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Norbert Michelisz ‘extremely pleased’ with crucial Main Race win

Norbert Michelisz says he was ‘extremely pleased’ to take victory in the main World Touring Car Championship race in Japan, with the Hungarian adding that the victory made up for a tumultuous Opening Race.

The weekend had started on a tough note for the factory Honda team, as news broke that all of the Civics would be excluded from the results of the previous event in China, denting Michelisz’s title hopes.

But the Hungarian was on top form in Honda’s home country, putting his Civic on pole position on Saturday and showing strong pace in the wet in Sunday’s Opening Race.

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Unfortunately for Michelisz, contact from Néstor Girolami knocked him out of the top ten in race one and he had to fight his way back to finish seventh.

The Main Race saw Michelisz lead away from the front before the race was red-flagged after 11 laps, seven of which were spent behind the safety car.

That was just enough to give full points, and Michelisz’s third win of the season means he is 16.5 points adrift of title leader Thed Björk with four races to go.

“I’m extremely pleased to win for the third time this year and I want to thank the team massively,” said Michelisz. “We were really up against it to have the cars ready for this weekend, so to win the Main Race is a great achievement.

“It was quite tough. The intensity of the rain increased for the Main Race and there was some aquaplaning. But to be honest it was not that bad.

“Of course, if you are sitting in a good car, maybe the best car for these conditions, you underrate the problems others are having.”

The Hungarian expressed frustration about the contact from Girolami in the Opening Race, for which the Argentine was handed a drive-through penalty, which cost him further points in the title battle.

“I’m not happy about the result in the Opening Race though,” added the 33-year-old. “I’d got to about fifth and felt a big hit on the rear from Nestor Girolami.

“I think it was an unfortunate move from his side and it put me much lower than I should have been.

“Néstor was in front and made a mistake going long into [Turn] 11 and re-joined the track from outside.

“I had the momentum, I was ahead of him, I had the inside for the last corner and then I just felt a big hit on the rear. I was very close to being stuck in the gravel.

“With the championship being this tight I think it was really unfortunate from his side, but I am sure he has another view of what happened.”

The penultimate meeting of the 2017 WTCC season takes place in Macau in three weeks’ time.

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