Ningbo WTCR: Bjork boosts title hopes with Race 1 win
Thed Bjork boosted his World Touring Car Cup title hopes with victory in the opening race at Ningbo at the start of the series' Asia leg.
YMR Hyundai driver Bjork, the 2017 World Touring Car champion, continued his dominant start to the weekend with victory, having topped both of Friday's practice sessions and qualifying on Saturday morning.
His third win of the season, allied to muted races for the majority of the championship frontrunners, promoted Bjork to third in the championship.
Bjork did enough at the start to get his Hyundai through the Turn 1 kink and the Turn 2 left-hander ahead of fellow front row starter Frederic Vervisch, with Munnich Motorsport driver Esteban Guerrieri passing the BRC Hyundai of Norbert Michelisz for third.
Guerrieri then got his nose up the inside of Vervisch's Audi on the run to the fast Turn 12 left-hander to run second on the opening lap behind Bjork.
The Honda driver stayed with Bjork in the opening half of the race, but the Swede was gradually able to pull away and eventually won by four seconds.
Behind Guerrieri, Vervisch was also briefly passed by Michelisz on the opening lap but, after a slight bump between the two, Michelisz soon slowed and dropped outside of the top 10 before retiring to the pits.
That was Michelisz's seventh non-score of the season, dropping him to fourth in the standings, 38 points off the lead.
Comtoyou Audi driver Vervisch therefore secured third despite some pressure from the second BRC Hyundai of Gabriele Tarquini - the championship leader recovering to his original qualifying position, having been awarded a five-place grid drop for causing a collision at the previous Slovakia Ring round.
Fourth place allowed Tarquini to extend his points lead over Yvan Muller to nine - the YMR driver advancing to seventh from 13th on the grid, finishing behind the squabbling Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagens of Mehdi Bennani and Rob Huff.
Yann Ehrlacher, the best-placed Honda driver in the championship, finished one place behind his uncle Muller in his Munnich Motorsport Honda, ahead of Comtoyou Audi pair Denis Dupont and Aurelien Panis.
Two-time DTM champion Timo Scheider, making his WTCR debut, was 11th in his Munnich car and just outside the points, while fellow debutant Ma Qing Hua was 19th and last of the finishers.
WRT Audi driver Jean-Karl Vernay, who started the day fifth overall, retired on the second lap.
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