Norbert Michelisz won the first race of the Kumho TCR World Tour at Macau in his BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Elantra, and has now extended his lead in the drivers’ standings over Rob Huff, who finished on the final spot on the podium after an epic fight with Michelisz’s teammate MIkel Azcona.
Michelisz had a good launch from pole position, while Yann Ehrlacher in his Cyan Racing Lynk & Co bogged down at the start and dropped from second to tenth, with Honda’s Néstor Girolami straight up to second ahead of Huff and Azcona. Ehrlacher recovered one spot by passing John Filippi before the end of the first lap, before soon being let past by his three Cyan Racing teammates, placing him in sixth. While there were some minor offs for some of the Macau TCR Asia Challenge drivers, with Ken Tian stopping on lap one, before Paul Poon Tak Cehung and Yan Chuang came together at the Solitude Esses, the race ran safety car-free.
While Michelisz had Girolami just about in touch, it was Huff and Azcona who delivered all the action in the race, with Huff fighting to keep back the fast-paced Hyundai throughout the race, with the Spanish driver attempting three times to pass Huff around the outside of Lisboa on laps five, seven, and the final lap, with light contact being made on lap seven - but to no success, with Huff holding on to claim the final spot on the podium.
Evolve Racing’s Lo Sze Ho was classed as the KUMHO TCR World Tour TCR Asia Challenge winner, finishing 13th overall in his Hyundai Elantra.
Michelisz now leads the championship by 18 points over Huff and is 20 clear over Ehrlacher going into tomorrow’s finale, which means the only chance either driver has to win the title will be to win the race in which Huff starts seventh, and Ehrlacher ninth on the grid.
Michelisz said: “I was a bit worried before the start, but fortunately it was a good one. I had some pressure from Néstor at the beginning, but I did my best to build a gap. However, I was struggling a bit with my tyres towards the end, but my strategy was to build a safe margin and wait and see. It’s just an amazing day, it’s a bit like a dream.
It always feels good to be in front, but it’s Macau. We’ve seen in the past many things can happen. The gap is not big enough to feel safe, so I’ll try to focus tomorrow and stay ahead.”
Macau – Race 1
1. Norbert Michelisz (BRC Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N), 9 laps
2. Néstor Girolami (MacPro Racing, Honda Civic Type R FL5), 0.590
3. Rob Huff (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS), 1.403
1. N. Michelisz, 428 pts; 2. R. Huff, 410; 3. Y. Ehrlacher, 408
Picture: Macau Grand Prix