Norbert Michelisz starts TCR World Tour with Algarve victory
Norbert Michelisz was victorious in the first ever TCR World Tour race at Algarve, which was also the opening race of the TCR Europe season.
It was a one-two for the BRC Racing team in qualifying and the race, as Michelisz and Mikel Azcona locked out the front row and then maintained their positions through Saturday’s 12-lap race.
Michelisz maintained a gap of around 0.7 seconds through the race, with the Hyundai Elantra N TCR-driving pair never getting closer than 0.4s despite a few lock-ups from Michelisz, and Comtoyou Racing’s Rob Huff finished a further second behind in third place in his Audi RS 3 LMS II TCR.
Huff’s team-mate Frédéric Vervisch resisted late pressure from ALM Motorsport’s Néstor Girolami, the only Honda driver in the field, to finish fourth and there was then a big gap to Lynk & Co Cyan Racing’s Ma Qing Hua in sixth.
Two more Cyan Racing drivers filled seventh and eighth place, with Yann Ehrlacher leading Thed Björk, but the team was denied the opportunity to have all four of its cars in the top ten as Santiago Urrutia retired after just one lap.
Urrutia and Ehrlacher made contact at Turn 2 and it sent him bouncing over the kerbs and into the path of Comtoyou’s Tom Coronel, who had a half-spin but managed to keep his car going without losing too much ground. Urrutia meanwhile was too damaged to continue racing, limping his way back to the pits.
In fact, Coronel stayed in the thick of the battle to be the lead driver entered for TCR Europe points, with only team-mates Kobe Pauwels and John Filippi ahead at first. He passed Filippi, but then he got back past and on lap five moved ahead of Pauwels for ninth overall and the points for championship victory.
Pauwels did a brilliant job on his touring car racing debut to finish tenth overall ahead of Diamond Trophy winner Coronel, although the pair were put under investigation post-race for an incident.
Dušan Borković made a last-lap move on Viktor Davidovski to finish 12th, while Isaac Smith survived a three-wide moment with Viktor Andersson and Felipe Fernández, and then a later side-by-side moment with Fernández to hold on to 14th place.
Andersson got involved in several incidents, and therefore was put under investigation several times, and after starting strongly he dropped down the order before retiring at the end of lap nine.
Joining him in retirement was Mikael Karlsson, who had an early incident with startline staller Lewis Brown and made it to the last lap before retiring in the pits.
Race 2 takes place on Sunday at 11:30 local time.