Sepang WTCR: Michelisz closes on title with victory

Norbert Michelisz moved closer to claiming the WTCR title by winning a wild opening race at Sepang, though his main rivals fought their way into the top six.

Sepang WTCR: Michelisz closes on title with victory

The Hyundai driver cruised to a comfortable fifth victory of the season in changeable conditions to move more than a race win's worth of points clear of nearest rival Esteban Guerrieri.

Light rain as the cars headed to the grid gave teams a headache over which tyres to fit, particularly when that intensified, though most, including polesitter Michelisz, opted for a combination of slick front tyres and wet rears to deal with the slippery surface.

Officials decided to start the race behind the safety car, though this was called in at the end of the first lap - with Michelisz deciding to hit racing speed halfway down the back straight.

Michelisz duly gapped his nearest pursuer Aurelien Panis by two seconds in the opening laps, and would end up 2.446 seconds clear of the Comtoyou Cupra driver - who scored his first WTCR podium - at the end of the extended 10-lap race.

Gabriele Tarquini backed up BRC Racing teammate Michelisz's win by taking third, finishing a distant 7.563s behind Panis, ahead of Guerrieri.

On a dramatic opening lap, Guerrieri fought his way forward from ninth on the grid to seventh thanks to passes on Comtoyou Audi driver Frederic Vervisch and, after a tussle in the third sector, the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo of Ma Qing Hua.

The Argentinian then dived past Hyundai man Augusto Farfus at the first corner at the start of lap three, and past Nestor Girolami and Mikel Azcona - struggling for grip on full wet tyres - at the Turn 9 hairpin the following lap.

That was the extent of Guerrieri's progress, though the result did limit his loss to Michelisz and also moved him slightly further clear of Yvan Muller, who finished sixth.

Muller made even more impressive progress through the field from his 16th-place starting position, though his progress was thwarted by the KCMG Honda of Joao Paulo de Olivera.

The 2010 Formula Nippon champion advanced from 13th to finish fifth, setting the fastest lap in the process, though his wildcard status means he is ineligible for points.

That means Guerrieri sits 27 points behind Michelisz with two races remaining, with Muller - now the final remaining title contender after his Cyan Racing Lynk & Co teammate Thed Bjork was eliminated from contention - eight further back.

Race results:

Cla # Driver Chassis Laps Gap
1 5 Hungary Norbert Michelisz
Hyundai 10
2 21 France Aurelien Panis
CUPRA 10 2.446
3 1 Italy Gabriele Tarquini
Hyundai 10 10.009
4 86 Argentina Esteban Guerrieri
Honda 10 10.878
5 38 Joao Paulo
10 11.287
6 100 France Yvan Muller
Lynk & Co 10 12.125
7 37 Sweden Daniel Haglof
CUPRA 10 17.213
8 14 Sweden Johan Kristoffersson
Volkswagen 10 20.142
9 88 Netherlands Nick Catsburg
Hyundai 10 31.331
10 69 France Jean-Karl Vernay
Audi 10 31.772
11 111 Guernsey Andy Priaulx
Lynk & Co 10 36.466
12 25 Morocco Mehdi Bennani
Volkswagen 10 37.211
13 9 Hungary Attila Tassi
Honda 10 40.633
14 68 France Yann Ehrlacher
Lynk & Co 10 42.004
15 52 United Kingdom Gordon Shedden
Audi 10 43.183
16 33 Germany Benjamin Leuchter
Volkswagen 10 45.377
17 96 Spain Mikel Azcona
CUPRA 10 58.401
18 55 China Ma Qing Hua
Alfa Romeo 10 1'00.734
19 27 Mitchell Cheah
Hyundai 10 1'03.709
20 31 Italy Kevin Ceccon
Alfa Romeo 10 1'05.014
21 10 Netherlands Niels Langeveld
Audi 10 1'07.607
22 29 Argentina Nestor Girolami
Honda 10 1'10.078
23 12 United Kingdom Rob Huff
Volkswagen 10 1'17.382
24 50 Netherlands Tom Coronel
CUPRA 10 1'20.508
25 15 Hafizh Syahrin
Hyundai 10 1'24.275
26 65 Malaysia Douglas Khoo Koh Hui
CUPRA 10 1'36.373
27 11 Sweden Thed Björk
Lynk & Co 10 2'02.312
28 8 Brazil Augusto Farfus
Hyundai 10 2'22.601
18 Portugal Tiago Monteiro
Honda 6
22 Belgium Frederic Vervisch
Audi 2
Sepang WTCR: Michelisz extends lead with finale double pole
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Sepang WTCR: Guerrieri wins from 9th to set up title showdown

Sepang WTCR: Guerrieri wins from 9th to set up title showdown