WTCR Race 3 flash: Michelisz at last in Slovakia thriller
Norbert Michelisz claimed an emphatic first win in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO in an action-packed Race 3 at WTCR Race of Slovakia on Sunday.
The BRC Racing Team driver from Hungary became winner number 11 of the season after converting his DHL Pole Position into a lead he would not relinquish. Aurélien Comte was similarly untroubled on his way to second in his DG Sport Compétition PEUGEOT 308TCR, but there was plenty of incident and action behind him.
At the start, Michelisz made a clean getaway to lead into the sweeping first turns, as Yvan Muller cut inside Comte to take second place. Further back, Race 2 winner and points leader Gabriele Tarquini tagged Boutsen Ginion Racing’s Benjamin Lessennes and the contact triggered a concertina accident which affected a number of drivers in the midfield.
ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Esteban Guerrieri was the first to be caught up in Tarquini and Lessennes’ accident, the two badly damaged Honda Civic Type R TCRs joining the Hyundai i30 N TCR in the gravel trap. John Filippi’s Team OSCARO by Campos Racing Cupra TCR was also knocked into retirement, too.
As the field scattered in avoidance, a number of cars were then damaged in a second accident as drivers attempted to return to the track. Once the dust had settled, Mehdi Bennani, Gordon Shedden, Jean-Karl Vernay, Nathanaël Berthon and Norbert Nagy, who had driven so well to a career-best P2 in Race 2 on Saturday, all pitted with damage that would end their challenges.
After the race, the stewards rules that Tarquini was in breach of the regulations, by causing a collision with another car. He will be penalised with a five-place grid drop in Race 1 at the next round, WTCR Race of China at Ningbo in September.
The Audi R8 safety car bunched the field with the race resuming on lap 5 – but not before further drama. Muller had looked certain to claim back his WTCR OSCARO points lead thanks to Tarquini’s troubles, but before the green flags flew to signal the restart the YMR Hyundai slid off into a gravel trap after its left-front wheel detached.
Muller’s misfortune promoted Comte back to P2 but te Frenchman had no answer to Michelisz’s smooth restart, allowing the Hungarian to stretch away to a long-awaited first WTCR OSCARO win.
Behind Comte, Audi Sport Team Comtoyou’s Frédéric Vervisch worked hard to claim his third-place podium after a tough battle with the charging Thed Björk, who had risen from P18 on the grid, largely thanks to the first-lap incidents.
Björk engaged Fabrizio Giovanardi’s Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR in a duel once racing resumed after the safety car, finally passing on lap nine after contact. He now chased down Vervisch and pushed hard to claim the final podium position. But further contact had damaged the front end of the YMR Hyundai and even though Björk found a way past on the penultimate lap, Vervisch was able to snatch the place back into Turn 1 on the final lap to secure his deserved podium in a thrilling photo-finish.
Wildcard entry Petr Fulín was another to rise up the order in his Fullin Race Academy Cupra TCR, climbing from P16 on the grid to fifth at the flag. But the Czech driver punted Giovanardi hard to pass the Alfa, which caused the Italian to drop back behind his new team-mate Kevin Ceccon. The Alfas would finish P6 and P7 on the road for Team Mulsanne’s best combined result of the season.
Tom Coronel was P9 in his Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda ahead of Race 1 winner Pepe Oriola and Zengő Motorsport’s Zsolt Zsabó. Less than three seconds separated Zsabó from Vervisch in P2 at the flag.
The results of Race 3 will remain provisional pending an ongoing appeal process.