Norbert Michelisz edges closer to title with race one win in Sepang

Norbert Michelisz edges closer to title with race one win in Sepang

Norbert Michelisz
Photo: Gregory Lenormand / DPPI

Norbert Michelisz edged closer to the FIA World Touring Car Cup title by taking a lights-to-flag victory in changeable conditions in Sepang, beating Aurélien Panis to the win as Thed Björk dropped out of the title race.

Rain fell before the start of the race which prompted a difficult decision on tyres, with some drivers electing for slicks all around, whilst others ran with wets on either the fronts or the rears.

Michelisz opted for the same configuration as his title rivals with wet tyres on the rear and slick tyres on the front.

The race began somewhat cautiously behind the safety car, with racing action commencing on lap two. Michelisz mastered the conditions well, with the BRC Racing driver not coming under threat at an stage for the win.

His fifth win of the season means the Hungarian has now opened up a 26-point advantage over title rival Esteban Guerrieri, with just two races left to run.

Comtoyou Racing’s Panis claimed his best-ever result in WTCR with second, the CUPRA driver keeping Michelisz honest to finish just over two seconds behind as the rest of the pack struggled to keep up.

Outgoing champion Gabriele Tarquini claimed third in the second BRC Hyundai, with the Italian having passed both Mikel Azcona and Néstor Girolami for the position on lap four, the duo later dropping down the order due to their tyre choices.

Münnich Motorsport’s Guerrieri limited the damage to his title challenge by claiming fourth, backed up by KCMG’s wildcard entry João Paulo de Oliveira in fifth, who had come through from 13th on the grid on slicks.

De Oliveira played a crucial role late in the race, preventing Cyan Racing’s Yvan Muller from getting close to Guerrieri, with Muller having to settle for sixth, from 16th on the grid.

Muller’s team-mate Thed Björk failed to make any impact in the race, the Swede running in 28th when he pitted for slicks to collect data from his team-mate. The result means Björk is now out of contention for the title.

PWR Racing’s Daniel Haglöf was seventh, having gained a few places in the opening three laps of racing, ahead of the leading Volkswagen of SLR’s Johan Kristoffersson in eighth.

BRC’s Nicky Catsburg and WRT’s Jean-Karl Vernay completed the top ten, the latter as the best Audi driver.

Race two is scheduled to get underway at 18:15 local time (10:15 GMT, 11:15 CET).

Race result

POS NO DRIVER NAT ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME BEST GD
1 5 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 10 26:02.896 2:30.281 1
2 21 Aurélien PANIS Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing CUPRA TCR 10 2.446 2:30.524 2
3 1 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 10 10.009 2:30.789 7
4 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR 10 10.878 2:30.864 9
5 38 João Paulo Lima DE OLIVEIRA KC Motorgroup Honda Civic Type R TCR 10 11.287 2:29.887 13
6 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 10 12.125 2:30.091 16
7 37 Daniel HAGLÖF PWR Racing CUPRA TCR 10 17.213 2:30.534 15
8 14 Johan KRISTOFFERSSON SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 10 20.142 2:31.079 17
9 88 Nicky CATSBURG BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 10 31.331 2:31.510 12
10 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 10 31.772 2:31.196 18
11 111 Andy PRIAULX Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 10 36.466 2:32.393 27
12 25 Mehdi BENNANI SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 10 37.211 2:32.533 19
13 9 Attila TASSI KCMG Honda Civic Type R TCR 10 40.633 2:32.908 21
14 68 Yann EHRLACHER Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 10 42.004 2:33.258 24
15 52 Gordon SHEDDEN Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 10 43.183 2:32.315 22
16 33 Benjamin LEUCHTER SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 10 45.377 2:32.911 26
17 96 Mikel AZCONA PWR Racing CUPRA TCR 10 58.401 2:35.688 4
18 55 Ma QING HUA Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 10 1:00.734 2:36.248 8
19 27 Mitchell CHEAH Min Jie Hyundai Team Engstler Hyundai i30 N TCR 10 1:03.709 2:34.479 25
20 31 Kevin CECCON Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 10 1:05.014 2:36.786 11
21 10 Niels LANGEVELD Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 10 1:07.607 2:37.970 10
22 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR 10 1:10.078 2:36.011 3
23 12 Rob HUFF SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 10 1:17.382 2:36.777 23
24 50 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing CUPRA TCR 10 1:20.508 2:38.323 20
25 15 Hafizh SYAHRIN Bin Abdullah Hyundai Team Engstler Hyundai i30 N TCR 10 1:24.275 2:36.365 29
26 65 Douglas KHOO Kok Hui Viper Niza Racing CUPRA TCR 10 1:36.373 2:37.557 30
27 11 Thed BJÖRK Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 10 2:02.312 2:33.012 28
28 8 Augusto FARFUS BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 10 2:22.601 2:34.775 6
R 18 Tiago MONTEIRO KCMG Honda Civic Type R TCR 6 DNF 2:37.080 14
R 22 Frédéric VERVISCH Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 2 DNF 2:43.708 5
WTCR points deficit after Round 28
Graphic: TouringCars.Net