Michelisz seals 2019 WTCR title as rival Guerrieri hits trouble

Jack Cozens
Michelisz seals title as rival Guerrieri hits trouble
Michelisz seals 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 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.

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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.

Michelisz seals title as rival Guerrieri hits trouble
Michelisz seals title as rival Guerrieri hits trouble

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


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