Jean-Karl Vernay will start from second place on the grid for the main race of the FIA World Touring Car Cup on Sunday, which will make him an entirely French front row alongside Yvan Muller.
Vernay and teammate Norbert Michelisz have shown good form on the Pau-Arnos circuit for Hyundai throughout Saturday, but that pace will need to be converted into results – and championship points – if they are to revive their 2021 title charge. .
“It’s a good day, you know? Vernay reflects. “Since this morning, I have a good feeling. I think we all worked pretty well together, all the Hyundai drivers, to prepare a very good car.
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“From Q1 the car was excellent. Tire degradation is pretty big on the rear tires for us as well, so that was sort of key to qualifying, just making sure we kept good tires for Q3, which we did.
“Yvan just beat us, he did a better job and that’s it. Of course I’m a little frustrated not to be on pole like we are in France and I think we had the potential. We had a good lap in Q2, just in Q3, I didn’t feel the same grip as before and we just missed a few tenths and it’s pole. But I think we can be proud of our performance.
“I am also happy that we are P2 and P3 for Hyundai with Norbi. Now let’s score some good points tomorrow, we really need it if we are to be back for the title fight. So yeah, it’s a good day right now.
But Vernay’s attention won’t just focus on the FIA World Touring Car Cup tomorrow. Like Mikel Azcona and Jordi Gene, the Frenchman will also participate in PURE ETCR. Unlike the World Cup, the electric touring car series is seeing its season finale at the French venue, and Vernay has an out-of-court chance to snatch the title from Mattias Ekstrom.
Of course, the two different car formulas show some pretty sharp distinctions between them. ETCR cars are rear-wheel drive, for example, while regular TCR cars used in the World Cup are front-drive – and have about half the horsepower.
Vernay would therefore be forgiven for having trouble switching between the two with such regularity. However, at this point in the season, the Frenchman is no longer claiming that this is a particular problem for him.
“It’s getting better [to manage], he revealed. “Motorland Aragon was the first event with both series, it was a bit tricky but now I’m used to it. I truly appreciate it.
“Like I said, I love being in these two series, I have a lot of fun in these two cars. It’s a little different, I really enjoy driving in ETCR, in WTCR the challenge is so difficult. Both are really exciting.
Turning the attention back to his efforts in the World Cup, it seems that overtaking is difficult around the Pau-Arnos configuration. While the site evokes a “full engagement” approach on the part of pilots, its narrow and ruthless nature can reduce the chances of overtaking. With that in mind, how does Vernay assess his chances of beating Muller for a home win?
” We will see tomorrow. We will see first in Race 1, try to analyze the start if there is a possibility, ”he said. “Like I said, the most important thing is to score big points.
“We could have taken pole, we didn’t, so now, if we’re going to be happy with P2 tomorrow, we will.
“Of course if there is an opportunity we will try to aim for victory. I mean we are in France, at least there are two French riders and there is a good chance of having the Marseillaise on the podium, but the work is not finished.
The first race of the WTCR starts at 10:00 a.m. CEST (09:00 BST), followed by the second race at 12:00 p.m. CEST (11:00 a.m. BST).