WTCR Slovakia: Norbert Michelisz dominates as title frontrunners retire

Norbert Michelisz dominated the final World Touring Car Cup race at the Slovakia Ring to finally claim his first victory of the season

WTCR Slovakia: Norbert Michelisz dominates as title frontrunners retire

BRC Racing driver Michelisz converted pole position into a lead at the start, and he was not troubled by the chasing DG Sport Peugeot 308TCR of Aurelien Comte at any point during the race - from which championship frontrunners Gabriele Tarquini and Yvan Muller retired.

Having expressed concern about his race starts on Saturday evening, Michelisz moved straight over to the right-hand side of the circuit off the line to block the run of Comte, which allowed Muller to clear the Peugeot into the fast Turn 2 right-hander.

The race was then interrupted by a safety car period, called as a result of an initial four-car incident at Turn 3.

Michelisz's team-mate Gabriele Tarquini appeared to get into the back of Benjamin Lessennes' Honda Civic, half-spinning the Boutsen Ginion driver round and into John Filippi's Campos Racing Cupra, with Munnich Motorsport's Esteban Guerrieri also caught up.

Contact further down the order occurring at the same corner meant the safety car circulated until the end of lap four, but further drama occurred on the restart as Muller's Hyundai i30 N shed a wheel through the long right-hand penultimate corner, which left him beached in the gravel.

Michelisz controlled proceedings from there, setting the fastest lap of the race on the first lap after the safety car phase before gradually easing off to win by two seconds.

While Michelisz and Comte had easy runs to the finish, there was a fierce contest for the final podium spot.

From seventh on the grid, Comtoyou Racing driver Frederic Vervisch charged around the outside of the first corner and held fourth in the opening stages, which became third when Muller retired.

He was initially chased on the restart by the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta of Fabrizio Giovanardi, who himself was trying to fend off Muller's team-mate Thed Bjork.

Bjork had progressed from 19th to fifth by the restart, having avoided the first lap incidents, but was made to wait longer to pass the stubborn Alfa of Giovanardi, who put up an impressive defence that included repassing Bjork around the outside of the tight infield section.

But Bjork had found a way past by lap nine, making contact with Giovanardi in the process, and soon set about hassling Vervisch for third.

The 2017 World Touring Car champion was briefly able to nose ahead of Vervisch exiting the final corner, but the Audi's superior grunt down the main straight allowed Vervisch to sweep back around the outside at Turn 1.

Vervisch kept his nose ahead thereafter to claim his fourth podium of the season, beating Bjork by 0.039s over the line.

Wildcard Petr Fulin crossed the line in fifth, ahead of the second Alfa of Kevin Ceccon - making his WTCR debut in Slovakia - and Giovanardi.

Tom Coronel was eighth in his Civic, ahead of race one winner Pepe Oriola (Campos Racing Cupra) and Zengo Motorsport's Zsolt Szabo, who claimed his second points finish of the season.

Title hopeful Yann Ehrlacher was delayed by the Turn 3 incidents, and was the last of the 15 cars to finish the race having visited the pits after running over the grass infield while attempting to overtake Rob Huff's Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Race result

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Norbert Michelisz BRC Racing Team Hyundai 32m25.458s
2 Aurelien Comte DG Sport Competition Peugeot 2.005s
3 Frederic Vervisch Comtoyou Racing Audi 8.273s
4 Thed Bjork YMR Hyundai 8.312s
5 Petr Fulin Fulin Race Academy Cupra 8.796s
6 Kevin Ceccon Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 9.150s
7 Fabrizio Giovanardi Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 9.382s
8 Tom Coronel Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda 9.729s
9 Pepe Oriola Campos Racing Cupra 11.065s
10 Zsolt Szabo Zengo Motorsport Cupra 11.721s
11 Aurelien Panis Comtoyou Racing Audi 15.253s
12 Mat'o Homola DG Sport Competition Peugeot 20.767s
13 Andrej Studenic Brutal Fish Racing Team Volkswagen 25.516s
14 Rob Huff Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen 46.026s
15 Yann Ehrlacher Munnich Motorsport Honda 1m24.581s
16 Denis Dupont Comtoyou Racing Audi 1 Lap
- Yvan Muller YMR Hyundai Retirement
- Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Retirement
- Gordon Shedden WRT Audi Retirement
- Nathanael Berthon Comtoyou Racing Audi Retirement
- Norbert Nagy Zengo Motorsport Cupra Retirement
- Jean-Karl Vernay WRT Audi Retirement
- Benjamin Lessennes Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda Retirement
- Esteban Guerrieri Munnich Motorsport Honda Retirement
- John Filippi Campos Racing Cupra Retirement
- Gabriele Tarquini BRC Racing Team Hyundai Retirement

Drivers' standings

Pos Driver Points
1 Gabriele Tarquini 202
2 Yvan Muller 199
3 Norbert Michelisz 178
4 Yann Ehrlacher 172
5 Jean-Karl Vernay 166
6 Thed Bjork 165
7 Pepe Oriola 156
8 Esteban Guerrieri 136
9 Rob Huff 130
10 Aurelien Comte 109
11 Frederic Vervisch 102
12 Gordon Shedden 70
13 Mehdi Bennani 63
14 Benjamin Lessennes 48
15 Mat'o Homola 38
16 Daniel Nagy 36
17 James Thompson 36
18 Nathanael Berthon 29
19 Tom Coronel 24
20 Fabrizio Giovanardi 19
21 Norbert Nagy 18
22 John Filippi 14
23 Petr Fulin 13
24 Aurelien Panis 13
25 Kevin Ceccon 10
26 Rene Rast 10
27 Denis Dupont 6
28 Zsolt Szabo 4

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Series WTCR
Drivers Norbert Michelisz
Author Jack Cozens
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