Norbert Michelisz has won the main FIA World Touring Car Cup race at Autodrom Most this afternoon, following an opportunistic overtake on Mikel Azcona at turn two.
As the Autumn sun began to set, Azcona led the field away from pole position and managed to cover off Michelisz into the entry to the chicane. However, cold rear tyres caused a big slide for the CUPRA driver, allowing Michelisz through into the lead.
Behind them, Esteban Guerrieri jumped up into third ahead of Yann Ehrlacher, but then the chaos began.
Once again, turn one proved to be difficult to get around without contact. This time, Santiago Urrutia and Gabriele Tarquini exited stage right into the gravel trap, while Rob Huff also got stranded with broken front-left suspension.
This called for a safety car intervention in order to remove the stricken group of cars, while Attila Tassi also dragged his Honda back to the pit lane to retire. However, it soon became clear that the recovery would take quite a substantial amount of time, so the race was temporarily suspended.
Around fifteen minutes later, proceedings got back underway with a rolling start. But even then, contact occurred. Thed Bjork got into the back of Nestor Girolami at turn one. The Honda driver would continue despite another trip through the gravel trap, though Bjork reported back to pit lane with damage.
At the front though, Michelisz carved out a healthy lead gap, but by turn three Azcona had reeled the Hyundai in again. As the laps ticked by, the lead gap would extend and contract, but the order remained the same.
Guerrieri, meanwhile, was suffering from a case of deja vu. Once again, his race had devolved into a test of his defensive capabilities against the Lynk & Co of championship leader Ehrlacher.
Just as in race one though, Autodrom Most proved to be a difficult place to overtake. It was one thing for Ehrlacher to catch Guerrieri, but passing him was a whole other story.
Disaster then struck for Hyundai’s Jean-Karl Vernay. A drive-through penalty was awarded to the Frenchman for his tyres not being fitted to the car within the allotted time frame on the grid – an exceedingly frustrating penalty for any driver to deal with. With that, Vernay dropped to fifteenth from sixth.
He would then pick up an extra championship point at least, as ahead of him Girolami fell out of contention with a front-left puncture, promoting Vernay up to fourteenth.
Out in the lead though, Michelisz brought the Hyundai Elantra home for his first race win of the season – the tenth different driver to do so in the ten WTCR races held so far this year.
Azcona would have to settle for second, a perfectly respectable way to round out what has been a pretty unforgettable weekend for the Spanish driver. Plus, with that haul of points, he now finds himself placed third in the championship standings.
Guerrieri completed the podium after successfully fending off the Lynk & Co of Ehrlacher. The pair of them are now the two championship leaders, with Ehrlacher just twenty points ahead of the Argentine.
Nathanael Berthon bounced back from retirement in race one to finish fifth in race two, while compatriot Yvan Muller crossed the line in sixth.
Luca Engstler was quietly one of the stars of this race, as having started on the back row of the grid, the German made the most of everyone else’s misfortune, climbing his way up to seventh.
Frederic Vervisch and Gilles Magnus salvaged points from a tiresome weekend in eighth and ninth, while the fourth and final Audi of Tom Coronel completed the top ten.
|1||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||17||17 LAPS||1:39.716||2|
|2||96||Mikel AZCONA||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||17||1.508||1:39.503||1|
|3||86||Esteban GUERRIERI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||17||11.043||1:40.277||4|
|4||68||Yann EHRLACHER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||17||11.528||1:40.265||3|
|5||17||Nathanaël BERTHON||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||17||12.748||1:40.405||6|
|6||100||Yvan MULLER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||17||13.922||1:40.240||8|
|7||8||Luca ENGSTLER||Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||17||15.786||1:40.319||19|
|8||22||Frédéric VERVISCH||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||17||16.788||1:40.331||10|
|9||16||Gilles MAGNUS||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||17||17.576||1:40.520||20|
|10||32||Tom CORONEL||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||17||18.366||1:40.441||13|
|11||222||Petr FULÍN||Petr Fulín||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||17||20.987||1:40.509||18|
|12||18||Tiago MONTEIRO||ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||17||26.455||1:41.038||15|
|13||55||Bence BOLDIZS||Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||17||27.589||1:40.821||17|
|14||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||17||39.843||1:40.350||5|
|15||11||Thed BJÖRK||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||17||1:20.972||1:39.728||7|
|16||29||Néstor GIROLAMI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||16||+ 1 LAP||1:40.370||9|
|R||9||Attila TASSI||ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR||1||DNF||N/A||16|
|R||3||Gabriele TARQUINI||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||0||DNF||N/A||11|
|R||79||Rob HUFF||Zengő Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||0||DNF||N/A||12|
|R||12||Santiago URRUTIA||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||0||DNF||N/A||14|