Hyundai’s Norbert Michelisz took victory in the second FIA World Touring Car Cup race in Bahrain, benefitting from opening lap clashes, as the drivers’ championship battle only just remains undecided.
Comtoyou Racing’s Mehdi Bennani had started from pole position in the reverse-grid race, but at the start it was Münnich Motorsport’s Esteban Guerrieri who got a better launch from third on the grid and assumed the lead in his Honda.
Franco Girolami, who had started from the front row of the grid, then adopted a defensive line into Turn 4, as team-mate Gilles Magnus attempted to make a move on the inside.
Magnus elected to put half of his car off the circuit under braking for the corner, and in doings so the Belgian was unable to stop his Audi in time, going deep into the corner past Girolami and clattering into team-mate Bennani and out of the race.
Girolami, meanwhile, was turned around by Attila Tassi, who himself then tangled with the recovering Bennani a few corners later.
The dramas enabled Néstor Girolami to move up to fifth by the end of the first lap, from eighth on the grid, whilst the Honda of Guerrieri assumed the lead.
However, the lead for the Honda lasted little more than four laps, as Michelisz made a late move into the opening corner on lap five to move ahead of Guerrieri.
The Hungarian thereafter opened up an advantage of almost three seconds and went on to claim his first win of the season.
Guerrieri held on to second, whilst the podium was completed by the wildcard Hyundai of Nicky Catsburg, although the Dutchman won’t score any points for the place due to his guest entry status.
Championship leader Mikel Azcona was fourth – although the Hyundai ace actually finished fifth on the road. Azcona benefitted from a five-second time penalty applied to Nathanaël Berthon – picked up when he overtook Tassi off the circuit on the first lap – to move ahead after the race.
Berthon was thus fifth, having finished with Azcona on his rear bumper, ahead of Comtoyou’s tom Coronel in sixth, the Audi driver overtaking Néstor Girolami with erase through Turns 5 to 7 on the fifth lap.
Néstor Girolami let his brother Franco through into seventh on lap eight, knowing that he would not lose any points in his title battle due to Franco’s wildcard status.
However, on the final lap, Néstor also lost out to Bennani, with the pair running side-by-side for much of the final lap in the process.
By taking the chequered flag in ninth, Néstor Girolami is mathematically still in title contention, but only just – with 65 points available from the season finale in Saudi Arabia he is now 60 points adrift of his rival.
Dániel Nagy completed the top ten for Zengő Motorsport, with both he and team-mate Bence Boldizs getting by Team Engstler’s Tiago Montiero on the final lap.
|1||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||13||29:04.963||2:11.605||7|
|2||86||Esteban GUERRIERI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK7 TCR||13||1.046||2:12.146||3|
|3||88||Nicky CATSBURG||BRC Hyundai N Racing Team||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||13||3.677||2:12.594||6|
|4||96||Mikel AZCONA||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||13||7.811||2:12.765||10|
|5||17||Nathanaël BERTHON||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR II||13||12.637||2:11.993||9|
|6||33||Tom CORONEL||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR II||13||13.958||2:13.029||13|
|7||72||Franco GIROLAMI||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS TCR II||13||15.776||2:13.575||2|
|8||25||Mehdi BENNANI||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR II||13||24.353||2:14.347||1|
|9||29||Néstor GIROLAMI||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK7 TCR||13||24.739||2:13.158||8|
|10||99||Dániel NAGY||Zengő Motorsport Services Kft||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||13||24.975||2:13.216||11|
|11||66||Bence BOLDIZS||Zengő Motorsport Services Kft||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||13||25.616||2:12.857||12|
|12||18||Tiago MONTEIRO||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Honda Civic Type-R FK7 TCR||13||27.266||2:13.939||14|
|13||110||Viktor DAVIDOVSKI||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS TCR II||11||+ 2 LAPS||2:13.421||15|
|R||9||Attila TASSI||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Honda Civic Type-R FK7 TCR||5||DNF||2:16.340||5|
|R||16||Gilles MAGNUS||Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR II||0||DNF||N/A||4|