The WTCR Sepang super-finale: Just as good now as it was then
With FIAWTCR.com replaying the All Action programme from WTCR Race of Malaysia, here’s a reminder of what happened when the Sepang International Circuit hosted the super-finale to end all super-finales last December.
Four drivers, one title
Thed Björk, Esteban Guerrieri, Norbert Michelisz and Yvan Muller started the 2019 season closer in title contention but it was Michelisz who became the King of the WTCR after a deciding race that will never be forgotten.
Action on two wheels and four
As well as the three highly-charged and dramatic counters that made Rounds 28-30 of an exhilarating campaign, the inaugural Races of Malaysia also included the 8 Hours of Sepang, round two of the FIM Endurance World Championship for motorbikes.
But while YART Yamaha celebrated success on two wheels, it was Hungarian Michelisz who celebrated most on four after his title win on the back of a Race 1 victory and points finishes in races two and three, which were won by Esteban Guerrieri and Johan Kristoffersson respectively.
Guerrieri keeps dreams alive
Guerrieri charged through from ninth to first on the opening lap of Race 2 to keep his title hopes alive by cutting Michelisz’s advantage to 10 points with one race left, which ended in a sensational victory for Kristoffersson – from a staggering P22 on the grid.
Kristoffersson wins jaw-dropping finale from P22
SLR Volkswagen driver Kristoffersson prevailed after a jaw-dropping four-way fight for the win, which ultimately cost Guerrieri his shot at the WTCR title.
Title destiny swings between top pair…
Over the opening laps, the destiny of the title swung between Guerrieri and Michelisz almost by the corner, only for the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda to lose power with a blocked radiator after contact with Azcona forced a trip across the grass in the slippery conditions.
But Michelisz takes the big prize
But there were no such problems for BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse driver Michelisz, who said: “It’s pretty difficult to describe all the emotions going through my body now. But the most important thing is to say a huge thank you to my family, to the team and all the Hungarian people who have been supporting me. A bit more than 10 years ago I was still playing computer games and hoping to start a professional career. In the end I managed to do that. It’s just unbelievable.”
RACE 1 KEY MOMENTS
*Race starts behind safety car due to changing weather conditions
*Most drivers choose dry slick tyres on the front, wet treaded tyres on the rear
*Michelisz wins from pole, extends title lead to 27 points over Guerrieri
*Panis converts P2 start to first WTCR podium in second
*Guerrieri climbs from ninth on the grid to fourth
*Muller finishes sixth from P16 and moves eight points behind Guerrieri in standings
*Björk is P27 and out of title contention after gambling on a mid-race switch to slicks
RACE 2 KEY MOMENTS
*Guerrieri slashes Michelisz’s title advantage to 10 points by winning the red flag-interrupted race from ninth on the grid in heavy rain
*Michelisz only eighth as race finishes under floodlights
*Girolami takes the lead from pole-sitter Ma at Turn 1 but Guerrieri sensationally leads by the end of lap one
*A number of drivers go off in heavy rain, including Michelisz
*Safety car is deployed just as Catsburg’s Hyundai catches fire having gone off after heavy contact with Muller
*Muller is furious with Catsburg, who was on slick tyres and takes the blame for the collision but insists it wasn’t intentional
*Race eventually restarts after a long delay with drivers taking up the positions they held from sector two on the first lap
*Incredibly, Catsburg’s mechanics repair his car but it’s eventually removed from the grid because he had received mechanical assistance under red flag conditions
*Girolami is at the front for the safety car restart with Guerrieri next
*Muller is fifth but Michelisz is down in P17 although issues for others means he’s P13 for the restart
*Girolami allows Guerrieri through once racing resumes and Guerrieri takes a comfortable win
*Kristofferson charges through from P22 to third behind Azcona as Michelisz fights back to finish a vital eighth
RACE 3 KEY MOMENTS
*A technical problem before the pre-grid leaves Michelisz fearing he won’t make the start
*But he lines up from pole after frantic repairs with Guerrieri alongside
*Guerrieri sweeps around the outside of T1 to lead, Azcona follows him into second
*Kristoffersson sensationally up to fourth from P22 and takes third before the end of lap one
*It means Michelisz is now two points behind Guerrieri in the virtual standings
*But Azcona is pressuring Guerrieri and Kristoffersson is already closing on Azcona
*Farfus beaches his Hyundai in the gravel in the final sector on lap one
*Azcona briefly takes the lead on lap two, Guerrieri fights back but safety car is deployed
*Racing resumes on lap five, Michelisz pressures Kristoffersson, who makes a slow restart
*Azcona takes the lead on lap five, Guerrieri is now three points behind Michelisz
*On the same lap, Guerrieri gets back in front but then Azcona taps Guerrieri, who briefly takes to the grass
*Guerrieri holds on momentarily but Azcona passes before Kristoffersson demotes Guerrieri to third at the final corner of lap five
*However, on the exit of the corner Guerrieri retakes second but is three points Michelisz, who is still in fourth
*Guerrieri drops back from Azcona on lap six and offers no defence as Kristoffersson takes second
*Michelisz closes on Guerrieri who reports he is “losing power” over team radio
*He drops further and further back only to set the fastest lap once the blockage is cleared in the pits
*With the title secure, Michelisz falls to fifth as Ceccon catches up to Azcona and Kristoffersson in a new three-way fight
*Following another brief safety car interruption on lap eight, Azcona, Kristoffersson and Ceccon continue to battle until Kristoffersson takes a decisive lead from Azcona with an inspired outside pass at the last corner on lap 11
*Azcona chases him all the way to the flag on lap 14 with Ceccon third and Vervisch fourth
*But Azcona is handed a 30-second penalty post-race and drops to P14, which promotes Ceccon to second and Vervisch to third