TCR Spain: Michelle Halder back on the podium in Barcelona Race 1
The 2021 TCR Spain finale started off with a podium for Michelle Halder – the sixth of her season – as her brother and teammate Mike clinched the title. With a good recovery, Alba Cano charged back to sixth after a difficult start.
The inaugural season of TCR Spain is coming to a close with its final round at Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona. It has been a particularly important championship for women in motorsport, with two top female drivers running for podiums and victories in the main class and with the car racing debut of Lydia Sempere in the CET class.
Michelle Halder and Alba Cano made headlines and often stepped on the overall podium. Two touring car specialists, Michelle became the first woman to win races in three different TCR series – TCR Germany, TCR Europe and TCR Spain.
Alba also has some remarkable experience in national championships and has also been successful in the TCR class of CREVENTIC's 24H Series.
Moving from TCR Europe to the newly-born Spanish series, the Halder siblings targeted wins straight from the first weekend. Monlau Competicion also proved to be a strong team and, despite the one-car operation, always supported Cano to reach the top-end of the classify.
The Barcelona weekend started off with the right foot for Cano, who was third fastest in free practice and was looking strong for qualifying. Unfortunately, a more troubled session put her in eighth place on the starting grid, forcing the Spaniard to a recovery.
Michelle Halder was consistently fast in the collective test and free practice, and could capitalise in qualifying clinching a fifth place.
Pole position went to TCR star Mikel Azcona, who made his one-off debut in the Spanish series after racing in both TCR Europe and WTCR. Mike Halder, though, was looking at the bigger picture: Michelle's brother had his eyes set on the title and slotted in second position.
At the start of the race, Azcona held first place from Mike Halder, while Michelle had a blistering start from fifth to gain third at the first corner. Alba Cano, on the other hand, had a slower start from eighth and dropped to tenth.
From P8 in CET class, Lydia Sempere recovered one position on the first lap, before she slotted again in eighth after the first lap.
Right behind her brother, Michelle initially seemed able to keep his pace, but a battle with Lopez lost her a few seconds. Nevertheless, she was able to defend third place and, when Lopez was under pressure from Callejas, Michelle opened a small safe gap.
Alba Cano quickly overtook Cutillas to advance to eighth. A contact between Moura and Navarrete bunched up the midfield and Alba moved up to seventh, starting a good recovery.
Callejas, meanwhile, had passed Lopez for fourth place, but was never able to catch up with Michelle Halder to threaten her podium position.
Mikel Azcona held a 2 second gap in the lead, but when the two front-runners started to lap the CET cars, the German driver closed in.
As the sun went down and the sky turned red, Mikel Azcona crossed the finish line to take a controlled victory, followed by Mike and Michelle Halder. With second place, Mike secured the title for Halder Motorsport and became the first ever champion in the series' history.
Michelle's third place was her sixth podium of the season.
A late trip to the gravel by Lopez meant that the RC2 Junior Team's driver dropped to ninth, while Fernando Navarrete had a torrid race and finished tenth.
Alba Cano completed a good charge to finish sixth, thus gaining two places from her starting position.
Lydia Sempere was unfortunately out of the race with 5 minutes left: her car slowed down on the straight before la Caixa and she couldn't take the chequered flag.
TCR Spain will be back on track on Sunday for the final two races of the season: Race 2 will get underway at 12:30 CEST, while the third and final race is scheduled for 16:30 local time.