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Event preview: Four WTCR title fighters head to Malaysia but who will be king in Sepang?

2019-12-06T20:46:38+01:00December 6th, 2019|2019, WTCR Race of Malaysia 2019|

Three races left, 85 points up for grabs and four title chasers preparing for battle, the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO is all set for season super-finale time in Sepang.

After nine weekends and 27 action-packed races, the #WTCR2019SUPERGRID has completed #RoadToMalaysia with Norbert Michelisz at the head of the pack.

But with his margin over Esteban Guerrieri a mere nine points, the chase for international touring car racing’s biggest prize could well go down to the WTCR / OSCARO’s first night race on Sunday 15 December, the final scene of the inaugural Races of Malaysia festival of motorsport drama, which also features the FIM Endurance World Championship-counting 8 Hours of Sepang.

Unlike in the EWC where two (wheels) is the magic number, in the WTCR it’s all about four with Yvan Muller and Thed Björk completing the title-chasing quartet. Mulller, a winner of four FIA World Touring Car titles in the past, is two points behind Guerrieri, while Björk faces the prospect of cancelling out a 28-point deficit to Michelisz if he’s to win a second World Touring Car crown.

Here’s a summary of what each title chaser has to do in order for their name to be written on the giant WTCR / OSCARO trophy.

Michelisz wins the WTCR / OSCARO title if he…
*Wins all three races or scores 66 points in total (65 points would leave him vulnerable)
*Wins two races, takes one DHL Pole Position and one sixth place. That would give him 65 points. In that case, Guerrieri can score no more than 74 points. That would make them tied on 381 points, but Michelisz would become champion on countback based on the number of races won
*Wins two races, finishes fourth in the other race and scores at least three qualifying points
*Wins one race, finishes second in the two other races and scores seven qualifying points
*If he tops First Qualifying and wins two races, he needs at least at least sixth position in the other race. Alternatively, he’ll be safe from a Guerrieri attack if he finishes lower (seventh, eighth, etc) in the races, but if his Second Qualifying position is better (fifth, fourth, third, second, first)
*If he’s second in First Qualifying and wins two races, he needs at least fourth in the other race. Just like in the previous case, he can allow himself a lower finish in the other race – fifth, sixth, etc. if his Second Qualifying position is better (from fifth to first)
*If he’s third in First Qualifying and wins two races, he still needs at least P4 in the other race (66 points in total). Like in the previous scenario, he can finish a place lower in the other race, but would need more points from Second Qualifying (needs to be fourth or better)

Guerrieri wins the WTCR / OSCARO title if he…
*Wins all three races and scores at least as many qualifying points as Michelisz
*Scores 84 points in total, because in that case Michelisz cannot score more than 74
*Wins one race and finishes second in the remaining two races, plus wins two pole positions. That would make 75 points but Michelisz should score 65 points or less (i.e. two race wins, one fourth position and less than two points from qualifying)

Muller wins the WTCR / OSCARO title if he…
*Wins all three races and scores at least two qualifying points more than Michelisz
*Wins one race, finishes second in the two remaining races, plus takes two pole positions. That would give him 75 points, but Michelisz should score 63 or less (two wins, one fifth, less than a total of four points from qualifying)
*If he scores all 85 points, because in that case Michelisz can score no more than 73

Björk wins the WTCR / OSCARO title if he…
*Wins all three races and claims both pole positions, providing Michelisz does not finish second in all three races (two seconds and one third for Michelisz would be fine for Björk, assuming Michelisz does not score more than one qualifying point
*But even if Björk scores the maximum possible 85 points, a second FIA World Touring Car title is not guaranteed due to other results
*If Michelisz wins one race and finishes another in the top five, Björk’s chances are slim

And this is what they’ve had to say…

Norbert Michelisz (Hungary) Age: 35 Team: BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Car: Hyundai i30 N TCR Points: 316 Position: First

It’s in his hands… “It’s pretty much like I wanted it to be a couple of race weekends ago. This is the very important part of the season and to go to Malaysia with the psychological advantage of leading is better than being behind. But the margin is very small and we are not in a comfortable position. However, it’s in my hands and this is a nice feeling.”

Power not pressure… “The closer the event comes the more you think about the pressure. This season I managed the pressure side pretty well. Honestly, I feel confident and quite powerful and I think we have a very good package for Malaysia.”

Best of the best… “My three rivals have been fighting for championships since a very long time. They are all on top of their game, they are all the best of the best and in the end, you cannot say who is the biggest threat. It’s a new circuit for me and my contenders and if it’s the same for everyone I’m okay with that. Going for the WTCC title in Qatar in 2017 was the most intense day of my life so far but I’m pretty sure Malaysia will top that.”

Esteban Guerrieri (Argentina) Age: 34 Team: ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Car: Honda Civic Type R TCR Points: 307 Position: Second

Achievement conquered… “It’s an achievement conquered because I wanted to arrive at the last race in the fight. It means we have done a good job during the year and we’ve always been fighting and trying to take all the opportunities possible. I’m proud of my team and Honda of course.”

Sepang spice… “I tested in Sepang at the beginning of the year. The track is cool, it’s a long track and many things can happen with the weather changing there. That will add some spice to the title decider.”

Ready to fight… “Of all the rivals nobody is stronger. Norbi is some points in front of us and has that in his pocket. But they will all be strong and there are three brands in the fight. We will try to be up there and competitive for the final race. Let God decide.”

Yvan Muller (France) Age: 50 Team: Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Car: Lynk & Co 03 TCR Points: 305 Position: Third

Experience counts… “Experience is important, absolutely. I could see in Macau some stress on some rivals. I’ve had this in my career but not now, I have no pressure on my shoulders. I have four titles and one more means I can still do the job correctly.”

China cheers… “There have been ups and downs this season. I lost a lot of points in Marrakech when I was leading but had a mechanical failure. At other circuits I could not score points but the speed was there and in WTCR with 30 races, everything is possible, like we showed in China [when we won two races].”

No knowledge, no problem… “I don’t know Sepang and I give up after 10 laps on the simulator. But we have two practice sessions to learn the track. In Macau I did a pole position and win two races so I am there in the fight and this means a lot.”

Thed Björk (Sweden) Age: 38 Team: Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Car: Lynk & Co 03 TCR Points: 288 Position: Fourth

Fantastic feeling… “It’s fantastic to be in the chase of the world title again and the year I am not in the title fight means I have done a really bad job. This is where I want to be, this is where I am supposed to be. Having won a world title before takes some pressure off. Let’s go and get it.”

Simulate to accumulate… “We obviously come to new tracks in this championship and we have to adapt as fast as possible and with our simulator we can work together to adapt the cars and the drivers to the track as quickly as possible. Therefore, having not raced at Sepang is not a concern, it’s just more exciting.”

No fear… “I don’t fear anyone actually. In Macau, like during the year, we’ve seen some pretty good standards of driving. I am in it to win it, together with Yvan. We are two, we are stronger as two so let’s see if they fear us.”

Season super-finale gets unique format
WTCR Race of Malaysia not only marks the category’s first visit to the country, it’s also the first time that the three races making up a WTCR / OSCARO event take place on the same day. In an exciting change to the usual format, the races are scheduled for Sunday 15 December at 15h15, 18h15 and 20h10 local time with the third race held under the Sepang International Circuit’s newly installed floodlights. All three races will be broadcast live around the world including on the Astro channel in Malaysia. Practice and qualifying take place on 13 December with Saturday 14 December devoted to the 8 Hours of Sepang, round two of the 2019/20 FIM Endurance Championship for motorbikes, plus the Esports WTCR OSCARO live final.

Fearsome fight in fifth-place battle
While the battle for the WTCR / OSCARO title is finely balanced, it’s also hugely close in the race to finish in the final top five with 16 points covering Yann Ehrlacher in fifth and Johan Kristoffersson in P11. The other drivers in contention for fifth are 2018 title winner Gabriele Tarquini, current best-placed rookie Mikel Azcona, three-time WTCR winner Néstor Girolami, former World Touring Car champion Rob Huff and Jean-Karl Vernay, who along with Huff is one of only a handful of drivers with recent race experience of the Sepang International Circuit.

Teams tussle for top honour
Cyan Racing Lynk & Co’s Yvan Muller and Thed Björk might be playing catch-up in the Drivers’ title table, but it’s the Swedish team supported by the Chinese brand that heads the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO for Teams. It’s 72 points in front of BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse and 88 ahead of Honda-equipped ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport.

Twenty-seven races, 13 winners and a tightly-poised WTCR title table
Thirteen drivers have won races in 2019, while all seven customer racing brands have celebrated race victories to underline another hugely competitive second WTCR / OSCARO season. Click here to view the provisional 2019 standings.

All you need to know about WTCR Race of Malaysia

THE ESSENTIALS
Rounds: 28, 29 and 30 of 30
Venue: Sepang International Circuit
Date: 12-15 December 2019
Location: Jalan Pekeliling, 64000 KLIA, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
Length: 5.543 kilometres
Time zone: GMT +8 hours
Race 1 distance: 9 laps (49.887 kilometres)
Race 2 distance: 9 laps (49.887 kilometres)
Race 3 distance: 12 laps (66.516 kilometres)

WTCR qualifying lap record: To be established (TCR category record: Roberto Colciago, Honda Civic Type R TCR, 2m15.021s, 30/09/16)
WTCR race lap record: To be established (TCR category record: Diego Moran, Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR, 2m16.672s, 07/04/19)

THE CHALLENGE
Home of the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix from 1999-2017, the Sepang International Circuit hosts the 2019 WTCR / OSCARO super-finale as part of the Races of Malaysia double-header with the FIM Endurance World Championship for motorbikes. The event will run to a unique format with all three races taking place on the same day in late afternoon, at dusk and at night under floodlights. Sepang’s 5.543-kilometre lap features two long straights to aid overtaking, plus a variety of medium and high-speed corners. And with the track untried by the bulk of the drivers an exciting spectacle is in store.

FROM BEHIND THE WHEEL WITH GABRIELE TARQUINI
Ahead of his final race as WTCR / OSCARO title holder, this is what the BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse driver has had to say about the Sepang International Circuit. “We had a short run at the beginning of the season just to discover the track and I’m very pleased with what I experienced. The track size and the design are very nice and the race will be very exciting because it’s very wide with long straights. For sure there will be big fights, big overtaking places and the races will be very nice to see.”

PROVISIONAL KEY TIMINGS*

Friday 13 December
Free Practice 1: 10h00-10h45
Free Practice 2: 12h45-13h15
First Qualifying: 15h15-15h45
Second Qualifying Q1: 19h30-19h50
Second Qualifying Q2: 20h00-20h10
Second Qualifying Q3: 20h20 (first car starts top five DHL Pole Position shootout)
Saturday 14 December
FIM EWC 8 Hours of Sepang: 13h00-21h00
Esports WTCR OSCARO live final (The RIFT, Third Floor, Mid Valley Megamall): 16h00-21h00
Sunday 15 December
Race 1: 15h15 (9 laps)
Race 2: 18h15 (9 laps)
Race 3: 20h10 (12 laps)
*All timings are local (GMT +8 hours) and subject to change

ALL-SEASON ENTRY LIST (all drivers use Yokohama tyres as standard)
1 BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) Hyundai i30 N TCR
5 BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Norbert Michelisz (HUN) Hyundai i30 N TCR
8 BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team Augusto Farfus (BRA) Hyundai i30 N TCR
9 KCMG Attila Tassi (HUN) Honda Civic Type R TCR
10 Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Niels Langeveld (NLD) Audi RS 3 LMS
11 Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Thed Björk (SWE) Lynk & Co 03 TCR
12 SLR VW Motorsport Rob Huff (GBR) Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
14 SLR Volkswagen Johan Kristoffersson (SWE) Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
18 KCMG Tiago Monteiro (PRT) Honda Civic Type R TCR
21 Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing Aurélien Panis (FRA) CUPRA TCR
22 Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Frédéric Vervisch (BEL) Audi RS 3 LMS
25 SLR VW Motorsport Mehdi Bennani (MAR) Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
29 ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Néstor Girolami (ARG) Honda Civic Type R TCR
31 Team Mulsanne Kevin Ceccon (ITA) Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR by Romeo Ferraris
33 SLR Volkswagen Benjamin Leuchter (DEU) Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
37 PWR Racing Daniel Haglöf (SWE) CUPRA TCR
50 Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing Tom Coronel (NLD) CUPRA TCR
52 Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport Gordon Shedden (GBR) Audi RS 3 LMS
55 Team Mulsanne Ma Qinghua (CHN) Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR
 by Romeo Ferraris
68 Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Lynk & Co 03 TCR
69 Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport Jean-Karl Vernay (FRA) Audi RS 3 LMS
86 ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Esteban Guerrieri (ARG) Honda Civic Type R TCR
88 BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team Nicky Catsburg (NLD) Hyundai i30 N TCR
96 PWR Racing Mikel Azcona (ESP) CUPRA TCR
100 Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Yvan Muller (FRA) Lynk & Co 03 TCR
111 Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Andy Priaulx (GBR) Lynk & Co 03 TCR

WTCR Race of Malaysia wildcards
15 Hyundai Team Engstler Hafizh Syahrin (MYS) Hyundai i30 N TCR
27 Hyundai Team Engstler Mitchell Cheah (MYS) Hyundai i30 N TCR
38 KC Motorgroup João Paulo de Oliveira (BRA) Honda Civic Type R TCR
65 Viper Niza Racing Douglas Khoo (MYS) CUPRA TCR