Vervisch takes maiden win as Muller keeps title hopes alive

by James Bowers
Vervisch-Macau-2018-WTCR

With the top ten from qualifying reversed, Timo Scheider started the second World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race at Macau from pole position. However, as the race got underway, his start wasn’t the best and he had to defend firmly from the likes of Kevin Ceccon and Yvan Muller close behind. As the cars swept through the first few turns, Scheider remained in the lead however, with Frederic Vervisch having popped up into second place ahead of Ceccon.

Behind them, chaos ensued amongst the midfield at Lisboa corner. Pepe Oriola missed his braking zone, but didn’t miss the back of Yann Ehrlacher‘s Honda. Clattering into the barriers, Oriola eventually came to a complete stop right in the middle of the corner, where he would act as a blockade for a whole queue of cars. Ehrlacher, meanwhile had recovered from a 360 degree spin, and simply drove past the traffic jam of crashed cars up into fifth place.

Big names such as Norbert Michelisz, Jean-Karl Vernay, Thed Bjork and Rob Huff were all caught up in the accident, but crucially, so too was the championship points leader, Gabriele Tarquini. In a catastrophic blow to the BRC Racing team, both Michelisz and Tarquini would retire from the race. As such, they would lose the lead of the points standings in the teams’ championship to YMR. Plus, with Tarquini sidelined and Muller up towards the front, the BRC driver was now under serious threat from the YMR talisman in the drivers’ championship too.

Surprisingly though, the cars were able to be dragged away under their own steam, so there was no need to halt the race to recover them. At the front of the pack, Timo Scheider initially began to pull away from everybody else. But, soon enough, Vervisch had caught back up to the tail end of Scheider’s Honda.

Both Scheider and Vervisch were both Macau rookies despite their vast racing experience, and both also in search for their first WTCR race win. Neither of them would therefore go down without a fight in this particular battle. Eventually, on lap four, Vervisch made use of his Audi’s tremendous straight-line speed and swept around the outside of Scheider in a quite remarkable move at Mandarin bend. With no margin for error, and huge bravery required, Vervisch had taken the lead of the race.

Just behind, Yvan Muller and Kevin Ceccon were having an equally close battle, and on the same lap Muller also managed to get an overtake done. Just seconds after Vervisch had passed Scheider, Muller out-braked Ceccon on the outside line on the entry to Lisboa corner – another truly spectacular overtake. It would be a crucial one too. With Tarquini scoring zero points in this race, the tally to be gained from a top three position would keep Muller in the hunt for the championship title heading into the final race of the year.

While Ceccon would go on to have a few sketchy moments, all eyes for the remainder of the race were on Yvan Muller. He and the former DTM champion, Timo Scheider, put on a fantastic six-lap duel until the chequered flag was waved. Both drivers pushing their cars to the ragged edge, Muller made several attempts at another spectacular pass on the entry to Lisboa, but Scheider was having none of it. Desperate to hang onto second place, Scheider put on a tremendous defensive display to keep Muller behind and would hold on until the end of the race.

Out in front though, Frederic Vervisch became the fifteenth different race winner this season, taking both his and Comtoyou Racing‘s first ever race win in the World Touring Car Cup, much to the sheer joy of the Belgian team’s engineers in the pit-lane.

Timo Scheider scored his first ever podium result in the WTCR with second place, and Yvan Muller secured that all-important top three result to stay in the battle with Gabriele Tarquini for the overall championship honours. Behind them, Kevin Ceccon brought the Alfa Romeo home in fourth place, while Yann Ehrlacher conceded fifth place to his team-mate Esteban Guerrieri. With a whole host of front-running cars being taken out on lap one, Guerrieri is now in contention to finish third in the overall standings, though he still has a small amount of ground to make up on Jean-Karl Vernay and Thed Bjork.

Mehdi Bennani, Nathanael Berthon, Luigi Ferrara and – despite a brief encounter with the barriers at Police bend – Aurelien Panis rounded out the top ten.

Full Race Result:

PositionDriverCarTime
1stFrederic VervischAudi8 laps
2ndTimo ScheiderHonda+1.713
3rdYvan MullerHyundai+2.132
4thKevin CecconAlfa Romeo+5.608
5thEsteban GuerrieriHonda+6.422
6thYann EhrlacherHonda+7.944
7thMehdi BennaniVolkswagen+8.484
8thNathanael BerthonAudi+19.927
9thLuigi Ferrara Alfa Romeo+20.396
10thAurelien PanisAudi+37.106
11thJohn FilippiCupra+40.188
12thAurelien ComtePeugeot+41.708
13thMa Qing HuaHonda+42.714
14thGordon SheddenAudi+45.334
15thDenis DupontAudi+45.692
16thTom CoronelHonda+47.090
17thMat'o HomolaPeugeot+47.495
18thKevin TseAudi+1:13.820
19thFilipe de SouzaAudi+1:16.374
20thAndre CoutoHonda+1:23.257
21stLo Kai FungAudi+1:38.484
22ndZsolt SzaboCupra+1:45.726
23rdNorbert NagyCupra+1 lap
24thRob HuffVolkswagen+1 lap
RetThed BjorkHyundaiN/A
RetPepe Oriola CupraN/A
RetJean-Karl VernayAudiN/A
RetGabriele TarquiniHyundaiN/A
RetNorbert MicheliszHyundaiN/A
DNQRui ValenteVolkswagenN/A
DNQLam Kam SanAudiN/A

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