Norbert Michelisz has become the first ever KUMHO TCR World Tour champion after finishing eight in the final race of the season at Macau, with the BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse driver being conservative in a race which was largely duelled out between the Cyan Racing Lynk & Co cars and Audi Sport Team Comtoyou cars ahead, with Frédéric Vervisch leaving it until his last race of the year to claim a victory.
Santiago Urrutia and Thed Björk lined up on the front row, but Björk was jumped at the start by Vervisch, while Huff made up two spots to fourth. Behind, Lo Sze Ho had stalled on the line in his Evolve Racing Hyundai and was collected by Paul Poon Tak Chun’s Teamwork Motorsport Audi, while up front both Yann Ehrlacher and Ben Bargwanna hit the wall at Mandarin, but while Ehrlacher’s car miraculously continued, Bargwanna’s Peugeot went in hard and was heavily damaged.
The race resumed and battle continued, with Vervisch close behind the leader Urrutia, and Huff chasing Björk. On lap eight, the race changed shape as Vervisch slipstreamed past Urrutia at Mandarin, while Huff lined up and passed Björk into Lisboa, with Ehrlacher also making a move to pass the Audi of John Filippi for fifth into the right-hander. Huff now needed just to pass Urrutia, with Vervisch certain to let him through to claim the win and the title but hit the rear of Urrutia’s car on the way up the hill, damaging the bonnet of his car and forcing him out of the race. Björk allowed Ehrlacher through to what was now again third, but even with a victory, Ehrlacher wouldn’t be able to overcome Michelisz’s points lead, and so the title went the way of the Hungarian driver, who yesterday claimed his second Macau victory, 13 years after his first touring car victory ever. The third place enabled Ehrlacher to move ahead of Huff in the standings, finishing runner-up, ten points behind Michelisz.
Deng Bao Wei finished 13th overall in his 109 Racing-run Audi and was awarded with the KUMHO TCR World Tour Macau TCR Asia Challenge trophy.
Michelisz said: “We had almost every scenario on paper, which doesn’t mean we were prepared for all of them. During the race, I just wanted to stay out of trouble. I’ve experienced in the past at Macau many things can happen, and all I wanted to avoid was not to finish the race. Macau is just special for me, as I won my first World Touring Car race here in 2010, and this has become one of my favourite places. And now, not only to win a race, but to also a championship here is really special.”
Vervisch said: “To be a race winner at Macau is amazing. Macau is Macau, and when you win you go straight into the museum, it’s a special place. My aim was to help Rob Huff as much as possible, but unfortunately it didn’t work. We cannot say what every plan was, but for us my target was to get the best start possible, get into the lead, because from there you can control the race - but unfortunately Rob had an issue after some contact. However, we have tried our best.”
Macau – Race 2
Picture: Macau Grand Prix