Belgium’s Kobe Pauwels, driving a Comtoyou Racing Audi RS 3 LMS, won the penultimate race of the 2023 TCR Europe season to close the gap on his teammate and Drivers’ Championship leader Tom Coronel to just eight points. The only other driver still mathematically able to win the title, Comtoyou’s John Filippi, finished third, setting up a terrific battle between the trio in tomorrow’s season finale.
At the start, Pauwels made a better start from second place on the grid and passed pole-sitter Coronel on the run down to the opening corner. Filippi was right behind the pair in third with Lewis Brown and Nicola Baldan fourth and fifth in two more Comtoyou Audi cars. Pepe Oriola, returning to TCR Europe for the first time this season, had to take to the run-off area through Turn 1 but had made up two places to lie in eighth overall after starting from tenth.
Also on the opening lap, there was contact between the Volcano Motorsport Audi of Daniel Tkachenko and Viktor Davidovski while the pair were battling for ninth. An engine change for Ruben Volt’s Honda meant the Estonian driver had started from the back of the grid, but he was already into the top ten helped by a poor start by Viktor Andersson’s MA:GP Lynk & Co 03.
On Lap 2, Baldan was attacking Brown for P4 and despite his first attempt being defeated, the Italian was soon able to pass the English driver. On the next lap, Volt moved another place up the order when he passed Oriola’s RC2 Racing Audi for seventh position, then on Lap 4 Volt was attacking Tkachenko for P6 and the recovering Andersson passed Oriola for P8.
Volt finally made a passing move on Tkachenko stick as the pair headed into Turn 1 at the start of Lap 5, with Andersson also attacking the Volcano Motorsport car later on the same lap; the Lynk & Co car then passed the Audi for P7 on the next lap and on Lap 7, Oriola also passed Tkachenko for P8.
By Lap 9, Volt had closed in on Brown but the Honda made contact with the rear of the Audi as Volt attempted to pass; the move meant Brown half-spun and was lucky to avoid being stranded in a gravel trap. The British driver dropped to P12 as a result of the incident and Volt would later receive a drive-through penalty for causing a collision, which became a thirty-second penalty after the race and so he dropped to last place.
There were, however, no such dramas for the three Championship contenders. Pauwels’ lead over Coronel had been around eight-tenths for much of the race and that was the margin that separated the pair as they took the chequered flag. Filippi was third, aware that his chances of the Drivers’ title now depend on the pair ahead both retiring in Race 2, while Baldan finished fourth and Andersson was elevated to fifth thanks to Volt’s penalty.
While the battle for the Drivers’ Championship will go down to the wire in the final race of the season, the 2023 Teams’ title has been won by Comtoyou Racing who cannot now be beaten by their sister team Comtoyou. In addition, Kobe Pauwels has secured the Rookies’ title as Viktor Andersson, his closest challenger, is unable to catch him with only one race – and forty points – remaining. Coronel, meanwhile, had already won the Diamond Trophy category before the Barcelona race weekend.
Race 1 result
1. Kobe Pauwels (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS) 12 laps
2. Tom Coronel (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS) +0.886
3. John Filippi (Comtoyou, Audi RS 3 LMS) +1.479
4. Nicola Baldan (Comtoyou, Audi RS 3 LMS) +2.720
5. Viktor Andersson (MA:GP, Lynk & Co 03) +9.307
TCR Europe Championship points
1. Tom Coronel 441pts; 2. Kobe Pauwels 433pts; 3. John Filippi 406pts; 4. Viktor Davidovski 259pts; 5. Lewis Brown 226pts.
Race 2 is scheduled for 12.20 CEST on Sunday and will be streamed live on tcr-series.tv, the TCR TV app and the TCR TV YouTube channel