Castrol Honda’s Norbert Michelisz Closes on Points Lead with Macau Podium
OPENING RACE – Michigami Makes WTCC History with Macau Podium
Ryo Michigami made history on the legendary Macau street circuit as he became the first Japanese driver to finish on an FIA World Touring Car Championship podium.
The Japanese driver had started third on the partially-reversed Opening Race grid and held his position throughout the event, which was stopped short of its intended distance because of a multi-car incident.
The Honda Racing Team JAS driver’s result helped Honda to further close in on the lead of the Manufacturers’ Championship. Honda are 30.5 points behind and could take the top spot in Sunday’s Main Race.
Drivers’ Championship contender Norbert Michelisz started eighth and was running fifth with two laps to go when he was involved in a multi-car incident in the 6.8km Macau Guia Circuit’s twisty hillside section.
The Hungarian hit a barrier and came to a standstill; his Castrol Honda WTCC team-mate Esteban Guerrieri, who was following behind, sustaining damage of his own as Norbert’s car blocked the track.
The incident, which involved five other following cars, caused the race to be red-flagged and then abandoned. With a result declared and full points awarded, Norbert and Esteban were classified in fifth and sixth places.
Norbert is now 16.5 points away from the Drivers’ Championship lead and starts second – three places ahead of his title rival – in Sunday’s Main Race.
“It’s a huge honour to be on the podium for the first time in the WTCC and to become the first Japanese driver to do this. I have to thank everybody for their support in helping me to get here. The race was quite tough because I was trying to see if I could make up some positions, but also aware of who was behind me, and the need to score Manufacturers’ points. I’m doubly proud because at the start of the season I wasn’t able to contribute many points for the team, but in the Asian races, things have been much better. I want to help Honda and Norbi as much as possible in the championship fight.”
“I started eighth and I was classified fifth on a track where overtaking is tough, so really it’s an OK result. The circumstances are quite frustrating though. I made a mistake, crashed and blocked the track and unfortunately the next car was Esteban, who also had some damage. I always stay a little bit away from the apex at that corner because it’s dusty, but this time I was just too close to the barrier on the inside, clipped it, broke the steering and went into the wall. I’ve scored the same points I would have done otherwise, so it’s OK. As long as the car is repairable, I will make up for it tomorrow.”
WTCC World Touring Car Championship 2017
Round 09: Opening Race – Macau
|1||Mehdi BENNANI (Citroen C-Elysee WTCC)|
|2||Tom CORONEL (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)|
|3||Ryo MICHIGAMI (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|4||Thed BJORK (Volvo S60 WTCC)|
|5||Norbert MICHELISZ (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|6||Esteban GUERRIERI (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|15||Daniel NAGY (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|16||Zsolt DAVID SZABO (Honda Civic WTCC)|
MAIN RACE – Norbert Michelisz closed to within a handful of points of the FIA World Touring Car Championship lead with a deserved podium finish in the main race on the streets of Macau
The Hungarian started from the front row and ran second throughout the Main Race, which was held in damp conditions, to secure his sixth podium finish of the season. He is now just 6.5 points away from the head of the Drivers’ Championship with a round to go.
The result was equally important after the Castrol Honda WTCC mechanics had spent a sleepless night repairing damage sustained to the Civics of Norbert and team-mate Esteban Guerrieri.
Norbert is now just 6.5 points away from the series lead with 60 available at the season finale in Qatar in 12 days.
Having started fifth, Esteban made excellent progress to move up to third by half-distance. He finished fourth to ensure a maximum Manufacturers’ score and move Honda to within 12.5 points of the championship lead.
Following his history-making podium finish on the Saturday, Ryo Michigami was again aiming for a strong result from seventh on the grid.
Unfortunately, contact from another car on the opening lap knocked his steering out of alignment and cost him three places. A trip down the escape road mid-race dropped him to 15th by the checkered flag.
“Second place is a hugely important result for the Drivers’ Championship fight and I’m only 6.5 points behind now heading to Qatar. None of this would have been possible without the incredible job by the team. We had two cars with big damage yesterday and they worked all night, finishing at 6am. I tried to attack for the win early on because in the wet, I think I had the best package, but in the damp, I didn’t quite have the confidence to push. Esteban was a big help by getting into third place and helping me to make a safe gap, so a big thank you to him too.”
“That’s four races for me with Honda and four finishes in the top six, which I think shows good consistency. It was a lot of fun to drive in these conditions and I had great pace from my car, so I have to thank the team who stayed up all night to fix it after yesterday. I was able to move into third, but it wasn’t easy to stay there because I had to make sure not to hit Norbi, but also to hold off Tom Chilton. In the end I ran wide on the last lap and lost a podium, but it didn’t affect the Manufacturers’ Championship points, which was important. I’m very satisfied.”
Alessandro Mariani – Team Principal
“Second and fourth places are strong results and also mean we had the top two Manufacturer cars today. The team did an incredible job – beyond incredible, in fact – to do an impossible job and repair two badly-damaged cars overnight. This result is 100% for them. Looking at the bigger picture, our aim for this weekend was to continue to close the gap to the leaders of the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships and we’ve done this. I think it’s going to be a very competitive final round in Qatar.”
Ryuichi Furukawa – Large Project Leader WTCC Development, Honda R&D
“We have made up a lot of ground in the battle for the Championship today, as we did yesterday, and this is thanks to some fantastic driving by Norbi and Esteban as well as incredible teamwork by everybody in the garage to repair the heavy damage to their cars sustained yesterday. The pace was strong on-track and Esteban did a great job to take big manufacturer points.”
WTCC World Touring Car Championship 2017
Round 09: Main Race – Macau
|1||Rob HUFF (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)|
|2||Norbert MICHELISZ (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|3||Tom CHILTON (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)|
|4||Esteban GUERRIERI (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|5||Thed BJORK (Volvo S60 WTCC)|
|6||Tom CORONEL (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)|
|10||Zsolt DAVID SZABO (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|11||Daniel NAGY (Honda Civic WTCC)|
|15||Ryo MICHIGAMI (Honda Civic WTCC)|