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  • Writer's pictureSIMONE PASSARELLO

WTCR Trophy double podium for Jessica Bäckman in Estoril

In her second appearance at the top of world's touring car racing, Jessica Bäckman stepped for the first time on the WTCR Trophy podium and now sits in third place in the Junior classify.

Photo: Photo Paulo Maria / DPPI

TCR specialist Jessica Bäckman moved to the much-coveted World Touring Car Cup in 2021, after spending 2 seasons in TCR Europe and having scored podiums in TCR Germany and TCR Scandinavia. She made history when she became the first woman to step on the podium in the continental series in 2019 at Hockenheim. Having made her debut in the World Cup - her long-time dream that she has finally fulfilled this year at the wheel of the #26 Hyundai Elantra operated by Target Competition - the Swedish 23-year old scored points at her debut on one of the most challenging racetracks in the world, the mighty Nurburgring Nordschleife. At the second round in Estoril, Portugal, Bäckman was very close to another double points finish, but could nonetheless secure two WTCR Trophy podiums - another breakthrough performance for Jessica. Last weekend, the most prestigious Touring Car Championship headed to Estoril, Portugal, with Team Sweden member Jessica Bäckman making her second appearance in the series alongside her brother Andreas. The 2021 WTCR Race of Portugal was hosted for the first time at Circuit of Estoril - former home of the Portuguese Grand Prix in the 90s. The race was in fact moved from the street circuit of Vila Real to the permanent Estoril track due to the logistical challenges posed by the pandemic. It was also Jessica Bäckman's first visit to the track, which represented another new learning opportunity for the young driver. "I feel very ready and looking forward to a new race weekend." - she said prior to the race meeting. "It seems to be a technical track based on what I have seen and run on the simulator with both fast and slow parts. I believe and hope this track will suit us well, so I look forward to the weekend " - she added. In the double Free Practice session on Saturday, the Swedish driver was P22 and P21 respectively. She then qualified in 20th position in the afternoon's run. Race 1 polsitter Gabriele Tarquini was immediately overtaken by Yann Ehrlacher - the driver of the Lynk & Co squad was protagonist of a great start from the inside of the front row and took the lead at Turn one. Nestor Girolami and Norbert Michelisz battled, and the Hungarian driver of the BRC Hyundai N Lukoil Squadra Corse driver made contact with other contenders Attila Tassi and Jean-Karl Vernay, bringing out the Safety Car. Tarquini attempted an attack for the lead at the restart, but his run was ultimately compromised a few laps laters due to a tyre problem caused by debris left on track in the previous incident. From that moment on, Ehrlacher's first place was never under threat, with Muller and Urrutia following. Tiago Monteiro and Estaban Guerrieri completed a powerful run and slotted into fourth and fifth place, having started from the last row of the top ten. Jessica Bäckman ran a solid race 1 and was 16th at the first chequered flag - a result that brought her up to the third place in the WTCR Trophy, a classification that awards the drivers with no official manufacturer's support in what is the most competitive touring cars championship globally. The young Swedish lady finished just one spot behind her brother Andreas, who clinched his first point in the series with 15th place. A couple of hours later, Jessica Bäckman took the green flag for Race 2 again from P16. Just as the previous race, the opening lap saw dramatic changes and close racing action: among them a change for the lead meant that pole-sitter Esteban Guerrieri lost the top of the leaderboard in favor of home hero Tiago Monteiro; the former F1 driver was quick to seize the opportunity and fired into the lead. Mikel Azcona - fresh winner of the inaugural round of the brand new electric TCR series - made early contact with Tom Coronel, triggering the Safety Car intervention. The spanish driver retired as a consequence of the accident. Monteiro accumulated a favorable gap at the restart, but was forced to pit for an issue with his bonnet that allowed 22-year old Attila Tassi to reach the top spot, becoming the youngest ever winner of a WTCR race. Jean-Karl Vernay and Norbert Michelisz completed the second race podium, ahead of Gabriele Tarquini and Santiago Urrutia. Yann Ehrlacher was sixth and preceded Thed Björk, Esteban Guerrieri, Yvan Muller and Robert Huff to round out the top-10. With another 16th place finish, Jessica Bäckman stepped for the second time of the day on the WTCR Trophy podium. "Overall, it was a challenging weekend, we are working hard to find the speed in the new cars, but we have not really gotten there yet." - explained Bäckman. "Anyway, I am happy with the races, we managed to advance some places and we got to step up on the WTCR podium. We are also catching some points in the WTCR Trophy and the Junior series" Jessica commented. Bäckman is now 20th in the overall standings - led by Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing's JK Vernay - but she now moves into fourth position in the WTCR Trophy standings and she sits third in the Junior classify. The circuit of Motorland Aragon, Spain, will host the next WTCR round in two week's time, as Jessica Bäckman will return behind the wheel of the #26 Target Competition Hyundai with the clear aim of building momentum and continue her progress at the top of touring cars racing.

Photo: Paulo Maria / DPPI



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