Michelisz seals 2019 WTCR title as rival Guerrieri hits trouble

Hyundai driver Norbert Michelisz sealed the World Touring Car Cup title in the final race of the season at Sepang after rival Esteban Guerrieri dropped back with overheating issues

Michelisz seals 2019 WTCR title as rival Guerrieri hits trouble

Michelisz finished the race - won by double World Rallycross champion Johan Kristoffersson from 22nd on the grid - in fifth position, having eased off when Guerrieri dropped back after his Honda Civic Type R ingested grass while he defended the lead.

Guerrieri had been in a position to claim the title at that point, though, as polesitter Michelisz had slipped to fourth.

The title rivals matched each other off the line and ran side-by-side into the first corner, but Guerrieri braked later than his rival to snatch the lead at Turn 1.

Mikel Azcona also drove around the outside of Michelisz between Turns 1 and 2 to claim second, though that order would still have given Michelisz the title by a point.

The Hungarian appeared tentative on the opening lap, though, and ceded third to Kristoffersson when the Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI driver got a better exit off the Turn 11 right-hander.

Guerrieri survived a robust attack from Azcona through Turns 1, 2 and 3 at the start of lap two, but held the position into Turn 4 as the safety car was deployed so Augusto Farfus's Hyundai i30 N could be recovered from the gravel trap.

It took another three laps for the race to be restarted, with Michelisz immediately going on the attack in an attempt to unseat Kristoffersson and reclaim the third place he needed to guarantee the title.

Though that did not come off, the top four bunched up as Guerrieri struggled to contain the pack behind him.

Things came to a head out of Turn 11, when Azcona got a better exit than the leader.

As he went to nose his Cupra inside Guerrieri on the approach to the Turn 12 left-hander, Guerrieri moved across to close the door - with Azcona hitting the Argentinian as a result.

This sent Guerrieri skating along the grass, though he was able to keep his Honda on the road and in the lead, briefly, as the four leaders approached the penultimate corner side-by-side.

But Azcona got ahead out of the corner, with Kristoffersson launching an attack into the final corner - eventually making the position his into Turn 4 on the following lap.

That made Michelisz's task far simpler, though he continued to hound Guerrieri as the Honda began to develop an issue.

Michelisz tapped his rival into Turn 11, and later made a pass stick, to move into third, with Guerrieri then forfeiting a handful of positions on the run to the final corner.

Guerrieri was told to "just keep going, we're hoping for some miracle", but visited the pits three times during a second safety-car period to have grass removed from his splitter.

He eventually finished 22nd, having set the fastest lap at the end of the race.

Safe in the knowledge Guerrieri was out of contention, Michelisz handed positions to Kevin Ceccon (Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce) and the Comtoyou Audi RS3 LMS of Frederic Vervisch in the middle of the race, and cruised to a comfortable fifth ahead of team-mate Gabriele Tarquini to seal the title by 21 points.

His success means BRC has run the winning driver to the title for the second year in a row, following Tarquini's success last year.

While the title fight fizzled out, the battle for the race win ensured there was still an entertaining end to the race.

Azcona was still in the lead after the second safety car but had put up a strong defence to keep Kristoffersson at bay.

After an entertaining tussle between the top three - now featuring Ceccon - Kristoffersson made his race-winning move around the outside of Azcona at the final corner with four laps remaining.

The lead trio continued to squabble for the remainder of the race, though would ultimately stay in formation as Volkswagen ended its factory-supporting stint in WTCR with a victory.

Vervisch was a lonely fourth, while behind Michelisz and Tarquini the top 10 was completed by Guerrieri's Munnich Motorsport team-mate Nestor Girolami, Tiago Monteiro (KCMG Honda), Cyan Racing's Thed Bjork and the second Sebastien Loeb Racing VW of Benjamin Leuchter.

Azcona crossed the line in second, resisting a lunge from Ceccon at the final corner, but was penalised after the race for his clash with Guerrieri and had 30s added to his time, in lieu of a drivethrough penalty, which dropped him to 14th.

Ceccon, therefore, inherited second ahead of Vervisch, with Michelisz confirmed as champion in fourth.

Tarquini followed his team-mate home over the line but was later handed a 30-second penalty of his own for two safety-car infringements. This dropped him out of the points.

Result - 14 laps

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Johan Kristoffersson SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen 39m02.972s
2 Kevin Ceccon Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 2.182s
3 Frederic Vervisch Comtoyou Audi Audi 4.296s
4 Norbert Michelisz BRC Squadra Corse Hyundai 9.297s
5 Nestor Girolami Munnich Motorsport Honda 13.150s
6 Tiago Monteiro KCMG Honda 14.737s
7 Thed Bjork Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 17.308s
8 Benjamin Leuchter SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen 17.807s
9 Rob Huff SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen 19.279s
10 Jean-Karl Vernay WRT Audi 21.373s
11 Yvan Muller Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 24.479s
12 Andy Priaulx Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 25.776s
13 Daniel Haglof PWR Racing Cupra 26.418s
14 Mikel Azcona PWR Racing Cupra 32.026s
15 Hafizh Syahrin Team Engstler Hyundai 36.567s
16 Yann Ehrlacher Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 36.827s
17 Mehdi Bennani SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen 37.687s
18 Gabriele Tarquini BRC Squadra Corse Hyundai 39.905s
19 Mitchell Cheah Team Engstler Hyundai 40.223s
20 Niels Langeveld Comtoyou Audi Audi 43.171s
21 Douglas Khoo Viper Niza Racing Cupra 56.247s
22 Esteban Guerrieri Munnich Motorsport Honda 59.437s
23 Ma Qinghua Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 1m50.645s
- Joao Paulo de Oliveira KC Motorgroup Honda Retirement
- Gordon Shedden WRT Audi Retirement
- Tom Coronel Comtoyou Cupra Cupra Retirement
- Augusto Farfus BRC Racing Team Hyundai Retirement
- Attila Tassi KCMG Honda Not started
- Aurelien Panis Comtoyou Cupra Cupra Retirement
- Nicky Catsburg BRC Racing Team Hyundai Disqualified

Final drivers' standings

Pos Driver Points
1 Norbert Michelisz 372
2 Esteban Guerrieri 349
3 Yvan Muller 331
4 Thed Bjork 297
5 Johan Kristoffersson 243
6 Mikel Azcona 226
7 Nestor Girolami 225
8 Gabriele Tarquini 222
9 Yann Ehrlacher 222
10 Jean-Karl Vernay 211
11 Rob Huff 211
12 Frederic Vervisch 194
13 Nicky Catsburg 166
14 Kevin Ceccon 164
15 Augusto Farfus 142
16 Ma Qinghua 133
17 Aurelien Panis 127
18 Andy Priaulx 122
19 Benjamin Leuchter 111
20 Tiago Monteiro 109
21 Niels Langeveld 63
22 Tom Coronel 63
23 Daniel Haglof 59
24 Attila Tassi 56
25 Mehdi Bennani 40
26 Gordon Shedden 35
27 Robert Dahlgren 3
28 Luca Engstler 2

Final teams' standings

Pos Team Points
1 Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 628
2 BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse 594
3 All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport 574
4 SLR Volkswagen 354
5 Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 344
6 BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team 310
7 Team Mulsanne 297
8 PWR Racing 288
9 Comtoyou Team Audi Sport 257
10 SLR VW Motorsport 251
11 Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport 246
12 Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing 190
13 KCMG 165

Guerrieri seals vital WTCR Sepang win to set up title showdown
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