Kobe Pauwels has led a Comtoyou Racing podium lockout in the first TCR Europe race of the weekend at Monza and has moved to within one point of teammate Tom Coronel in the drivers’ standings after the Dutchman stopped with two laps to go with broken damper.
The field lost Felice Jelmini’s Audi during the warm-up lap, as the PMA Motorsport drivers went off at the Parabolica.
It was Ruben Volt who started from pole in his ALM Motorsport Honda Civic, but the Estonian failed to get away and dropped to the back of the pack. This allowed Pauwels to easily lead into Turn 1 ahead of his Comtoyou teammates Nicola Baldan and Viktor Davidovski. Coronel had a fantastic start and was up to fourth place from eighth on the grid, and with Volt’s drama, the Belgian team occupied the top six positions during the first phase of the race.
The race was soon suspended behind the safety car on lap 3. Volt had just recovered to tenth place ahead of Giacomo Ghermandi’s LEMA Racing Audi, just as the Italian was then taken out as Daniel Tkachenko’s Volcano Audi dived to the inside of him into the first chicane, with both cars stopping with terminal damage. Racing resumed on lap 6, with Volt quickly passing Ivan Peklin’s Audi at Lesmo for eighth place, before he was able to dispatch Giovanni Scamardi’s Hyundai on lap 9, and then passing Lewis Brown’s Audi a lap later. There was drama just ahead for Coronel, who had been challenging the leading trio for the final step on the podium. The Dutchman pulled into the pit lane with a broken front-left damper.
On the final lap, Coronel’s other title rival John Filippi lost fourth place as he was passed at Lesmo by the resurgent Volt. Unfortunately, Volt ran out of time to close down on the top three, with Pauwels claiming his fifth win year.
The title fight is now wide open, however with three races to go it’s mathematically down to just three drivers, with Coronel, Pauwels and Filippi the only contenders.
Pauwels: “It was a good race, and not easy. Baldan was really pushing me. I just kept focussing on the front although him and Davidovski were close the whole race so I had to drive every lap like it was a qualifying lap, and I was on the limit. We have to look into the data and improve for Race 2 as we’ll need to find more pace to fight for the podium this afternoon.”
Baldan: “It was a good race, though at the start I found myself obstructed by Volt’s stalled car and had to swerve in avoidance. It was a shame, because I had had a very good reflex and maybe I could have passed Pauwels. For the whole race I focused on keeping Davidovski behind and tried not to put the pressure on Pauwels who’s fighting for the title.”
Davidovski: “I’m really happy. This was my first podium this season. I’ve not had much luck in the races so far this year, but this weekend was my weekend.”
The final race is scheduled to start at 16:25 CEST, with live streaming on tcr-series.tv.
Monza – Race 1
1. Kobe Pauwels (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS), 12 laps
2. Nicola Baldan (Comtoyou, Audi RS 3 LMS), 0.469
3. Viktor Davidovski (Comtoyou, Audi RS 3 LMS), 0.986
1. T. Coronel, 366 pts; 2. K. Pauwels, 365; 3. J. Filippi, 347
Picture: TCR Europe