Thed Björk drove flawlessly to claim victory in the final FIA World Touring Car Cup race at Vila Real, his second race win of the season, leading the BRC Racing Team duo of Gabriele Tarquini and Norbert Michelisz to a Hyundai 1-2-3.
Having hustled his rapidly-rebuilt Yvan Muller Racing car to pole position, the Swede made the best start to lead the field while Tarquini got the jump on teammate Michelisz to slot into second place.
Björk built such a lead over the opening three laps that he took his joker lap early and still retained the race lead over Tarquini.
It proved to be a decisive call as the Safety Car was subsequently called into action on no less than three occasions, bunching the field and delaying many drivers’ decisions to take their compulsory joker lap out of fear of losing track position.
The first interruption came so marshals could retrieve Norbert Nagy’s broken down Zengõ Motorsport Cupra, and once again Björk was able to gap the chasing field at the restart.
The second full-course caution came when Fabrizio Giovanardi, who looked on course to claim Team Mulsanne’s first points’ finish of the season, crashed his Alfa Romeo trying to take his joker lap in the hope of undercutting Björk’s teammate Yvan Muller. The Italian came to a halt on the start/finish line with broken suspension.
The race restarted on Lap 12, leaving just three laps for the bulk of the field to take their joker lap. No one proved brave enough to do so at the end of the lap, which proved decisive when Gordon Shedden stopped his WRT Audi after he hopped a chicane kerb and broke a driveshaft.
That left one green flag lap for the remaining runners to take their joker lap, which vaulted the Comtoyou Audi of Frédéric Vervisch and the Boutsen Ginion Honda of Benjamin Lessennes into the top ten as they had taken theirs earlier in the race.
Björk’s win moves him to fifth in the standings, while Muller – who was one of the major victims of delaying his joker lap and finished outside the points – maintains a reduced lead in the Drivers’ Championship, just 22 points ahead of Münnich Motorsport’s Yann Ehrlacher and BRC’s Gabriele Tarquini.
The next round of the World Touring Car Cup takes place at the Slovakiaring on July 14th-15th.
|2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup Race of Portugal – Race 3 Final Classification (15 laps)|
|1.||Thed Björk||MRacing – YMR||15||36:21.453||30|
|2.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Racing Team||15||+ 3.193||23|
|3.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Racing Team||15||+ 3.640||19|
|4.||Pepe Oriola||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||15||+ 4.170||16|
|5.||Mat’o Homola||DG Sport Compétition||15||+ 4.781||13|
|6.||Frédéric Vervisch||Audi Sport Team Comtoyou||15||+ 5.205||10|
|7.||Yann Ehrlacher||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||15||+ 5.796||7|
|8.||Benjamin Lessennes||Boutsen Ginion Racing||15||+ 6.099||4|
|9.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Racing||15||+ 6.710||2|
|10.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||15||+ 7.216||1|
|11.||Yvan Muller||MRacing – YMR||15||+ 7.534|
|12.||Edgar Florindo||Rui Edgar Macedo Florino||15||+ 8.965|
|13.||Esteban Guerrieri||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||15||+ 9.318|
|14.||Denis Dupont||Comtoyou Racing||15||+ 9.333|
|15.||José Rodrigues||Target Competition||14||Wheel|
|16.||John Filippi||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||13||Puncture|
|17.||Gordon Shedden||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||12||Driveshaft|
|DNF.||Nathanaël Berthon||Comtoyou Racing||9||Driveshaft|
|DNF.||Fabrizio Giovanardi||Mulsanne SRL||8||Accident|
|DNF.||Norbert Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport||3||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Tom Coronel||Boutsen Ginion Racing||2||Puncture|
|DNS.||Gianni Morbidelli||Mulsanne SRL||Mechanical|
|DNS.||Zsolt Dávid Szabó||Zengõ Motorsport||Damage|
|DNS.||Aurélien Comte||DG Sport Compétition||Damage|
|WD.||Rob Huff||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Withdrew|
|WD.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Withdrew|
|WD.||James Thompson||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Withdrew|
* Post-Race Penalties:
Images via FIA WTCR Media