WTCR Ningbo: Thed Bjork helps 2018 title hopes with victory

Thed Bjork boosted his World Touring Car Cup title hopes with victory in the opening race at Ningbo at the start of the series' Asian leg

WTCR Ningbo: Thed Bjork helps 2018 title hopes with victory

YMR Hyundai driver Bjork, the 2017 World Touring Car champion, continued his dominant start to the weekend with victory, having topped both of Friday's practice sessions and qualifying on Saturday morning.

His third win of the season, allied to muted races for the majority of the championship frontrunners, promoted Bjork to third in the championship.

Bjork did enough at the start to get his Hyundai i30 N through the Turn 1 kink and the Turn 2 left-hander ahead of fellow front row starter Frederic Vervisch, with Munnich Motorsport driver Esteban Guerrieri passing the BRC i30 N of Norbert Michelisz for third.

Guerrieri then got his nose up the inside of Vervisch's Audi RS3 LMS on the run to the fast Turn 12 left-hander to run second on the opening lap behind Bjork.

The Honda driver stayed with Bjork in the opening half of the race, but the Swede was gradually able to pull away and eventually won by four seconds.

Behind Guerrieri, Vervisch was also briefly passed by Michelisz on the opening lap but, after a slight bump between the two, Michelisz soon slowed and dropped outside of the top 10 before retiring to the pits.

That was Michelisz's seventh non-score of the season, dropping him to fourth in the standings, 38 points off the lead.

Comtoyou Audi driver Vervisch therefore secured third despite some pressure from the second BRC Hyundai of Gabriele Tarquini - the championship leader recovering to his original qualifying position, having been awarded a five-place grid drop for causing an accident at the previous Slovakia Ring round.

Fourth place allowed Tarquini to extend his points lead over Yvan Muller to nine - the YMR driver advancing to seventh from 13th on the grid, finishing behind the squabbling Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTIs of Mehdi Bennani and Rob Huff.

Yann Ehrlacher, the best-placed Honda driver in the championship, finished one place behind his uncle Muller in his Munnich Motorsport Civic, ahead of Comtoyou Audi pair Denis Dupont and Aurelien Panis.

Two-time DTM champion Timo Scheider, making his WTCR debut, was 11th in his Munnich car and just outside the points, while fellow debutant Ma Qing Hua was 19th and last of the finishers.

WRT Audi driver Jean-Karl Vernay, who started the day fifth overall, retired on the second lap.

Race result - 13 laps

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Thed Bjork YMR Hyundai 24m27.793s
2 Esteban Guerrieri Munnich Motorsport Honda 4.098s
3 Frederic Vervisch Comtoyou Racing Audi 6.509s
4 Gabriele Tarquini BRC Racing Team Hyundai 7.459s
5 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen 12.512s
6 Rob Huff Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen 12.920s
7 Yvan Muller YMR Hyundai 15.681s
8 Yann Ehrlacher Munnich Motorsport Honda 18.262s
9 Denis Dupont Comtoyou Racing Audi 21.330s
10 Aurelien Panis Comtoyou Racing Audi 22.571s
11 Timo Scheider Munnich Motorsport Honda 22.991s
12 Kevin Ceccon Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 24.891s
13 Pepe Oriola Campos Racing Cupra 34.043s
14 Gordon Shedden WRT Audi 36.378s
15 Tom Coronel Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda 36.450s
16 Aurelien Comte DG Sport Competition Peugeot 36.721s
17 Mat'o Homola DG Sport Competition Peugeot 37.224s
18 Fabrizio Giovanardi Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 37.540s
19 Ma Qinghua Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda 38.583s
- John Filippi Campos Racing Cupra Retirement
- Norbert Nagy Zengo Motorsport Cupra Retirement
- Zsolt Szabo Zengo Motorsport Cupra Retirement
- Jean-Karl Vernay WRT Audi Retirement
- Norbert Michelisz BRC Racing Team Hyundai Retirement
- Nathanael Berthon Comtoyou Racing Audi Retirement

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Series WTCR
Author Jack Cozens
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