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Norbert Michelisz was ‘not expecting’ to be fighting with José María López

Honda’s Norbert Michelisz admits that he was not expecting to be fighting with Citroën’s José María López at the front of the World Touring Car Championship races around the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

Michelisz finished the Opening Race in third, benefitting the most when three drivers, Tiago Monteiro, Yvan Muller and Tom Coronel, all went off in puncture-related accidents on the final lap.

The Hungarian star then started the Main Race from the front row of the grid, due to the failure of either Muller or Coronel to start the race as a result of their accident damage.

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From there, Michelisz briefly took the lead into Turn 1 on the opening lap, before López repassed him further around the GP loop and heading onto the Nordschleife.

Michelisz eventually finished the race within half a second of López, who eased off due to engine management issues late in the race.

“It was entertaining I have to say,” said Michelisz of his Main Race battle with the reigning champion. “After qualifying yesterday I was not expecting to fight with Pechito [López] for the podium.

“In the first race I think I was lucky, the start was not very good and I was compromised by Nicky [Catsburg] almost stalling and I lost some time there. But I came home third because of many punctures and problems for the others.

“Of course as a racing driver seeing others go off in front of you is never a nice feeling. Tom Coronel had a puncture in a very dangerous place and the accident Tiago and Yvan had is a bit scary I must say.

“The circuit in itself is a huge challenge but if you have to think about when a puncture is going to happen it’s not nice to drive here, I must say.”

Michelisz added that being in front of López on the Nordschleife would have been of little benefit to him, as the straight-line speed advantage of the C-Elysée would have left him vulnerable on the long straight out of Döttinger Höhe.

“I tried to think about taking it easy in the first one, but in the second one as soon as I realised I had the lead after the start I just thought I have to be somewhere in a position behind a car going onto the long straight because if I’m the first one I’ll be passed by two or three other cars,” explained Michelisz.

“Pechito was really good because he overtook me; it was not like I let him pass, but I think he just put the pressure on. It was not a mistake on my side, he was just really clever on the outside and in that moment was able to pass me.

“Unfortunately we had some tyre problems, but in the end I’m really happy because the tactics paid off and thanks to the team.”

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