in Race 2, Jean-Karl Vernay took off well but once again, the safety car quickly entered the track. At the restart, he gained further positions, climbing to fourth place while those ahead of him were caught up in incidents. Fighting for second place in the final laps, he finally finished fifth, a position that allowed him to take third place in the FIA WTCR drivers’ standings (as he did last year) with 177 points, at the expense of his compatriot Yvan Muller and Uruguayan Santiago Urrutia, and to establish himself as the best Hyundai representative this season.
Jean-Karl Vernay was satisfied with his season: “We started the weekend well and did a great job in Race 1 to finish second, which allowed us to secure third place in the drivers’ standings. We couldn’t have done better in my opinion. In Race 2, we just needed to finish – everyone else in contention for the podium finish was out of the race, so we stayed focused on bringing home the result. We can be frustrated because the goal was to win the title, but I think finishing on the podium is still a good performance. I would like to say a big thank you to Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, Engstler Motorsport and our sponsor Liqui Moly for this season.”
A statement shared by Franz Engstler, Team Manager of Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team: “It’s fantastic to finish our second season in the WTCR on the podium and to win our first junior driver title in the series. We showed our fighting spirit here in Russia, with Jean-Karl valiantly trying to stay in front until the last lap of race one, and Luca taking the lead in the junior driver standings for the first time this season – when it really counted. The 2021 was difficult for us at times, and it was thanks to the hard work and determination of the whole team that we were able to triumph with Luca and help Jean-Karl move up to third in the drivers’ standings. In total this season we had two wins and three second places, with Jean-Karl being one of the few drivers to score a double win this year. After our difficulties in qualifying, it was important that we capitalised on the conditions of two wet and difficult races today – and that is exactly what we did. Our motivation to come back stronger than ever is higher than ever, and we look forward to the opportunities that next year will bring.”