Norbert Michelisz finally claimed his first win of the 2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup season, with a lights-to-flag drive to victory in the final race of the weekend at the Slovakiaring.
It was a race where a number of the championship frontrunners failed to finish, marred by two multi-car accidents on the opening lap. Michelisz victory, following that of BRC Racing teammate Gabriele Tarquini, moves the Hungarian into third place in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
Reflecting just how varied this inaugural WTCR season has been, Michelisz is the eighth different race-winner in the last eight races and the eleventh driver in the field to step atop the podium.
Starting from pole position, Michelisz made a clean getaway in his Hyundai i30 N TCR and forcefully shut the door on DG Sport Peugeot 308TCR of Aurélien Comte on the run to Turn 1. He led all the way from there on, with Comte slotting into second place ahead of Yvan Muller’s YMR Hyundai.
There was major drama by Turn 3. Race 2 winner Gabriele Tarquini missed his braking point and hit the rear of Benjamin Lessennes’ Boutsen Ginion Honda, turning the Belgian teenager into a spin whereupon he collected the sister Honda of Münnich Motorsport’s Esteban Guerrieri. The Campos Racing Cupra of John Filippi was in turn collected by Guerrieri, putting all four cars out of the race.
Further down the order, the two WRT Audis of Jean-Karl Vernay and Gordon Shedden were also forced into retirement, having been hit by the Zengõ Motorsport of Norbert Nagy and the SLR Volkswagen of Mehdi Bennani respectively.
The carnage dramatically shuffled the order and with the race neutralised behind the Safety Car, Michelisz led from Muller and Comte, with Frédéric Vervisch fourth in his Comtoyou Audi ahead of the Mulsanne Alfa Romeo of Fabrizio Giovanardi. Lying an incredible sixth was Muller’s teammate Thed Björk, who started the race from eighteenth on the grid.
As the Safety Car peeled into the pits at the end of Lap 4, disaster struck Muller when his left-front wheel parted company with his car at Turn 13, sending the Frenchman into the gravel trap and instant retirement.
That promoted Comte to second place, but the Zandvoort race-winner had no answer for Michelisz’s pace. The pair would finish first and second, ahead of a wildly entertaining scrap for the final podium position as a number of drivers attacked Vervisch.
His first assailant was Giovanardi, who harried the Belgian’s Audi for the next four laps until he was passed by Björk. The Swede tried every trick at his disposal to get by Vervisch, with the two repeatedly rubbing door panels as they drew alongside each other for lap after lap. Björk briefly got ahead at the end of Lap 12, only to be repassed at the start of the final lap by Vervisch.
The pair’s scrap continued throughout the final lap, with Vervisch winning out in a desperate sprint for the finish line by just 0.039 seconds.
That left Björk to finish fourth ahead of wildcard driver Petr Fulín, who managed to slot his privately entered Cupra ahead of the Alfa Romeos of series debutante Kevin Ceccon and his teammate Giovanardi, who was shuffled back in the final laps.
Tom Coronel finished eighth as the sole Honda driver in the points, ahead of the Cupra TCRs of Pepe Oriola (Campos Racing) and Zsolt Szabó (Zengõ Motorsport).
With its run of European races now complete, the FIA World Touring Car Cup takes a two-month break and will regroup for the seventh round of the championship at China’s Ningbo International Speedpark at the end of September.
|2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup Race of Slovakia – Race 3 Final Classification (13 laps)|
|1.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Racing Team||13||32:25.458||30|
|2.||Aurélien Comte||DG Sport Compétition||13||+ 2.005||23|
|3.||Frédéric Vervisch||Audi Sport Team Comtoyou||13||+ 8.273||19|
|4.||Thed Björk||MRacing – YMR||13||+ 8.312||16|
|5.||Petr Fulín||Fullin Race Academy||13||+ 8.796||13|
|6.||Kevin Ceccon||Mulsanne SRL||13||+ 9.150||10|
|7.||Fabrizio Giovanardi||Mulsanne SRL||13||+ 9.382||7|
|8.||Tom Coronel||Boutsen Ginion Racing||13||+ 9.729||4|
|9.||Pepe Oriola||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||13||+ 11.065||2|
|10.||Zsolt Dávid Szabó||Zengõ Motorsport||13||+ 11.721||1|
|11.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Racing||13||+ 15.253|
|12.||Mat’o Homola||DG Sport Compétition||13||+ 20.767|
|13.||Andrej Studenič||Brutal Fish Racing||13||+ 25.516|
|14.||Rob Huff||Sébastien Loeb Racing||13||+ 46.026|
|15.||Yann Ehrlacher||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||13||+ 1:24.581|
|16.||Denis Dupont||Comtoyou Racing||12||+ 1 lap|
|DNF.||Yvan Muller||MRacing – YMR||3||Wheel|
|DNF.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing||1||Collision|
|DNF.||Gordon Shedden||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||1||Collision|
|DNF.||Nathanaël Berthon||Comtoyou Racing||1||Collision|
|DNF.||Norbert Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport||1||Collision|
|DNF.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||1||Collision|
|DNF.||John Filippi||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Esteban Guerrieri||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Benjamin Lessennes||Boutsen Ginion Racing||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Racing Team||0||Collision|
* Post-Race Penalties:
- Gabriele Tarquini was issued a 5-place grid penalty for Race 1 at the Race of China (Ningbo) for causing avoidable contact on Lap 1.
- Norbert Nagy was issued a 5-place grid penalty for Race 1 at the Race of China (Ningbo) for causing avoidable contact on Lap 1.
Images via FIA WTCR Media