Norbert Michelisz claimed an emphatic first win in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO in an incident-packed Race 3 at WTCR Race of Slovakia on Sunday.
The BRC Racing Team driver became the 11th winner of the season after converting his DHL Pole Position into a lead he would not lose. 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 also slid off 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.
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 racing to begin again the YMR Hyundai slid off into a gravel trap after somehow shedding its left-front wheel.
Muller’s misfortune promoted Comte back to P2. The 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 18th 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 9 after contact. He now chased down Vervisch and pushed hard to climb to the 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 finish.
‘Wildcard’ entry Petr Fulín was another to rise up the order in his Fullin Race Academy Cupra TCR, climbing from 16th on the grid to P5 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.
Via FIA WTCR