|WTCC JACKPOT IN MACAU: HUFF WINS, MICHELISZ SETS UP QATAR TITLE SHOWDOWN|
MAIN RACE REPORT: FIA WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Macau, Suncity Group Macau Guia Race
*Huff claims record-breaking ninth Macau victory to become winner number 10 of 2017
Briton Rob Huff made history by winning for a record-breaking ninth time around the Guia street track as he dominated a wet Main Race at FIA WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Macau while Norbert Michelisz cut Thed Björk’s title lead to 6.5 points with two races left in Qatar next month.
Huff, the 2012 world champion and ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport driver, kept his head in difficult conditions on the famous 6.120-kilometre circuit to claim his first FIA World Touring Car Championship victory since April 2016 and become WTCC race winner number 10 of 2017.
“Absolutely amazing!” said Huff, whose Citroën C-Elysée had been severely damaged in the incident that had stopped the Opening Race on Saturday. “All credit to the team. They did an unbelievable job to rebuild the car last night. At midnight I didn’t think I had a car for today.”
Sunday morning’s finale started behind the Volvo V60 Polestar safety car after overnight rain led to Macau’s first wet WTCC race, and DHL Pole Position sitter Huff was cautious as racing began on lap three. “For the first lap or two I was really careful on the brakes into Lisboa, which allowed [Norbert] Michelisz to catch up, but the car was awesome,” he said after breaking the record with nine Macau wins, a standard he shared with motorbike racer Michael Rutter prior to the start.
Once he got into his stride, Huff opened up a cushion to Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team driver Norbert Michelisz to win by an impressive 8.142s. The victory was his 29th in the WTCC and puts him equal second in the series’ history books with fellow world champion José María López. It also marks German team ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s first WTCC since May 2014.
While Michelisz’s second place allowed him to close the points gap to fifth-placed Björk, the Hungarian was made to sweat for his result. Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Tom Chilton, who started third on the grid, pushed Michelisz hard for the place in the early stages, until factory Honda driver Esteban Guerrieri drafted past the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC on the run to the fast Mandarin right-hander on lap nine when Chilton lost vital grip going off line after a failed pass on Michelisz. Guerrieri looked set to protect his team-mate’s second place all the way to the chequered flag only to make a mistake on the last lap and run wide, allowing Chilton to pounce and reclaim his first Macau podium, crossing the line right behind Michelisz.
Championship leader Björk finished a distant fifth in his Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60, with Macau veteran Tom Coronel following up his second place in the Opening Race to come home sixth in his ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1.
Reverse-grid Opening Race winner Mehdi Bennani was seventh this time for Sébastien Loeb Racing and drops half a point behind Chilton at the top of the WTCC Trophy ranking. The Moroccan finished ahead of RC Motorsport’s Kevin Gleason in eighth and Néstor Girolami (Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo) in ninth. Zsolt Dávid Szabó’s Zengő Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC rounded out the top 10 to score his first world championship point having turned 22 on Thursday.
His team-mate Dániel Nagy finished P11 while Ma Qing Hua set the fastest lap in P12 as he recovered lost ground for serving a drive-through penalty, handed out after he erroneously overtook Mak Ka Lok before the safety car period had finished. Nicky Catsburg had been in the top 10 but fell back to a distant P13 following contact with team-mate Girolami braking for Lisboa. Yann Ehrlacher, Ryo Michigami, John Filippi and Mak completed the finishers. Po Wah Wong was a non-starter for Campos Racing.
WTCC Race of Qatar, the final event of the 2017 season, takes place at the Losail International Circuit from 30 November-1 December when the FIA World Touring Car Championship for Drivers and Manufacturers, plus the WTCC Trophy will be decided. With 60 points up for grabs, seven drivers are still in mathematical contention for the coveted world title.
RACE WINNER QUOTES (full transcript at http://media.fiawtcc.com)
WTCC MAC3 REFRESHER