Portugal WTCC: Michelisz scores first win of 2017
Honda’s Norbert Michelisz claimed his first WTCC win of the season by converting pole to victory in the main race on the streets of Vila Real in Portugal.
Michelisz was afforded a break at the start when fellow front-row starter Rob Huff stalled, allowing the Honda a clean run to the first corner as the field swallowed up the Briton's Citroen.
The leading Volvo of Thed Bjork gave chase gamely but never looked likely to challenge Michelisz’s lead, with any threat neutered when the pair both opted to serve their joker laps at the same time.
Having extended his lead to a second in the closing stages, Michelisz was able to back off in the final laps and headed Bjork for his first win since the reverse-grid race at Motegi last year.
There was no repeat of Tiago Monteiro’s main race win from 12 months earlier, but the Portuguese veteran consolidated the championship lead he reclaimed in the opening race with a second podium of the day at his home round.
Monteiro was close to two seconds behind Bjork at the finish in his Honda, but a comfortable margin clear of the second Volvo of Nicky Catsburg.
Behind Catsburg, Huff staged a remarkable recovery to fifth – a just reward for a strong opening lap and later a canny joker lap strategy.
Having briefly dropped to the back of the field, Huff quickly worked his way back through the order to run 11th by the end of the first lap.
He stayed out when first John Filippi and then Esteban Guerrieri and Yann Ehrlacher took their jokers on the third and fourth laps respectively, to serve his own on Lap 5 and jump the aforementioned trio for eighth.
His superior pace on the subsequent lap – at the time the fastest of the race – also allowed him to be ahead of Mehdi Bennani and Nestor Girolami when they served their jokers on Lap 6.
But there was further progress still to come for Huff, who hounded Sebastien Loeb Racing's Tom Chilton for fifth in the second half of the race.
Huff nudged his compatriot aside through the fast downhill section with a little more than two laps left, and made a move stick at the Turn 23 right-hander.
SLR teammates Chilton and Bennani finished in lonely sixth- and seventh-places respectively, while Campos Racing’s Guerrieri got the jump on Girolami on the final lap to claim eighth in his Chevrolet.
WTCC 2017 Vila Real
|16||Aurelien Panis||Honda||3 laps|
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