TCR Race report

Michelisz and Urrutia share wins in opener of new TCR World Tour series

Norbert Michelisz and Santiago Urrutia took a win each in the opening round of the new TCR World Tour, the successor to the FIA World Touring Car Cup, at Portimao.

Norbert Michelisz, BRC Hyundai

The new series takes a travelling group of nine factory-supported touring car drivers to rounds of various regional championships, and the opener was shared with TCR Europe in Portugal, creating a 22-car field.

Michelisz, the 2019 WTCR champion, placed his Hyundai Elantra on pole ahead of team-mate Mikel Azcona, while Audi Sport drivers filled the second row, with new signing Rob Huff ahead of marque stalwart Frederic Vervisch.

Michelisz led throughout an orderly first race ahead of Azcona and Huff, while Vervisch dropped back and was fighting to hold off the sole Honda Civic of Nestor Girolami.

The only drama came in the midfield at the start of the race, when the two Cyan Racing Lynk & Cos of Santiago Urrutia and Yann Ehrlacher made contact battling for ninth into Turn 1, and Urrutia became the only retirement of the race with broken suspension.

Urrutia had the chance to redeem himself from pole position for the reversed-grid race on Sunday. The Uruguayan got away well at the start and was quickly joined at the front by team-mate Thed Bjork.

A clumsy collision at Turn 4 between Girolami and touring car rookie Kobe Pauwels, followed by a bruising rejoin as Pauwels slammed into the side of Dusan Borkovic’s Hyundai, led to a lengthy safety car deployment. The length of this was then doubled when Girolami’s steering collapsed at the first restart, with the Argentinian stopping his Honda on the final bend.

Another safety car period meant only six laps of green-flag running took place. Urrutia went on to win the shortened heat ahead of Bjork and Vervisch, while Michelisz – eighth in this race – leaves the opener with a two-point lead in the table.