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 be 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 be Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Boost Limit

Championship Points:

  • 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.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • 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

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.