Norbert Michelisz has finally ended his run of bad luck by claiming victory from pole position in Sunday’s main World Touring Car Championship race at Portugal’s Vila Real street circuit.
The Honda driver finally had some good luck come his way when fellow front-row starter Rob Huff stalled his Münnich Motorsport Citroën as the starting lights went out, which allowed the Hungarian an easy run through the opening sequence of corners while the chasing pack jinked around the Briton’s slow-starting car.
Huff’s sluggish start – mirroring his front-row stall at Hungary – promoted Volvo’s Thed Björk into second place. While the Swede gamely gave chase, he never looked like threatening Michelisz for the lead and cemented a second-placed finish by serving his ‘joker lap’ on the same tour as Michelisz.
After extending his lead to over a second in the final laps, Michelisz backed off towards the end of the race and crossed the finish line half a second clear of Björk.
In a solid race for the factory Honda squad, local driver and crowd favourite Tiago Monteiro consolidated his reclaimed lead of the Drivers’ Championship by completing the podium in third place to claim his second rostrum visit of the weekend. Fourth place went to Björk’s teammate Nicky Catsburg.
Huff claimed a remarkable fifth, despite his appalling start, to prove that overtaking is indeed possible at this incredibly challenging street circuit.
He forced his way up to eleventh by the end of the opening lap by simply frightening a number of runners out of the way, and then stayed out when John Filippi and then Esteban Guerrieri and Yann Ehrlacher ahead of him opted to serve their ‘joker laps’ on the third and fourth laps of the race.
Huff dived for the detour route on Lap 5 – successfully clearing all three drivers – and then used a clear track to close up on opening race winner Mehdi Bennani and Néstor Girolami when they served their ‘joker laps’ on Lap 6.
Huff made further progress still, pressuring his fellow countryman Tom Chilton wide on Lap 11 to claim fifth place.
|2017 FIA WTCC Race of Portugal – Main Race Final Classification (13 laps)|
|1.||Norbert Michelisz||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||25:47.552||MF|
|2.||Thed Björk||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 0.480||MF|
|3.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||+ 2.200||MF|
|4.||Nick Catsburg||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 4.457||MF|
|5.||Rob Huff||Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée||+ 4.587||IND|
|6.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 8.834||IND|
|7.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 20.846||IND|
|8.||Esteban Guerrieri||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 23.834||IND|
|9.||Néstor Girolami||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 24.864||MF|
|10.||John Filippi||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 25.384||IND|
|11.||Yann Ehrlacher||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 25.793||IND|
|12.||Kevin Gleason||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 45.075||IND|
|13.||Ryo Michigami||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 45.624||MF|
|14.||Dániel Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 1:26.761||IND|
|15.||Manuel Fernandes||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 2:18.129||IND|
|16.||Aurélien Panis||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 3 laps||IND|
|WD.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||Withdrew||IND|
Images via FIA WTCC Media