Norbert Michelisz enjoyed a relatively trouble-free run to victory in the final FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race in Slovakia by two seconds, with title protagonists Gabriele Tarquini and Yvan Muller both retiring.
The Hungarian launched well in the BRC-run Hyundai i30 N TCR and moved across to block fellow front row starter Aurelien Comte’s Peugeot 308, and from there was never headed.
Gabriele Tarquini’s championship lead looked vulnerable after he made contact with the Honda Civic Type R of Benjamin Lessennes, who once out of control also collected John Filippi’s CUPRA and team mate Esteban Guerrieri, putting the quartet out on the spot at Turn 3.
However, his closest title rival Yvan Muller also retired moments before the restart, pulling off into the gravel with a right-left tyre missing on the YMR Hyundai.
As a result, Tarquini’s 3 point advantage in the points table survives as the championship heads to the flyaway races, though the gap to the chasing pack behind has thinned considerably.
With Michelisz and Comte settled at the front of the field, the battle for the final podium slot provided some late-race entertainment, with Frédéric Vervisch surviving attacks on all fronts to claim his fourth silverware of the season for Comtoyou Racing.
First it was Fabrizio Giovanardi – rising through the order as the rate of attrition increased – who attempted to win Alfa Romeo’s first visit to the rostrum in 2018.
Their squabble allowed the sister YMR machine of Thed Bjork to close and pass Giovanardi for fourth.
The Italian attempted a fightback, but was overtaken in robust fashion by Petr Fulin and fell back.
Bjork did – briefly – take third, but Vervisch executed a carbon copy of the sweeping move around the outside of Turn 1 that put him in podium contention at the start to fight back.
That proved to be Bjork’s final opportunity, and Vervisch duly claimed the honours by four hundredths of a second.
Fulin rounded out the top five behind Bjork, with the Team Mulsanne duo of Ceccon and Giovanardi still taking the outfit’s best collective result of 2018.
Tom Coronel similarly made progress through the carnage to claim eighth as the leading Honda, edging out Race 1 winner Pepe Oriola.
Zoltan Szabo rounds out the points paying positions for Zengo Motorsport.
Local racer Mat’o Homola leaves his home event without a point after finishing 12th, whilst the final contest proved equally frustrating for the British contingent.
Rob Huff took 14th – his best result of the weekend in the rebuilt Sebastien Loeb Racing VW Golf – despite a drive through penalty for causing a collision with Yann Ehrlacher – whilst Gordon Shedden was sidelined after contact with Nathanel Berthon’s Audi ahead, and a simultaneous tap from Huff’s team mate Medhi Bennani behind put him onto the grass and bound for the pit lane.
Shedden’s WRT stable mate and title contender Jean-Karl Vernay was also put out of contention after contact with Norbert Nagy at Turn 3.
Slovakia Ring has thinned the battle for honours at the top, as WTCR moves into the final four flyaway races, starting with the Race of China-Ningbo on the 29-30 September.
|1||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||BRC Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||13||32:25.458||2:11.487||1|
|2||7||Aurélien COMTE||DG Sport Compétition||Peugeot 308 TCR||13||2.005||2:11.980||2|
|3||22||Frédéric VERVISCH||Audi Sport Team Comtoyou||Audi RS3 LMS||13||8.273||2:12.570||7|
|4||11||Thed BJÖRK||YMR||Hyundai i30 N TCR||13||8.312||2:12.806||18|
|5||44||Petr FULÍN||Fullin Race Academy||CUPRA TCR||13||8.796||2:12.875||16|
|6||31||Kevin CECCON||Team Mulsanne||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||13||9.150||2:12.989||14|
|7||88||Fabrizio GIOVANARDI||Team Mulsanne||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||13||9.382||2:12.580||15|
|8||9||Tom CORONEL||Boutsen Ginion Racing||Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR||13||9.729||2:13.314||17|
|9||74||Pepe ORIOLA||Team Oscaro by Campos Racing||CUPRA TCR||13||11.065||2:13.510||6|
|10||66||Zsolt Dávid SZABÓ||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA TCR||13||11.721||2:13.363||20|
|11||21||Aurélien PANIS||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS||13||15.253||2:13.741||21|
|12||70||Mat’o HOMOLA||DG Sport Compétition||Peugeot 308 TCR||13||20.767||2:13.933||19|
|13||17||Andrej STUDENIČ||Brutal Fish Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||13||25.516||2:15.007||26|
|14||12||Rob HUFF||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||13||46.026||2:13.624||25|
|15||68||Yann EHRLACHER||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR||13||1:24.581||2:12.943||13|
|16||20||Denis DUPONT||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS||12||+ 1 LAP||2:14.238||23|
|R||48||Yvan MULLER||YMR||Hyundai i30 N TCR||3||DNF||3:13.638||4|
|R||25||Mehdi BENNANI||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||1||DNF||N/A||24|
|R||52||Gordon SHEDDEN||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||Audi RS3 LMS||1||DNF||N/A||22|
|R||23||Nathanaël BERTHON||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS||1||DNF||N/A||11|
|R||8||Norbert NAGY||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA TCR||1||DNF||N/A||10|
|R||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||Audi RS3 LMS||1||DNF||N/A||12|
|R||27||John FILIPPI||Team Oscaro by Campos Racing||CUPRA TCR||0||DNF||N/A||5|
|R||86||Esteban GUERRIERI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR||0||DNF||N/A||3|
|R||63||Benjamin LESSENNES||Boutsen Ginion Racing||Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR||0||DNF||N/A||8|
|R||30||Gabriele TARQUINI||BRC Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||0||DNF||N/A||9|