Hyundai take first blood in TCR World Tour series
Norbert Michelisz made TCR history when he won the first-ever round of the Kumho TCR World Tour at the Autódromo do Algarve in Portimão.
He took a lights-to-flag victory from his BRC Hyundai teammate Mikel Azcona, while Rob Huff completed the podium. In TCR Europe, John Filippi took maximum points from the race, with Kobe Pauwels finishing second and Tom Coronel giving Comtoyou a clean sweep.
Pole-sitter Michelisz made a good start and led the field into Turn 1, followed closely by Azcona, Huff and Frédéric Vervisch. Behind the leaders, Yann Ehrlacher made contact with his Cyan Racing teammate Santiago Urrutia going into Turn 2, which sent the Uruguayan into the rear of Tom Coronel’s Audi, causing it to half-spin. The Dutch lost several places and dropped out of the TCR Europe lead, while Urrutia limped back to the pits and retired.
The incident meant Pauwels now led in TCR Europe, with Coronel passing Filippi for tenth place overall and P2 in TCR Europe. Lap 5 saw change in the TCR Europe lead, as Filippi passed both Coronel and Pauwels.
Much of the race was fairly processional, with no changes of position among the leaders. It did look for a time as though the final few laps would deliver some dramas, with Néstor Girolami closing up on Vervisch for P4 and Coronel threatening Pauwels for P2 in TCR Europe, but in the end neither battle delivered a change in position.
The only change in the race’s closing stages was on the last lap when Dušan Borković passed Viktor Davidovski for P4 in TCR Europe. There were no other changes and so the race result saw the top six finish in the order in which they started. Michelisz and Azcona scored a 1-2 for BRC Hyundai, while Huff and Vervisch finished third and fourth for Team Audi Sport Comtoyou and Girolami brought home the new Honda in P5 ahead of Ma Qing Hua’s Cyan Racing Lynk & Co.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to start a new era and a new season like this, so I couldn’t be more happy,” Michelisz said.
“My car was working great in Qualifying and now in the race. The start wasn’t so easy as the lights went out super-quick so I wasn’t prepared, but it seemed to take everyone else by surprise as well. In the end, I knew that if I could stay in front, then half the job was done. I took a conservative approach with the track limits and took care over the first couple of laps with the left front tyre and then when I was settled in I started to push.”
Supercheap Auto TCR Australia contender Ben Bargwanna finished a solid 17th outright and third of the rookie drivers in his TCR World Tour debut.
Race 2 is set to start at 8:15pm AEST and will be broadcast live on Stan Sport.
Portimão – Race 1 overall
1. Norbert Michelisz (BRC Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N), 12 laps
2. Mikel Azcona (BRC Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N), 0.705
3. Rob Huff (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS), 1.005
Championship points – TCR World Tour
1. N. Michelisz, 45 pts; 2. M. Azcona, 35; 3. R. Huff 30