Race win, plenty of points and weight taken out: Tom Coronel strategically successful in the streets of Pau
PAU (14 May 2023) – After his strong start of the season at Portimão, Tom Coronel continued his successful run in the second round of the TCR Europe Series with the Audi RS 3 LMS in Tricorp livery, run by Belgian team Comtoyou Racing. On the street circuit of the city of Pau in southwest France, Coronel finished fifth in the first race after making good progress from tenth place on the grid. On the following day, Coronel started from pole position and led from lights to flag to score a commanding victory. In doing so, he increased his margin as the leader in the drivers’ standings. “Great, the second win of the year is in the bag,” Coronel said enthusiastically. “And what’s more, I have now also lost extra success weight, which is important for the next race. It can’t get any better!”
With a history dating back as far as 1933, the Grand Prix de Pau, ranks among the world’s oldest motorsport events still in existence. “Racing on the street circuit at the foot of the Pyrenees is always very special. You really drive in the centre of the city, there is always a huge crowd and the circuit is challenging because there is no room for error,” Tom Coronel knows. In the practice sessions, he already showed his qualities straight away: third in first free practice, in the rain, and even fastest in the second free practice. Nevertheless, Coronel decided, partly in consultation with his team Comtoyou Racing, to adopt a different strategy in qualifying: “We knew that the speed was there, but if I would have been on pole here, I would have got 40 kilos on board again as success ballast for the next race at Spa-Francorchamps, and that is really disastrous for a circuit like Spa, so we opted to go for the tenth time, because with that I would indeed have missed out on points for a possible pole position, but for the second race I would still be first on the starting grid because of the ‘reversed grid’, and moreover would not get on board any extra weight. It’s all a bit strategic unfortunately, but I just had to get rid of those 40 kilos especially ahead of Spa!”
That strategy worked out well: Indeed, Coronel qualified tenth for the first race, securing pole position for the second race. Moreover, his nearest rival in the championship, Frenchman John Filippi, was only two places further ahead, so even that was manageable. In the first race, Coronel had a good getaway well and managed to overtake three competitors right at the start by opting for the outside line in the first corner. Later, another driver in front of him made a mistake, after which which he gained another position, and after the race, a driver received time penalty, so Coronel was eventually classified fifth. “Starting tenth, sixth across the finish line and taking the points for fifth place, that is a great result with which I am very satisfied, especially considering that overtaking is definitely not easy here at Pau,” the driver said.
On Sunday, Coronel had the ideal starting position in the race with pole position, but things got a little tense during the formation lap: “The circuit of Pau has quite a lot of difference in altitude and at the top it suddenly started to rain, thick drops, making it very slippery up there, while the track at the bottom at the start and finish line was bone dry”, he described afterwards. “Fortunately, the rain didn’t continue! At the start, I was able to take the lead right away, I had fresh tyres and that worked well. At the beginning I had to defend a bit against Davidovski, who was pushing quite hard, but in the end he had a tyre failure. That was also the reason for me to be a bit more careful, because if it could happen to him, of course it could happen to me as well. As a result, the rest got a bit closer, but I always concentrated on the exit of the final corner, which was the crucial point to defend my position and that worked out well every time. Halfway through the race I had quite a bit of understeer to deal with and in the closing stages Borkovic was pushing quite hard, but I was able to bring victory home and I think we made a really cool show of it! Super cool to bring home another big trophy here. Everything we could do this weekend, we maximised.”
The next two races of the TCR Europe Series will be held on 27 and 28 May at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in the Belgian Ardennes, virtually a home race for Coronel as the only Dutch driver in the field. He is already looking forward to it: “Spa is always super cool, I come there as leader in the championship standings and without any extra weight. Moreover, it is my team Comtoyou Racing’s home race, so it couldn’t be better. We will be pushing really hard again there!”