Michelisz closes gap to Guerrieri with Race One victory

by James Bowers

Norbert Michelisz took a commanding victory in the opening race of the weekend, and in doing so, tightened the points deficit to Esteban Guerrieri in the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) standings.

As the lights went out, Ma Qing Hua‘s great work in qualifying was immediately undone. A slow getaway saw him plummet down the order from fifth, all the way to the tail end of the top fifteen.

Out in front though, Michelisz wasted no time in roaring away from the pack, with Hyundai stablemate Augusto Farfus acting as a rear guard defence against the rest of the field.

A novel part of the Vila Real event is the inclusion of a joker lap system. What this means is that all drivers have to take a slower, alternative route around a roundabout at least once during each race. Michelisz decided to take his mandatory joker lap at the end of lap three, as did Farfus and Rob Huff. Due to the hefty advantage that the Hungarian had pulled out in such a short space of time, Michelisz managed to rejoin the circuit still in the lead in front of a charging Yann Ehrlacher.

Ehrlacher took his joker lap at the end of lap 4. The Frenchman had been pushing hard, and it paid off. As he exited the alternate route, Ehrlacher came out side by side with Farfus, but swept around the outside to take second place.

Further back, Gabriele Tarquini attempted to pass home favourite Tiago Monteiro, but failed to make the corner. In doing so, he collected the Portuguese driver and dragged the pair of them into the barriers.

Esteban Guerrieri’s engine then began to give way, resulting in the championship leader dropping through the field and out of the points-paying positions.

Out in front though, Guerrieri’s nearest title challenger was in a class of his own. Norbert Michelisz came home to secure a comfortable race victory, and as a result, carved a significant chunk out of the points deficit in the standings.

Result – Top 15:

1stNorbert MicheliszHyundai
2ndYann EhrlacherLynk & Co
3rdAugusto FarfusHyundai
4thRob HuffVolkswagen
5thNicky CatsburgHyundai
6thAurelien PanisCupra
7thJohan KristofferssonVolkswagen
8thThed BjorkLynk & Co
9thYvan MullerLynk & Co
10thJean-Karl VernayAudi
11thNestor GirolamiHonda
12thAndy PriaulxLynk & Co
13thMikel AzconaCupra
14thMa Qing HuaAlfa Romeo
15thNiels LangeveldAudi

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