Yvan Muller claimed crucial back-to-back wins on the streets of Macau, moving himself firmly into contention for the FIA World Touring Car Cup title.
His win came via the assistance of from the Cyan Racing run Lynk & Co pit wall, which implemented team orders to give the Frenchman smooth passage into the lead after a lightning getaway from fifth on the partially-reversed grid.
It was an all Lynk & Co front row thanks to championship leader Esteban Guerrieri being handed a grid penalty for an infraction in qualifying, with Muller’s nephew Yann Ehrlacher starting from pole alongside Thed Björk who was still very much in the title hunt.
Ehrlacher converted pole into the lead with Björk slotting in behind into second place, while Muller managed to jump Guerrieri and Kevin Ceccon off the line and claim third place by the time the field navigated the tricky Lisboa corner.
Not in the title fight, Ehrlacher quickly surrender track position to Björk and Muller as the field entered the mountain sections of the opening lap, setting up a potentially tantalising scrap between the teammates who were separated by just 11 points in the championship standings.
Those prospects were dashed, however, as Cyan Racing unashamedly instructed Björk to cede the lead to Muller, who had moved ahead of the Swede in the points standings thanks to his victory in Saturday’s opening race. While Björk was still very much a viable contender for the championship, the team has effectively rewritten him into a supporting role for the rest of 2019.
Muller was then able to coast to victory over the race’s remaining laps with Björk sitting close in his wheeltracks and playing a rear gunner role to any threats from behind.
The second lap saw Ehrlacher come under attack from Guerrieri, with the Münnich Motorsport Honda driver making a late lunge up the inside of the French youngster at Lisboa. Having started Race 1 from the back of the grid and failing to score while his main title rivals – Norbert Michelisz, Muller and Björk – all made major inroads, Guerrieri was desperate for every point he could grab.
Ehrlacher had been caught napping and a forlorn attempt to try and fight back against Guerrieri saw him squeezed wide at San Francisco Hill and shuffled quickly down to seventh place as Nicky Catsburg, Johan Kristoffersson and Gabriele Tarquini all swept by.
Guerrieri’s hold on third place would not last long. His Honda had horrible oversteer and a poor exit from the final corner gave Ceccon all the invitation he needed to slipstream by onto the final step of the podium. It was the inspired Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo driver’s second podium finish in as many days.
Guerrieri withstood repeated attacks from Catsburg over the remainder of the race as he desperately hung onto fourth place. On the final lap, Catsburg slowed and dropped back behind BRC Hyundai stablemates Tarquini and Michelisz (the former having already swapped positions with the latter to increase his points haul) to finish twelfth.
That promoted Kristoffersson to fifth, with Ehrlacher claiming sixth ahead of Lynk & Co teammate Andy Priaulx who starts Sunday’s final race from the front row of the grid and could well be at risk of being denied a race win should Cyan Racing continue its team orders tactics given Muller will be further down the grid.
Frédéric Vervisch proved that overtaking is indeed possible on the streets of Macau. While aided in part by the team orders shuffling among the Lynk & Co and Hyundai runners, the Comtoyou Team Audi Sport driver used his very slippery RS3 LMS to climb to eighth from nineteenth on the grid. The Belgian finished ahead of WRT Audi’s Jean-Karl Vernay.
Michelisz finished tenth having started from twelfth, with his small brace of points proving enough to keep him in the lead of the Drivers’ Championship standings, albeit by a reduced 11-point margin to Guerrieri and 17 points to Muller. Björk, 33 points behind in fourth, is the only other driver still mathematically in contention for the 2019 title.
The third and final race of the weekend takes place at 11:00 local time today (GMT +8) with SLR Volkwagen’s Rob Huff on pole position and looking to claim an unprecedented tenth win on the Guia street circuit.
|2019 FIA WTCR Guia Race of Macau – Race 2 Final Classification (8 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Yvan Muller||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||8||20:28.159||25|
|2.||Thed Björk||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||8||+ 0.455||20|
|3.||Kevin Ceccon||Team Mulsanne||8||+ 0.932||16|
|4.||Esteban Guerrieri||Münnich Motorsport||7||+ 1.896||13|
|5.||Johan Kristoffersson||SLR Volkswagen||8||+ 5.305||11|
|6.||Yann Ehrlacher||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||8||+ 8.076||10|
|7.||Andy Priaulx||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||8||+ 8.662||9|
|8.||Frédéric Vervisch||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||8||+ 9.010||8|
|9.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||8||+ 10.222||7|
|10.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||8||+ 11.101||6|
|11.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||8||+ 11.583||5|
|12.||Nicky Catsburg||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||8||+ 12.712||4|
|13.||Tom Coronel||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||8||+ 12.908||3|
|14.||Rob Huff||SLR VW Motorsport||8||+ 13.925||2|
|15.||Mikel Azcona||PWR Racing||8||+ 18.087||1|
|16.||Niels Langeveld||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||5||+ 18.589|
|17.||Ma Qing Hua||Team Mulsanne||5||+ 19.527|
|18.||Tiago Monteiro||KCMG||8||+ 20.361|
|19.||Néstor Girolami||Münnich Motorsport||8||+ 20.762|
|20.||Robert Dahlgren||PWR Racing||8||+ 31.614|
|21.||Benjamin Leuchter||SLR Volkswagen||8||+ 31.747|
|22.||Attila Tassi||KCMG||7||+ 1 lap|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Mehdi Bennani||SLR VW Motorsport||5||Collision|
|DNF.||Billy Lo Kai Fung||Tian Shi Zuver Team||5||Retired|
|DNF.||Luca Engstler||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||2||Retired|
|DNF.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||1||Retired|
|DNS.||Gordon Shedden||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||Withdrawn|
|DNS.||Jim Ka To||KC Motorgroup||Withdrawn|
- 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.
- To be advised.
Images via FIA WTCR Media