Portugal WTCR: Bjork survives three safety cars to win

Thed Bjork dominated the final Vila Real World Touring Car Cup between three safety car periods, with the last forcing most drivers to take their jokers on the final lap.

Bjork, who secured pole in Sunday morning's qualifying session after his YMR team repaired his Hyundai overnight, held his lead at the start of the race as Gabriele Tarquini jumped teammate Norbert Michelisz in their similar Hyundais.

The 2017 World Touring Car champion was 2.8 seconds clear at the end of the first lap and more than four ahead by the end of the second which, having pulled away further on lap three, allowed him to rejoin with a comfortable lead even after taking his joker lap.

That advantage was then wiped out when a safety car was called on lap five to allow Daniel Nagy's crashed Zengo Motorsport Cupra from the top of the hill in sector two.

Bjork quickly set about rebuilding his lead at end of lap six, but he did not establish as big a margin again over the remainder of the race - which was punctuated twice more by safety car periods.

The last of those - called when Gordon Shedden broke his WRT Audi RS3 LMS's driveshaft after striking a kerb - left only one racing lap, on which eight of the top 10 drivers were required to go through the joker lap.

That ensured Bjork was not troubled on his way to a second win of the season, beating Tarquini - who had Michelisz for close company -  by 3.193s.

Pepe Oriola fell just short of a third podium in as many Vila Real races in his Campos Racing Cupra, having hounded Michelisz for the majority of the race.

Fresh from his first WTCR victory in the reversed-grid race, Mato Homola was the last of the drivers to complete the joker on the final lap not to lose a position, as Frederic Vervisch (Comtoyou Racing Audi) was next up having served his joker earlier on.

Yann Ehrlacher got his Munnich Motorsport Honda out of the joker in front of the similar Boutsen Ginion car of Benjamin Lessennes, while Aurelien Panis and Jean-Karl Vernay completed the points.

Having attempted to pass Vernay on the final lap, Saturday race winner Yvan Muller missed out on 10th when he completed his joker at the finish.

Fabrizio Giovanardi had been on Muller's tail in 11th in the middle part of the race and chose to serve his joker to attempt to leapfrog his way into the points, but he hit a bollard on the joker lap lane entry in his Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo and eventually stopped at the lane's exit, which necessitated the second safety car period. 

Race 3:

1 11 SWE Thed Björk Hyundai -
2 30 ITA Gabriele Tarquini Hyundai 3.193
3 5 HUN Norbert Michelisz Hyundai 3.640
4 74 ESP Pepe Oriola Seat 4.170
5 70 SVK Mato Homola Peugeot 4.781
6 22 BEL Frederic Vervisch Audi 5.205
7 68 FRA Yann Ehrlacher Honda 5.796
8 63 BEL Benjamin Lessennes Honda 6.099
9 21 FRA Aurelien Panis Audi 6.710
10 69 FRA Jean-Karl Vernay Audi 7.216
11 48 FRA Yvan Muller Hyundai 7.534
12 13 POR Edgar Florindo Seat 8.965
13 86 ARG Esteban Guerrieri Honda 9.318
14 20 BEL Denis Dupont Audi 9.333
15 26 José Rodrigues Honda 1 lap
  27 FRA John Filippi Seat 2 laps
  52 GBR Gordon Shedden Audi 3 laps
  23 FRA Nathanaël Berthon Audi 6 laps
  88 ITA Fabrizio Giovanardi Alfa Romeo 7 laps
  8 HUN Norbert Nagy Seat 12 laps
  9 HOL Tom Coronel Honda 13 laps
  10 ITA Gianni Morbidelli Alfa Romeo  
  66 HUN Zsolt David Szabo Seat  
  7 FRA Aurélien Comte Peugeot  
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About this article
Series WTCR
Event Vila Real
Track Circuito Internacional de Vila Real
Drivers Thed Björk
Article type Race report