Motegi WTCC: Norbert Michlisz leads all-Honda podium

Norbert Michelisz sealed his first World Touring Car Championship win since moving to the factory Honda team as the marque secured a podium lockout at its home Motegi circuit

Motegi WTCC: Norbert Michlisz leads all-Honda podium

Hungarian Michelisz started from the reversed grid pole after qualifying in 10th, and gradually eased away from team-mate and second-place starter Rob Huff to clinch his fifth WTCC win by 1.358 seconds.

The lead pair held station into Turn 1 at the start of the race after matching each other's launches, with Polestar's third-place starter Thed Bjork having to defend around the outside of the corner from the fast-starting Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen C-Elysee of Tom Chilton.

But Bjork held firm and soon caught back up to the leading pair up around the first lap, as the front three built a buffer ahead of the rest of the pack.

Bjork's threatening presence meant that Huff had to keep half an eye on the Volvo S60, and that pressure allowed Michelisz to build a crucial buffer in the middle stages of the race to ease clear at the front.

The Hungarian's lead went out as far as three seconds in the closing stages, which gave Michelisz enough of a gap to cruise home over the final three laps, nursing his Civic and its 80 kilograms of success ballast to a first win since joining the manufacturer from the private Zengo team at the start of 2016.

Huff resisted Bjork's attention before the Volvo began to fall away in the second half of the race, with Tiago Monteiro in the third Civic pouncing at Turn 11 to snatch the final podium spot at half-distance, having dispatched Chilton on the opening lap.

Both factory Citroen drivers also took advantage of Bjork's vulnerability to overtake the Volvo, with first championship leader Jose Maria Lopez and then Yvan Muller working their way around the Swede.

The pair did close up to the second- and third-placed Hondas in the final laps, but were unable to make any real impression and crossed the line in fourth and fifth.

Bjork limited the damage thereafter, producing a stern defence of sixth, to head home Lada's Nicky Catsburg - the Dutchman aggrieved after an earlier altercation with Lopez as the pair followed Bjork, for which Catsburg was shown a black-and-white flag for rejoining the track incorrectly and hitting the Citroen driver.

Chilton came home eighth after dropping back from his fast start, ahead of Nestor Girolami on his first appearance for Polestar in its second S60.

Argentinian Girolami spent much of the race bottled up behind Chilton's SLR team-mate Mehdi Bennani, who was later given a drive-through penalty for a false start.

Gabriele Tarquini clinched the final point in the second Lada Vesta.

RESULTS - 13 LAPS:

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Norbert Michelisz Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 26m07.443s
2 Rob Huff Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 1.358s
3 Tiago Monteiro Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 2.173s
4 Jose Maria Lopez Citroen Racing Citroen 3.609s
5 Yvan Muller Citroen Racing Citroen 4.805s
6 Thed Bjork Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo 8.049s
7 Nicky Catsburg LADA Sport Lada 8.738s
8 Tom Chilton Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 9.385s
9 Nestor Girolami Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo 10.135s
10 Gabriele Tarquini LADA Sport Lada 10.456s
11 Ryo Michigami Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 18.300s
12 James Thompson Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet 21.696s
13 John Filippi Campos Racing Chevrolet 26.419s
14 Daniel Nagy Zengo Motorsport Honda 26.935s
15 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 28.127s
16 Gregoire Demoustier Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 34.475s
17 Tom Coronel ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 48.691s
- Ferenc Ficza Zengo Motorsport Honda Retirement
- Hugo Valente LADA Sport Lada Retirement

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