Mehdi Bennani claimed victory in the Opening Guia Race of Macau, which was red-flagged on the penultimate lap after championship contender Norbert Michelisz triggered a multi-car pile-up.
Starting his Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën from a reversed-grid pole position, Bennani outdragged Tom Coronel off the start line and led the field on the long sprint to the Lisboa corner to claim a lead he wouldn’t lose.
Coronel slotted into second place ahead of Honda’s Ryo Michigami, while championship leader Thed Björk managed to get his Polestar Volvo in front of Kevin Gleason’s RC Motorsport LADA.
Gleason tried valiantly to defend against the chasing Hondas of Michelisz and teammate Esteban Guerrieri, but was eased aside by the two Hondas on the second lap. The American equally had no response to the two Citroëns of Main Race pole winner Rob Huff and SLR’s Tom Chilton, who both got by, along with Volvo’s Nicky Catsburg.
Huff and Chilton were quickly able to close in on the Hondas of Michelisz and Guerrieri, but on the penultimate lap Michelisz slid wide on the cement dust at Police which was left after a huge crash in the earlier GT race.
The Hungarian slapped the wall and was T-boned by Guerrieri; Huff and Chilton had no time to respond and joined the fracas. The narrow section of track was completely blocked, forcing officials to unfurl the red flags. The race was declared on a two-lap countback, with Bennani declared the winner ahead of Coronel.
Ryo Michigami celebrated becoming the first Japanese driver to claim a WTCC podium by finishing third ahead of Björk, who marginally extended his Drivers’ Championship advantage to 16.5 points over Michelisz, who was classified in fifth.
Björk’s teammate Catsburg is third, a further 14.5 points adrift, while Bennani’s race win vaults him to fourth overall (-33.5 points) and mathematically in contention for overall title honours.
|2017 FIA WTCC Guia Race of Macau – Opening Race Final Classification (5 laps)|
|1.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||12:26.832||IND|
|2.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 1.952||IND|
|3.||Ryo Michigami||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 3.265||MF|
|4.||Thed Björk||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 3.627||MF|
|5.||Norbert Michelisz||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||+ 4.577||MF|
|6.||Esteban Guerrieri||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||+ 5.379||MF|
|7.||Rob Huff||Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée||+ 6.635||IND|
|8.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 8.068||IND|
|9.||Nick Catsburg||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 10.688||MF|
|10.||Kevin Gleason||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 12.040||IND|
|11.||John Filippi||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 13.946||IND|
|12.||Yann Ehrlacher||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 14.592||IND|
|13.||Néstor Girolami||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 18.512||MF|
|14.||Ma Qing Hua||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 18.683||IND|
|15.||Dániel Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 25.074||IND|
|16.||Zsolt David Szabó||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 37.025||IND|
|17.||Mak Ka Lok||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 46.075||IND|
|18.||Po Wah Wong||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 2:00.220||IND|
Image via FIA WTCC Media