Norbert Michelisz clinched a dramatic victory in the reverse-grid Race 2 at the Ningbo International Speedpark to jump to the top of the FIA World Touring Car Cup standings in an incident-packed encounter where just fifteen drivers were classified as finishers.

A series of incidents on the first lap left long-time points leader Esteban Guerrieri in the barriers, while Michelisz came out on top in a battle with reversed-grid pole-sitter starter Andy Priaulx to win. The Hungarian now leads Guerrieri by 16 points in the title battle.

As Priaulx and Michelisz led the field away, a hectic first lap left six drivers out of the running. SLR Volkswagen’s Benjamin Leuchter, BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team’s Augusto Farfus and Tiago Monteiro were among them. But crucially so was Guerrieri, who was spun into the barriers, and Ma Qinghua’s Alfa Romeo ended up with broken suspension and heavy contact. Frédéric Vervisch was also out with gearbox problems.

A long Safety Car period was required to clear the track, during which light rain added more uncertainty. Once racing resumed on Lap 6, there was action down the field all the way to the chequered flag.

It was soon obvious that Priaulx was struggling to hold on to his first place as Michelisz piled on pressure, with Hyundai teammate Gabriele Tarquini playing an effective rear-gunner role. Priaulx’s Lynk & Co clung on to the lead as Michelisz tried everything to get past until Lap 12, when the three-time World Touring Car champion picked up a front-right puncture. That forced him to brake early and Michelisz hit him hard up the back, sustaining heavy damage to the Hyundai.

Tarquini now led, but in the interests of Michelisz’s title hopes soon allowed his teammate to pass. Michelisz nursed his damaged car to the flag, with Tarquini joining him on the podium.

Contact between Nicky Catsburg and PWR Racing’s Daniel Haglöf decided the final podium spot on the penultimate lap. It allowed Race 1 winner Yvan Muller through to finish third from P10 on the grid ahead of Lynk & Co teammate Thed Björk. Haglöf recovered to finish fifth ahead of Attila Tassi, Rob Huff and Catsburg, who was later hit with a 30-second time penalty that dropped him to fifteenth.

Door-to-door battles continued down the field, with Tom Coronel scoring good points in ninth (later eighth) ahead of Kevin Ceccon. Jean-Karl Vernay, Mehdi Bennani, Johan Kristoffersson, Gordon Shedden and Yann Ehrlacher were the other finishers. Niels Langeveld was a non-starter with a gearbox issue.

2019 FIA WTCR Race of China – Race 2 Final Classification (15 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. Norbert Michelisz BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse 15 32:31.594 25
2. Gabriele Tarquini BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse 15 + 0.766 20
3. Yvan Muller Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 15 + 1.537 16
4. Thed Björk Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 15 + 1.906 13
5. Daniel Haglöf PWR Racing 15 + 2.360 11
6. Attila Tassi KCMG 15 + 6.708 10
7. Rob Huff SLR VW Motorsport 15 + 7.670 9
8. Tom Coronel Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing 15 + 11.623 8
9. Kevin Ceccon Team Mulsanne 15 + 11.961 7
10. Jean-Karl Vernay Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport 15 + 12.565 6
11. Mehdi Bennani SLR VW Motorsport 15 + 12.766 5
12. Johan Kristoffersson SLR Volkswagen 15 + 13.120 4
13. Gordon Shedden Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport 15 + 13.676 3
14. Yann Ehrlacher Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 15 + 14.307 2
15. Nicky Catsburg BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team 15 + 41.402 1
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Reason
NC. Andy Priaulx Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 13 Puncture
DNF. Aurélien Panis Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing 10 Damage
DNF. Mikel Azcona PWR Racing 7 Mechanical
DNF. Néstor Girolami Münnich Motorsport 7 Collision
DNF. Tiago Monteiro KCMG 4 Collision
DNF. Esteban Guerrieri Münnich Motorsport 4 Accident
DNF. Frédéric Vervisch be Comtoyou Team Audi Sport 3 Gearbox
DNF. Augusto Farfus BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team 0 Collision
DNF. Ma Qing Hua Team Mulsanne 0 Collision
DNF. Benjamin Leuchter be SLR Volkswagen 0 Collision
DNS. Niels Langeveld Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Gearbox

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:

  • Nicky Catsburg – who was provisionally classified P8 – was issued a 30-second post-race time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Daniel Haglöf after rejoining the circuit in an unsafe manner.

Text and 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.