Esteban Guerrieri takes title to wire with win in interrupted race two

Esteban Guerrieri takes title to wire with win in interrupted race two

Esteban Guerrieri
Photo: Honda / David Noels

Münnich Motorsport’s Esteban Guerrieri claimed a crucial victory in a red-flag interrupted second FIA World Touring Car Cup race in Sepang, taking the battle with BRC Racing’s Norbert Michelisz to the final race.

Conditions deteriorated further after the day’s first race, with rain setting in and the race commencing at dusk in Malaysia. Whilst the majority of the field began on slicks, or a slick-wet combination, Cyan Racing’s Thed Björk declared it ‘too wet for slicks on the front’ and pitted at the end of the formation lap for wets all-around.

At the start, reverse-grid pole-sitter Ma Qing Hua lost out to fellow front-row starter Néstor Girolami, as Guerrieri shot from ninth on the grid up to fourth by the end of the first three corners.

Further around the lap Guerrieri was able to pass Mikel Azcona for third, before also passing Kevin Ceccon for second, after Ma rapidly dropped down the order.

Guerrieri was in second behind his Honda team-mate by the end of the second sector, before an incident at the hairpin brought out the red flags.

BRC’s Nicky Catsburg slid into the Lynk & Co of Yvan Muller, knocking the Frenchman into a spin and eliminating Catsburg, whose car ignited into flames as he re-joined the track with front-right damage.

Although several other cars went off at the same time, they all re-joined the circuit without damage. Nevertheless, the incident stopped the race and a lengthy one-hour delay followed.

With the race resuming as the positions were at the end of sector two, Guerrieri would start the resumed race immediately behind team-mate Girolami, with Michelisz starting in 13th after he lost ground on the opening lap.

After two laps behind the safety car, the restart on lap four saw the predictable swap between the two Argentine drivers, whilst Michelisz was immediately up to tenth by the end of the lap.

Team Mulsanne’s Kevin Ceccon passed Azcona for third, but the pass failed to stick and the Spaniard held his ground for the final podium position.

Girolami then acted as rear-guard for Guerrieri, who built up a lead of over 12 seconds before the safety car was required again two laps from the end when Attila Tassi stopped on the track.

By that stage, Azcona had muscled past Girolami for second on lap eight, albeit not without contact, whilst the charging SLR Volkswagen of Johan Kristoffersson also got past Girolami a lap later for the final podium place, again with slight contact at Turn 3.

Girolami did hold on to fourth, ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Ceccon in fifth.

Yvan Muller was sixth, his team having made repairs to his car during the long stoppage after the earlier hit from Catsburg, although he dropped out of the title race in the process, having not had the pace to keep up with the front-runners.

Muller was backed up by Yann Ehrlacher in seventh, whilst Michelisz finished in eighth, limiting the damage to his championship lead, which now stands at just ten points heading into the final race of the season.

Completing the top ten were SLR’s Rob Huff and Benjamin Leuchter.

Despite a big fire on his car, Catsburg’s team managed to repair the damage before the race re-started, but he was not allowed to take part due to having caused the red-flag stoppage in the first place.

Race three is scheduled to get underway at the revised time of 20:50 local time (12:50 GMT, 13:50 CET).

Race result

POS NO DRIVER NAT ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME BEST GD
1 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR 11 1:28:45.146 2:35.452 9
2 96 Mikel AZCONA PWR Racing CUPRA TCR 11 1.023 2:37.099 8
3 14 Johan KRISTOFFERSSON SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 11 1.368 2:36.220 22
4 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR 11 2.198 2:36.924 2
5 31 Kevin CECCON Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 11 2.313 2:37.225 4
6 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 11 2.500 2:38.616 13
7 68 Yann EHRLACHER Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 11 3.894 2:38.445 18
8 5 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 11 4.498 2:38.697 10
9 12 Rob HUFF SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 11 5.033 2:38.712 26
10 33 Benjamin LEUCHTER SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 11 6.270 2:38.417 21
11 21 Aurélien PANIS Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing CUPRA TCR 11 6.966 2:38.620 14
12 18 Tiago MONTEIRO KCMG Honda Civic Type R TCR 11 8.821 2:38.821 16
13 25 Mehdi BENNANI SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 11 9.511 2:39.240 23
14 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 11 10.095 2:38.765 20
15 10 Niels LANGEVELD Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 11 10.705 2:38.641 11
16 27 Mitchell CHEAH Min Jie Hyundai Team Engstler Hyundai i30 N TCR 11 11.274 2:39.323 28
17 55 Ma QING HUA Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 11 13.607 2:38.963 1
18 38 João Paulo Lima DE OLIVEIRA KC Motorgroup Honda Civic Type R TCR 11 14.408 2:38.550 25
19 8 Augusto FARFUS BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 11 14.667 2:40.982 5
20 50 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing CUPRA TCR 11 16.685 2:40.636 17
21 111 Andy PRIAULX Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 11 17.847 2:39.667 27
22 15 Hafizh SYAHRIN Bin Abdullah Hyundai Team Engstler Hyundai i30 N TCR 11 18.159 2:40.301 29
23 11 Thed BJÖRK Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 11 19.074 2:41.669 19
24 65 Douglas KHOO Kok Hui Viper Niza Racing CUPRA TCR 11 20.589 2:41.876 30
25 22 Frédéric VERVISCH Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 11 21.395 2:36.641 3
26 1 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 11 1:10.622 2:40.885 6
27 52 Gordon SHEDDEN Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 9 + 2 LAPS 2:40.072 15
R 9 Attila TASSI KCMG Honda Civic Type R TCR 8 DNF 2:38.938 12
R 37 Daniel HAGLÖF PWR Racing CUPRA TCR 5 DNF 2:42.255 24
R 88 Nicky CATSBURG BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 0 DNF N/A 7
WTCR points deficit after Round 29
Graphic: TouringCars.Net