Rob Huff cemented his title as the master of Macau with a record ninth victory on the iconic Guia street circuit. The Münnich Motorsports Citroën driver claimed a lights-to-flag victory in a wet Main Race ahead of championship contender Norbert Michelisz; Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Tom Chilton finished third to complete the podium.
After posting a record-breaking lap to claim pole position in Friday’s qualifying session, Huff was brimful of confidence that he could finally turn around a run of bad luck that has robbed the Briton of a tilt at a second World Touring Car Championship title.
The wet track saw the field given two reconnaissance laps behind the Safety Car before it pulled in to allow Huff to lead the chasing pack. Michelisz and Chilton followed hot on his heels, while championship leader Thed Björk was caught napping at the green flag and demoted to fifth behind the Honda of Esteban Guerrieri.
Michelisz looked to have superior pace over Huff in the first few laps, but the Briton held his nerve and maintained a tight defensive line under braking for Lisboa to counter any attack from the Hungarian.
After two laps, Huff was able to break away from Michelisz, leaving the Honda driver to defend from Chilton. The pair was being quickly closed down by fourth-placed Guerrieri, who managed to get by Chilton and assume an effective ‘rear gunner’ role against the Citroën.
Chilton spent the rest of the race looking to distract Guerrieri through the tight and twisty hill section of the Guia circuit, and eventually Guerrieri cracked under pressure and slid wide on the last lap at Dona Maria. That was all the invitation that Chilton needed to reclaim the final podium position.
Up ahead, Huff motored home to claim victory, over 8 seconds clear of the chasing Michelisz and Chilton. The result was all the more impressive given Huff’s car was heavily damaged in the Opening Race pile-up triggered by Michelisz.
“I really have to thank my Münnich Motorsport team,” he said after the race. “At midnight last night we weren’t going to be racing today, but the boys did just the most amazing job to fix the car.
“It’s the most emotional Macau ever for me. The boys have worked on the car, starting by repairing the bodywork, the damaged engine parts and then they started the engine, which had taken two big hits. I got two video messages at four ‘o clock this morning waking me up to tell me that the car was good and after that I couldn’t sleep, I was too excited. Then I opened the window, saw it was pouring with rain and I wanted to go back to sleep!”
Championship leader Thed Björk never looked comfortable in the greasy conditions and faded to finish a lonely fifth, although his title lead over Michelisz has now been cut to just 6.5 points with only the season finale in Qatar to go.
Behind the Swede came Tom Coronel, who used the damp conditions to negate the horsepower disadvantage his ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet carries. The Dutch driver finished ahead of Opening Race winner Mehdi Bennani, who now trails Chilton by just half a point in the WTCC Trophy standings for non-manufacturer drivers.
Macau rookie Kevin Gleason finished a solid eighth in his RC Motorsport LADA, defending hard against Volvo’s Néstor Girolami. Zsolt Dávid Szabó claimed his first WTCC points’ finish with tenth in his Zengõ Motorsport Honda.
|2017 FIA WTCC Guia Race of Macau – Main Race Final Classification (13 laps)|
|1.||Rob Huff||Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée||38:15.740||IND|
|2.||Norbert Michelisz||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||+ 8.142||MF|
|3.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 8.684||IND|
|4.||Esteban Guerrieri||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||+ 9.229||MF|
|5.||Thed Björk||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 21.237||MF|
|6.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 25.818||IND|
|7.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 28.693||IND|
|8.||Kevin Gleason||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 31.583||IND|
|9.||Néstor Girolami||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 34.326||MF|
|10.||Zsolt Dávid Szabó||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 41.598||IND|
|11.||Dániel Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 57.796||IND|
|12.||Ma Qing Hua||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 1:07.945||IND|
|13.||Nick Catsburg||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 1:22.466||MF|
|14.||Yann Ehrlacher||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 1:23.361||IND|
|15.||Ryo Michigami||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 1:51.491||MF|
|16.||John Filippi||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 2:03.720||IND|
|17.||Mak Ka Lok||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 2:32.928||IND|
|DNS.||Po Wah Wong||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||IND|
Image via FIA WTCC Media