WTCR Race 3 flash: Kristoffersson wins, Guerrieri heads points
Johan Kristoffersson took victory in an incident-packed Race 3 at WTCR JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan as runner-up Esteban Guerrieri moved back to the top of the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO.
Kristoffersson started from the DHL Pole Position, but lost out to fellow front-row starter Tiago Monteiro from the getaway, only to nudge the Portuguese at Turn 2 and take the lead for his second WTCR / OSCARO victory.
“The takeaway at the start was not the best and Tiago was able to pass, but I managed to undercut him at Turn 2,” said the SLR Volkswagen driver and double FIA World Rallycross champion. “That was a good rallycross move.”
The Suzuka race was interrupted by a safety car period at the end of the first lap after wildcard entry Ritomo Miyata collided with Tom Coronel and Ma Qinghua, leaving the Audi and CUPRA stranded in a gravel trap.
The action resumed on lap eight with Kristoffersson leading from Monteiro and Guerrieri, who had benefited at the start from third place starter Mikel Azcona stalling on the line. It soon became clear from radio conversations that KCMG’s Monteiro would eventually give up his second place to ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Guerrieri to help his fellow Honda driver’s cause in the title race. They swapped positions on lap 28 of 30.
Team Mulsanne’s Kevin Ceccon was the man on the move in his Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR. Having started seventh, he’d lost a place leaving the grid but the Italian nudged Rob Huff to retake the position, then passed Gabriele Tarquini and Andy Priaulx on consecutive laps.
Late in the race Ceccon also got by Thed Björk for fourth, then claimed a surprise podium in odd circumstances. The race finished behind the Audi R8 safety car after wildcard Tomita Ryuichiro went off. Monteiro then almost pulled into the pitlane early rather than take the chequered flag, allowing the Alfa to get ahead.
“A miscommunication, I would say,” he explained. “I thought it was the last lap and in fact you have to finish the lap of course. I was talking on the radio, didn’t pay attention and started coming into the pits. I came out right away but Kevin passed me, so it’s a bit of strange one because it’s still the safety car. But the stewards decide like this. With the decisions made this weekend, I’m really confused. Very tough to take.”
Monteiro finished fourth ahead of Björk, Tarquini and Priaulx. Huff was eighth, while ninth was not enough for Race 2 winner Norbert Michelisz to retain his WTCR / OSCARO points lead. Jean-Karl Vernay completed the top 10 in his Audi.
The other points finishers were Nicky Catsburg, Benjamin Leuchter, Frédéric Vervisch, Néstor Girolami and Yvan Muller. KCMG’s Attila Tassi lost ninth place on the road with a five-second penalty for not lining up in the proper position on the grid.