Norbert Michelisz slashed the points gap to World Touring Car Cup championship leader Esteban Guerrieri after claiming a lights-to-flag victory in the opening race at Vila Real.
Guerrieri, who finished 24th after his Münnich Motorsport Honda developed an engine problem mid-race, saw his 40-point lead slashed to just 15 as a result of Michelisz’s win.
The BRC Racing Team Hyundai driver led away at the start from pole position, with teammate Augusto Farfus slotting into second ahead of Yann Ehrlacher’s Lynk & Co and Rob Huff’s Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen.
While the top-four qualifiers mirrored their grid positions with their getaway off the start line, fifth-fastest qualifier Ma Qing Hua (Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo) bogged down and tumbled down the order.
Overtaking around Vila Real was principally going to occur through clever timing of the compulsory ‘joker lap’, which was enabled at the end of the third lap. Michelisz, Farfus and Huff opted to take theirs as soon as it was enabled, while Ehrlacher stayed out and posted a quick lap before taking his a lap later, allowing him to jump ahead of Farfus.
Ehrlacher broke away and attempted a pursuit of Michelisz, but the Hungarian was simply too quick and able to cross the finish line with a 2.2-second margin of victory to the Frenchman.
Farfus, meanwhile, was left to fend off Huff, with the pair seeing the chequered flag just half a second apart.
Nicky Catsburg ensured three of the field’s four Hyundai I30 N TCRs finished inside the top-five, placing fifth ahead of Aurélien Panis (Comtoyou Racing Cupra).
Johan Kristoffersson (SLR Volkswagen) was among the last of the drivers to take his ‘joker lap’, climbing as high as fifth. The Swedish driver dropped to seventh after his ‘joker lap’ use, finishing just ahead of Lynk & Co duo Thed Björk and Yvan Muller. WRT’s Jean-Karl Vernay was the highest-placed Audi driver in tenth.
The sole retiree of the race was BRC Racing’s Gabriele Tarquini, who clashed with local hero Tiago Monteiro’s KCMG Honda on the fifth lap.
Update: Vernay and fellow Audi runner Frédéric Vervisch (Comtoyou Team Audi Sport) were later disqualified when their cars were found to have exceeded the boost pressure limits. Both teams have announced their intention to protest their cars’ disqualifications to the FIA International Court of Appeal.
|2019 FIA WTCR Race of Portugal – Race 1 Final Classification (11 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||11||22:40.936||25|
|2.||Yann Ehrlacher||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||11||+ 2.291||20|
|3.||Augusto Farfus||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||11||+ 3.009||16|
|4.||Rob Huff||SLR VW Motorsport||11||+ 3.538||13|
|5.||Nicky Catsburg||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||11||+ 7.630||11|
|6.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||11||+ 8.437||10|
|7.||Johan Kristoffersson||SLR Volkswagen||11||+ 10.344||9|
|8.||Thed Björk||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||11||+ 11.349||8|
|9.||Yvan Muller||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||11||+ 16.051||7|
|10.||Néstor Girolami||Münnich Motorsport||11||+ 19.081||6|
|11.||Andy Priaulx||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||11||+ 22.000||5|
|12.||Mikel Azcona||PWR Racing||11||+ 22.775||4|
|13.||Ma Qing Hua||Team Mulsanne||11||+ 23.735||3|
|14.||Niels Langeveld||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||11||+ 26.254||2|
|15.||Benjamin Leuchter||SLR Volkswagen||11||+ 28.016||1|
|16.||Gordon Shedden||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||11||+ 29.525|
|17.||Tom Coronel||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||11||+ 29.757|
|18.||Kevin Ceccon||Team Mulsanne||11||+ 30.743|
|19.||Attila Tassi||KCMG||11||+ 33.515|
|20.||Mehdi Bennani||SLR VW Motorsport||11||+ 34.014|
|21.||Tiago Monteiro||KCMG||11||+ 40.051|
|22.||Esteban Guerrieri||Münnich Motorsport||11||+ 53.762|
|23.||Daniel Haglöf||PWR Racing||11||+ 53.926|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||6||Collision|
|DSQ.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||Boost Limit|
|DSQ.||Frédéric Vervisch||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||Boost Limit|
- The top fifteen classified finishers (excluding wildcard entries) and their respective teams are awarded championship points on a 25-20-16-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 sliding scale.
- Jean-Karl Vernay – who was provisionally classified P10 – was excluded when his car was found to have exceeded the boost limits set by the FIA Balance of Performance chart in the race.
- Frédéric Vervisch – who was provisionally classified P20 – was excluded when his car was found to have exceeded the boost limits set by the FIA Balance of Performance chart in the race.
Images via FIA WTCR Media