Yvan Muller Racing has secured a clean sweep of the FIA World Touring Car Cup round at China’s Ningbo International Speedpark, with Thed Björk claiming his second win of the weekend following his victory in Saturday’s opening race and a win for teammate Yvan Muller in Race 2.
The customer Hyundai team has dominated the weekend and after topping every practice and qualifying session its rout of victories simply served to underscore the outfit’s supreme pace.
There was drama before the race as local driver Ma Qing Hua’s Honda was withdrawn by Boutsen Ginion Racing stemming from his last-lap hit on Yann Ehrlacher’s Münnich Motorsport Honda in the preceding race. Ma’s car was ruled out with a damaged turbo, while Ehrlacher was forced to start the race from the pit lane to allow his mechanics time above the brief repair window schedule to fix his battered car.
Having qualified on pole, Björk led away from the sister Hyundais of BRC Racing Team duo Norbert Michelisz and Gabriele Tarquini. The latter was quickly passed by Esteban Guerrieri’s Münnich Motorsport Honda, but the Argentine was rather too optimistic with a subsequent overtaking attempt on Michelisz.
The pair made contact, leaving Guerrieri with terminally damaged suspension. Michelisz dropped behind teammate Tarquini and the Comtoyou Racing Audi of Denis Dupont.
Dupont’s teammate Frédéric Vervisch was on an early charge in what was proving to be a competitive weekend for the four-car Belgian outfit. The French youngster passed his compatriot Yvan Muller for sixth, with Audi stablemate Jean-Karl Vernay attempting to follow him through the gap he had created.
Muller shut the door and made contact with the WRT Audi driver, with both dropping positions as a result of the clash. Muller would later retire with a puncture, possibly stemming from the incident.
The race was then suspended and red-flagged after one of the DG Sport Peugeots broke the kerbs at Turn 16. The broken kerbs were replaced with a tyre stack so the race could be resumed and once again it was Vervisch who was moving forward. He overtook Rob Huff’s SLR Volkswagen to claim fifth place and then hunted down and overtook Michelisz’s Hyundai for fourth on the penultimate lap.
Huff was left to fend off the third Comtoyou Audi of Nathanaël Berthon, but Berthon would run wide in his attempts to pass the Briton and lost a spot to Campos Racing’s Pepe Oriola. Berthon finished eighth ahead of teammate Aurélien Panis – meaning all four Comtoyou Audis finished in the points for the second race running – with Huff’s teammate Mehdi Bennani rounding out the top ten.
Having entered the weekend sixth in the overall standings, Björk’s superb run of results promotes him to second overall in the Drivers’ Championship standings, while Tarquini reclaims the lead at the top of the standings courtesy of Muller’s DNF. The top three are covered by just nine points, with the battle for WTCR title honours set to resume next weekend on the Wuhan street circuit.
|2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup Race of China Ningbo – Race 3 Final Classification (17 laps)|
|1.||Thed Björk||MRacing – YMR||17||54:20.993||30|
|2.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Racing Team||17||+ 1.928||23|
|3.||Denis Dupont||Comtoyou Racing||17||+ 4.020||19|
|4.||Frédéric Vervisch||Audi Sport Team Comtoyou||17||+ 7.235||16|
|5.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Racing Team||17||+ 8.855||13|
|6.||Rob Huff||Sébastien Loeb Racing||17||+ 10.572||10|
|7.||Pepe Oriola||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||17||+ 11.061||7|
|8.||Nathanaël Berthon||Comtoyou Racing||17||+ 12.118||4|
|9.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Racing||17||+ 12.871||2|
|10.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing||17||+ 13.737||1|
|11.||Timo Scheider||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||17||+ 14.229|
|12.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||17||+ 14.678|
|13.||Gordon Shedden||Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team||17||+ 15.620|
|14.||Kevin Ceccon||Mulsanne SRL||17||+ 19.862|
|15.||Norbert Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport||10||+ 20.316|
|16.||Aurélien Comte||DG Sport Compétition||17||+ 21.229|
|17.||Tom Coronel||Boutsen Ginion Racing||17||+ 23.155|
|18.||Mat’o Homola||DG Sport Compétition||17||+ 25.605|
|19.||Yann Ehrlacher||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||17||+ 26.370|
|20.||John Filippi||Team OSCARO by Campos Racing||16||+ 1 lap|
|21.||Zsolt Dávid Szabó||Zengõ Motorsport||16||+ 1 lap|
|DNF.||Yvan Muller||MRacing – YMR||8||Puncture|
|DNF.||Fabrizio Giovanardi||Mulsanne SRL||2||Retired|
|DNF.||Esteban Guerrieri||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||1||Collision|
|DNS.||Ma Qing Hua||Boutsen Ginion Racing||Turbo|
* Post-Race Penalties:
Images via FIA WTCR Media