BRC Racing’s Norbert Michelisz scored his first win on the Circuito da Guia in 13 years with a controlled drive to victory in the opening TCR World Tour race in Macau, ahead of Néstor Girolami and Rob Huff.
Michelisz had claimed pole position on Friday to take over at the top of the drivers’ championship standings, and the Hungarian duly went on to score a lights-to-flag victory in sunny and warm conditions on Saturday.
Having made a good start, Michelisz was eight tenths of a second clear of Girolami’s Honda by the end of the opening lap, and he eked out that advantage in the first half of the race.
In the closing laps Girolami closed in on the leading Hyundai, but Michelisz was able to easily prevail, scoring his fourth win of the season to move to 18 points clear in the championship with only one race left to run on Sunday.
“It was a fantastic start,” said winner Michelisz. “I was a bit worried if my getaway would be enough, but I managed to keep the lead.
“The car, like yesterday, was just great. It wasn’t easy because I was pushing flat out. Thanks to the team, because today was an amazing day thanks to the car that I had.
“I was not managing [the pace], I was going flat out. Probably I used the tyres a bit too much in the beginning to make a small gap, but then towards the end he was much stronger than me.
“Anyway, I expected something like this to happen; my plan was to build a gap and then to wait and see, but fortunately it was a good strategy.
“Tomorrow is a new day – starting P10 you are in the middle of the pack – so anything can happen.”
MacPro Racing’s Girolami had to settle for second, just over half a second shy come the finish, with the podium completed by Comtoyou Racing’s Huff.
Both Girolami and Macau maestro Huff had benefitted from a poor start from Cyan Racing’s Yann Ehrlacher at the start, elevating them into podium positions before the first corner.
As Ehrlacher bogged down, the Lynk & Co driver dropped to tenth, although he was able to recover three places by the end of the opening lap, passing Comtoyou’s John Filippi and then being let through by Cyan team-mates Thed Björk and Santiago Urrutia.
As Huff couldn’t keep with Girolami in the battle for second, the Macau maestro quickly found himself under pressure for the final podium place from Azcona.
Azcona had on Friday been penalised three grid places for impeding Huff in qualifying – to the detriment of Huff’s championship charge as Azcona still kept his points for qualifying second – and the rivalry simmered in the opening race as well.
By lap four Azcona was glued to the tail of Huff’s Audi and the Spaniard repeatedly tried to execute a move at Lisboa, looking several times to the outside line as Huff expertly defend third.
In the end, Azcona couldn’t find a way through – despite some contact on lap seven which saw Azcona lucky to avoid the barriers – and he had to settle for fourth behind Huff.
Comtoyou’s Frédéric Vervisch was fifth, ahead of Ehrlacher in sixth, the Frenchman having been let into that place by team-mate Ma Qing Hua on lap three.
Ma was thus seventh, heading up team-mates Björk and Urrutia in eighth and ninth respectively.
Filippi completed the top ten in his Comtoyou-run Audi.
Rookie Marco Butti took 11th after passing the Peugeot of Ben Bargwanna on the final lap, the Australian having to settle for 12th at the chequered flag, ahead of the leading local entrant of lo Sze Ho in 13th.
The largely incident-free race saw no safety cars, although it was close on the opening lap when Ken Tian Kai stopped his Audi at Turn 15 with a mechanical issue and had to have his car craned off the track.
Yan Chuang and Paul Poon also seemingly made contact at Turn 12 on lap five, but the duo recovered to the pits for tyre changes and continued in the race a lap down.
Race two is scheduled to get underway at 10:35 local time (02:35 GMT, 03:35 CET) on Sunday.
|1||105||Norbert MICHELISZ||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||9||22:41.912||2:29.768||1|
|2||129||Néstor GIROLAMI||MacPro Racing||Honda Civic Type-R FL5 TCR||9||0.590||2:30.267||3|
|3||179||Rob HUFF||Audi Sport Comtoyou||Audi RS3 LMS TCR II||9||1.993||2:30.198||4|
|4||196||Mikel AZCONA||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||9||3.934||2:29.960||5|
|5||122||Frédéric VERVISCH||Audi Sport Comtoyou||Audi RS3 LMS TCR II||9||4.692||2:30.044||7|
|6||168||Yann EHRLACHER||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 FL TCR||9||4.923||2:30.102||2|
|7||155||MA Qing Hua||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 FL TCR||9||9.607||2:30.839||6|
|8||111||Thed BJÖRK||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 FL TCR||9||20.056||2:31.551||9|
|9||112||Santiago URRUTIA||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||Lynk & Co 03 FL TCR||9||22.257||2:31.869||10|
|10||27||John FILIPPI||Audi Sport Comtoyou||Audi RS3 LMS TCR II||9||22.961||2:31.993||8|
|11||18||Marco BUTTI||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||9||25.519||2:31.855||17|
|12||71||Ben BARGWANNA||Team Clairet Sport – Hangcha Racing||Peugeot 308 TCR||9||26.820||2:32.202||11|
|13||1||LO Sze Ho||Evolve Racing||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||9||27.319||2:32.113||12|
|14||33||DENG Bao Wei||109 Racing||Honda Civic Type-R FK7 TCR||9||2:02.761||2:42.499||16|
|15||22||YAN Chuang||Fancy Teamwork||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||8||+ 1 LAP||2:36.849||13|
|16||21||Paul POON Tak Chun||Teamwork Motorsport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR II||8||+ 1 LAP||2:37.546||14|
|17||15||Ken TIAN Kai||QMA Motorsports||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||0||DNF||N/A||15|
|NS||6||LI Weng Ji||Z.SPEED Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||–||DNS||N/A||–|