CUPRA EKS driver Mattias Ekström got his FIA ETCR eTouring Car World Cup campaign off to a fantastic start at the Infinite Reality Race FR on the Circuit de Pau Ville as CUPRA EKS ruled the roost at the season-opener by taking the top three positions after two thrilling DHL Super Finals.
The sun shined down on Pau as Ekström was crowned King of the Weekend after a near-flawless display from the winner of the FIA ETCR’s predecessor PURE ETCR. Indeed, Ekström’s only faux pas over the weekend was for reversing in the pit lane for which he coped a fine from the Stewards
The Swede powered through Saturday’s Qualifying sessions with the top time in both Q1 and Q2 of his Pool FURIOUS then won his Quarter Final with ease as his rivals clashed. Sunday dawned cool and humid and despite both earlier Pool FAST pole-sitters in the Semi Finals losing their advantage off the line, Ekström found no issue from his pole and cruised to a win whilst the action took place behind him between Azcona and Spengler.
Second in the standings over the weekend was Ekström’s CUPRA EKS team-mate Adrien Tambay in Pool FAST, who impressed all weekend with his approach and aptitude at a track he loves. Tambay was perfection off the line in his morning Semi Final and won his DHL Super Final in peerless fashion as behind him things didn’t go quite so well as Battles ensued.
Third in the standings was Tom Blomqvist who impressed all weekend but was a victim to Tambay off the line from his morning Semi Final pole and finished behind Tambay in the Super Final, withstanding constant pressure from Maxime Martin.
The Pau Motors Festival of which Infinite Reality Race FR was an element saw over 100,000 people visit the charismatic city of Pau on the northern edge of the Pyrénées in south-west France. The Pau Motors Festival highlighted was a revival of and highlighted new technologies most notably represented by the inaugural FIA ETCR eTouring Car World Cup inaugural event.
Whilst the sun certainly shone for three-quarters of the CUPRA EKS squad it wasn’t quite so rosy elsewhere. The highest-placed non-CUPRA EKS driver was Hyundai Motorsport N’s Mikel Azcona who tried his hardest to take the fight to former team-mate Ekström in the final and leaves Pau seven points adrift of Blomqvist.
Bruno Spengler was the top Romeo Ferraris driver, enjoying great Battles and winning his Semi Final heat. His team-mate Maxime Martin also adapted well to the series, also on his debut.
Hyundai Motosport N’s Jean-Karl Vernay wasn’t able to have home glory thanks to his Saturday disqualification from his Quarter Final due to an incorrect power setting, but was to be involved in the biggest and most controversial incident of the weekend when he clashed with Romeo Ferraris’ Luca Filippi in an incident which retired the Giulia from the rest of the day, denying Giovanni Venturini the opportunity to compete in his Super Final.
The incident – which can be seen here – was adjudged to require no further action from the Stewards despite the fury expressed by the Romeo Ferraris squad.
Elsewhere, Vernay’s team-mate Norbert Michelisz had to start his Super Final from the pit lane due to a technical woe. Jordi Gené didn’t enjoy the end to the weekend he would have wanted in terms of finishing position and Kevin Ceccon was happy with his season start.
FIA ETCR eTouring Car World Cup action resumes in two weeks with Race TR at Istanbul Park on May 20-22.
Weekend Driver Points
Ekström 100 (FURIOUS)
Tambay 92 (FAST)
Blomqvist 79 (FAST)
Azcona 72 (FURIOUS)
Spengler 61 (FURIOUS)
Martin 56 (FAST)
Vernay 45 (FAST)
Michelisz 43 (FAST)
Gené 30 (FURIOUS)
Ceccon 28 (FURIOUS)
Venturini 24 (FURIOUS)
Filippi 15 (FAST)
Quotes of the Day
Mattias Ekström #1
A dream result finishing 1,2,3 on our first weekend with CUPRA EKS. Adrien and Tom did a perfect job the whole weekend as well. There can only be one winner for sure and I’m happy that it’s me. But I would also be happy for the others and to get maximum points put us in a strong situation to start off the season like this. But again, I also have to say it was very hard Super Final and a big fight with Mikel. I know him from last year when he was my team-mate, so it feels like racing my little brother who I gave all the tricks last year and now had to eat them! And yeah, he was very fair, but we all pushed very hard. In the end I look forward to more great Battles as there’s lots of racing left this year and can’t wait for the next one in Istanbul.
Jordi Gené #28
A great weekend for the team with P1, P2 and P3 and also finishing as top manufacturer. It started off for me with not a nice experience in qualifying but I ended up doing a great job helping the team to achieve a great result in the end. I’m very happy for the team. I’m here to help get wins and every time I’m getting more and more confident with the car. I’m very happy in FIA ETCR for CUPRA EKS and we keep pushing.
Adrien Tambay #27
I’m very delighted and emotional to win here in Pau. It’s a track – probably my favourite track – where my dad won in Formula 2 and he certainly gave me the right advice on racing here! It feels very special to win my DHL Super Final with a new team at the start of a new season. To win on my first time back in an FIA World Cup, professional international series is mega. I’d like to give thanks to the whole team. Everyone at CUPRA EKS is doing a great job. Thank you Xavi Serra for the trust. And everyone in the team that will recognize themselves, Captain Matitas also and honestly, it’s just a great start to the season. I can’t wait to be back in the car in Istanbul.
Tom Blomqvist #10
It was a super good result for the team today. Mattias showed his class to be crowned King of the Weekend. Adrien getting the win and me second in the FAST pool, it couldn’t have gone much better really today for CUPRA EKS, so very happy about that! My first weekend here in ETCR was good fun; I enjoyed it a lot so it bodes very well for the rest of the season.
Luca Filippi #25
For the DHLA Super Final we were in the hunt for a decent position and I felt great with the car. It was fun at the beginning with Maxime and with also with Jean-Karl. We overtook each other a few times. But then, I have to be honest, I got on me the dirtiest hit I ever had in a straight line. Going from turn two to turn three, I was going straight; Maxime in front was going straight; Vernay on my side was going straight; and then suddenly – in a straight line, full acceleration – he turns into me. I lost control and the car is totally destroyed. I have no words to describe how I feel and what I think about the reckless move he made on me. I think it’s probably the dirtiest ever situation I’ve been involved in. And I have no words to describe it.
Maxime Martin #36
First of all, it’s really shameful for the other car to crash like this here in Pau. It’s bad because it’s going to put them on the backfoot for a part of the season which is not good. For my part, I basically had a clean Super Final with some small fights. I started third and finished third and here in the city I think it’s the best we could do. I used my head as much as I could with the power up and managed the race. It’s an okay first weekend here with the team and in the series so I’m quite happy.
Giovanni Venturini #21
So, honestly I have not a lot to say. I could not start the Super Final so in the end there were no points I could score. So now I prefer to look to the next round where we will be in a better shape.
Bruno Spengler #7
In the end it was good points this weekend. I think we progressed well through my first weekend in FIA ETCR and also was really enjoyable to work with the team. They did a really amazing job through the weekend, preparing the car and helping us to gain confidence. I think we made steps every day even if, in the end, it was not enough to win today. We can be happy with the points we scored. It’s a track where it’s easy to break things. And on our current list, we managed to not break anything. It’s sad for my team-mates that they couldn’t race due to a bad manner from another driver but in the end. I’m a bit sad for them and it would have been nice for the team to have another car to score points. But that’s how it is and now we will focus on Istanbul and try to come back stronger.
Hyundai Motorsport N
Mikel Azcona #96
The Super Final was the best session of the weekend. The car was working fantastically. We put a lot of hours in this weekend working with the mechanics and engineers; it was a tough job, but in the end you can see the results of our efforts – not only was I able to put pressure on the Cupra, which was the fastest car this weekend, I was in a position to try and overtake too. Overall, the weekend has been very positive. We didn’t start in the position we wanted to be in but every day we were improving. The car is strong now and I think we will be very competitive with the Hyundai Veloster N ETCR in Istanbul.
Norbert Michelisz #5
Unfortunately, an easy race. I mean, starting from the pit lane, there wasn’t anything I could do. When I realized the gap to the cars front, I just tried to try to finish the race to score points for fifth. I tried to save the car for Kevin because we share a car and I just wanted him to have the best possibilities for his heat. I have to say, I achieve my target for the weekend because my target was to finish every session to build to build confidence. So I was very happy with the rhythm up until the Super Final. I was really hoping for a bit more. But in the end it’s part of part of the process, I’m happy with the points scored; I’m happy with my pace, especially towards the second part of the weekend, so we have a lot to build on for Turkey.
Jean-Karl Vernay #69
The Super Final started fiercely and it wasn’t easy. I made a good start, and also gained a place because of Norbi, then I just tried to go to the outside at turn one which didn’t work then I went back to fifth place. Then I tried to overtake Filippi from the outside and he put me completely on the curb and when I braked I don’t know what happened but we touched and he span. I then tried to overtake Martin – I did a nice pass – and after we’re just we were running out of push to pass. It’s super difficult to come back when you start from so far back, especially here. You can manage push to pass when you start first. So we needed to keep our pole position for the best result here.
Kevin Ceccon #31
FIA ETCR is tough but amazing. The level here is so high but that’s what I love and that’s why we are here to compete. I made a mega start in the Super Final from sixth place – I tried to go round the outside as I had nothing to lose and gained some positions. I fought with Bruno Spengler for third place for the entire race. The pace was there and it was a great note to end the weekend on. Step by step we are improving; we need to progress like this every session. We’re confident we can continue this upward trajectory in Turkey. We are all pushing forward in the same direction and our team dynamic is great, so this can only bring good results.