WTCR Race of Bahrain 2022 - 10-12/11/2022

In 100 words… History will be made in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup this November when Bahrain International Circuit hosts the series’ first event in the Middle East. The inaugural WTCR Race of Bahrain, which is being organised in partnership with WEC promoter Le Mans Endurance Management, will feature one race on Friday November 11 with the second race following on the morning of Saturday November 12 prior to the 8 Hours of Bahrain WEC season finale. Bahrain International Circuit’s full 15-corner, 5.412-kilometre Grand Prix Circuit layout, penned by renowned track designer Hermann Tilke and opened in 2004, will be used.

WTCR RACE OF BAHRAIN: THE WEEKEND’S BIG WINNERS

RACE WINNERS
Race 1:
Mikel Azcona (ESP), BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR
Race 2: Norbert Michelisz (HUN), BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR

WTCR TROPHY WINNERS
Race 1:
Tom Coronel (NLD), Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS
Race 2:Tom Coronel (NLD), Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

POLE POSITION
Race 1: Mikel Azcona (ESP) BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, 2m11.061s (148.7kph)
Race 2 (reverse grid): Mehdi Bennani (MAR) Comtoyou Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS

FASTEST LAPS
Race 1: Norbert Michelisz (HUN), BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, 2m11.155s (148.6kph)
Race 2: Norbert Michelisz (HUN), BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, 2m11.605s (148.0kph)

QUALIFYING REPORT: ADVANTAGE AZCONA AS BRC’S HYUNDAI-POWERED STAR TAKES BAHRAIN WTCR POLE

RACE 1 REPORT: BIG BAHRAIN WTCR WIN FOR AZCONA IN BRC HYUNDAI 1-2

*Azcona edges ahead in title battle with pole-to-flag victory for BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse
*Michelisz completes WTCR Race of Bahrain 1-2 for Hyundai-powered Italian team
*Berthon battles back to complete podium ahead of fellow title chaser Girolami
*Coronel scores WTCR Trophy win for Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport

WTCR Race of Bahrain Race 1 classification (30 minutes + 1 lap)
1 Mikel Azcona (ESP), BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, 33m34.107s (148.4kph)
2 Norbert Michelisz (HUN), BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, +1.935s
3 Nathanaël Berthon (FRA), Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS, +3.443s
4 Néstor Girolami (ARG), ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR, +9.913s
5 Nicky Catsburg (NLD), BRC Hyundai Racing Team, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, +10.291s
Fastest lap: Michelisz, 2m11.155s (148.6kph)

WTCR provisional standings after Round 15 of 18
Goodyear #FollowTheLeader: Mikel Azcona, 281 points
2 Néstor Girolami, 228 points
3 Rob Huff, 187 points
4 Nathanaël Berthon, 187 points
5 Gilles Magnus, 165 points

Mikel Azcona charged to his fourth victory of the season by dominating Race 1 at WTCR Race of Bahrain to lead BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse team-mate Norbert Michelisz to an impressive 1-2 finish.

Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Azcona stretched his advantage over nearest rival Néstor Girolami to a provisional 53 points, as the the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Honda Civic Type R TCR driver lost out to Nathanaël Berthon’s Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport RS3 LMS for third.

Azcona made a perfect start from pole as Michelisz rose from fourth to ride shotgun in second at Bahrain International Circuit. The pair moved clear of the field to control the race in style.

“It was easy enough,” admitted Azcona. “I made a very good start, that was the key of the race. I was a bit afraid of Berthon because we had seen in the previous races the Audis are quick and strong, fast in the straight. But very quickly I saw he was in some kind of problem so there was free space for me, so from this point it was just to see what the conditions were like in the night. The track was slightly better than in the morning because there was no sun and very low temperature, so from this point I had good management with Norbi.”

“I was very happy with my car,” said Michelisz. “In qualifying it was flawless which is one of the very rare occasions. As a driver you feel 100 per cent in control and I’m very happy because it was steady progress. But more importantly I am very happy for the team and for Mikel. He deserved the race win.”

In contrast, Berthon made a poor start from the front row and fell back into the pack. But the Frenchman was determined to make up his lost places and was back up to fourth at the end of the first lap, passing Attila Tassi’s LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler Honda on the pit straight.

Further back, there was plenty of action in the opening corners. At Turn 8, Nicky Catsburg was turned into a spin by a late-braking Franco Girolami. Gilles Magnus − who had started from the back after an engine change − was also an innocent casualty, his Audi picking up heavy damage to his right-front wheel in the contact.

Berthon was soon closing on Néstor Girolami, who was struggling for pace carrying 40 kilograms of compensation weight. Sure enough, Berthon passed the Honda on lap four for the final podium spot.

“Big mistake, it was my worst start of the year,” said Berthon. “I had a vibration which was appalling so I had to manage that. A lot of points lost. I would have loved to fight with Mikel. Congrats to him, no mistakes at all. We have to fight and come back stronger. We need to find some performance to come back at him.”

Girolami lost a further place to Tom Coronel on the road, but was still classified fourth because of a five-second penalty for the Dutchman who had pushed Tassi off the road under braking at Turn 10. Coronel was classified sixth once the penalty was applied, behind Catsburg who put in a great recovery drive following his lap-one spin.

Catsburg pulled off a number of great moves as he climbed through the field. He chased down Esteban Guerrieri’s Honda and passed the Argentinian on lap nine, then found a way around Mehdi Bennani on the outside of the Turn 10 hairpin. Bennani finished seventh behind Coronel, with Guerreri in eighth.

Franco Girolami battled hard to finish ninth on the road, but was docked 10 seconds for his contact with Catsburg and that dropped him to the back of the field. That allowed Tassi to claim the position having faded from his decent first lap. Wildcard Viktor Davidovski was classified in P10 on his WTCR debut, ahead of Dániel Nagy (Zengő Motorsport CUPRA), Tiago Monteiro (Engstler Honda) and Bence Boldisz (CUPRA). Zengő had chosen to start its drivers from the pitlane to avoid risking damage.

RACE 2 REPORT: MICHELISZ’S LONG WAIT FOR 2022 GLORY ENDS IN BAHRAIN, AZCONA CLOSES ON WTCR TITLE

*Hungarian hero charges to WTCR Race of Bahrain Race 2 success from seventh on the grid
*Spanish star Azcona heads to season showdown in Saudi Arabia five points from title joy
*Guerrieri beats Catsburg to second after pulling off stunning first-corner move for the lead
*Coronel doubles-up in WTCR Trophy but there’s frustration for pole-sitter Bennani

WTCR Race of Bahrain Race 2 classification (25 minutes + 1 lap)
1 Norbert Michelisz (HUN), BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, 29m04.963s (148.0kph)
2 Esteban Guerrieri (ARG), ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR, +1.046s
3 Nicky Catsburg (NLD), BRC Hyundai Racing Team, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, +3.677s
4 Mikel Azcona (ESP), BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR, +7.811s
5 Nathanaël Berthon (FRA), Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS, +12.637s
Fastest lap: Michelisz, 2m11.605s (148.0kph)

WTCR provisional standings after Round 16 of 18
Goodyear #FollowTheLeader: Mikel Azcona, 297 points
2 Néstor Girolami, 237 points
3 Nathanaël Berthon, 200 points
4 Rob Huff, 187 points
5 Norbert Michelisz, 179 points

Norbert Michelisz sliced by Esteban Guerrieri in Race 2 at WTCR Race of Bahrain to score his first WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup victory of the season.

The BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse driver climbed from seventh on the partially-reversed grid at the Bahrain International Circuit, made it through a frenetic first lap and overtook Guerrieri’s ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR to take the win.

Wildcard Nicky Catsburg scored a fine third place on his first weekend back in the WTCR since 2020, while crucially Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Mikel Azcona charged from P10 on the grid to be classified fourth. That leaves him with a healthy 60-point advantage over title rival Néstor Girolami with only 65 points still available from the final event, WTCR Race of Saudi Arabia, which takes place at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit from November 25-27.

Guerrieri made a flying start from the second row to take the lead in Turn 1 from pole position starter Mehdi Bennani, whose hopes of a podium were ruined at Turn 4 by his Comtoyou team-mate Gilles Magnus. The Belgian was late on the brakes and the two blue Audis collided, as Attila Tassi’s LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler Honda tapped the other front row starter Franco Girolami into a spin. Tassi then made further contact with the battered Audi of Bennani.

At the end of lap one Guerrieri led from a charging Michelisz. Catsburg had risen from sixth on the grid to run third, ahead of Nathanaël Berthon and Néstor Girolami, with Azcona already up to sixth.

Michelisz tracked Guerrieri and always looked faster. Sure enough, on lap five he made his move and easily passed the Honda into Turn 1 for what proved the decisive place change.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Michelisz. “I was a bit lucky after the start, there was some carnage. I managed to overtake some people there and I was just trying to find the right place to attack Esteban. My car was just brilliant again today, all weekend it was, so big credit to the team. Sometimes it looks easy from the outside but it was not easy today. Although it was a bit easier because of the equipment I had! It’s not been an easy season, but now I’m getting things together.”

“Congrats to Norbi, he did a very good job,” said Guerrieri. “To the Hyundai team as well, very good weekend. To my team also, we did all we could. Pretty happy. Obviously disappointed to lose the lead, but they had a better pace this weekend. He surprised me with a very good move, I was not very confident in the brakes. It’s been a while since I had a podium.”

Catsburg was delighted with his third place. “Man, it’s so hot in these cars,” he said. “Every time I come back in a WTCR car I realise it’s like a sauna in there. Very hot but super-happy to have a podium on my Wildcard event, so let’s hope for even better in Jeddah.”

Behind the top three Berthon headed Azcona on the road, but the Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport driver picked up a five-second penalty which left the points leader safe in the knowledge he had no need to make a move to be classified fourth. Berthon dropped to fifth ahead of team-mate Tom Coronel, who took WTCR Trophy honours.

Franco Girolami and Bennani recovered from their first lap troubles to finish seventh and eighth respectively. Bennani prevailed from an entertaining late duel with Néstor Girolami. The Honda driver defended brilliantly, but having slipped back from fifth on lap one he just didn’t have the pace to thwart the Audi, which got a better drive out of Turn 10 on the final lap. Girolami shook his head in the cockpit of his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport entry after finishing ninth, in the knowledge his WTCR title hopes now hang by a thread.

Dániel Nagy completed the top 10, the Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competicións once again starting from the pitlane to avoid lap-one damage. Team-mate Bence Boldisz was in P11, ahead of Tiago Monteiro (Engstler Honda), wildcard Viktor Davidovski and Tassi.

ESSENTIALS
Venue:
Bahrain International Circuit
Location:
Gate 255, Gulf of Bahrain Avenue Umm Jidar, Sakhir, 1062 Bahrain
Track length:
5.412 kilometres
Race 1 distance:
30 minutes + 1 lap
Race 2 distance:
25 minutes + 1 lap
BEST LAPS
WTCR qualifying lap record:
Mikel Azcona (Hyundai Elantra N TCR), 2m11.061s (148.7kph), 11/11/22
WTCR race lap record:
Norbert Michelisz (Hyundai Elantra N TCR), 2m11.155s (148.6kph), 11/11/22