Thed Björk emphatically claimed his second win of WTCR Race of China-Ningbo in Race 3 at Ningbo International Speedpark as the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO put on another action-packed thriller.
The Swede made it a clean sweep for the YMR Hyundai team following his victory in Race 1 on Saturday and team boss Yvan Muller’s win in the reverse-grid Race 2.
BRC Racing Team’s Gabriele Tarquini finished second to reclaim the WTCR OSCARO points lead he’d lost in Race 2, as Denis Dupont scored an emotional first podium finish in his Audi Sport Team Comtoyou Audi RS 3 LMS.
“Fantastic start, fantastic race,” said an overjoyed Björk. “It was the last race of the weekend and so I just went for it.”
Björk immediately converted his DHL Pole Position into the race lead from Tarquini as ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Esteban Guerrieri and BRC Racing Team’s Norbert Michelisz battled for third. Guerrieri made a move on Michelisz which resulted in heavy contact that damaged the Honda’s suspension, and the Argentinian was forced to retire. Michelisz continued in fourth place behind Denis Dupont’s Comtoyou Audi RS 3 LMS.
At the front, Björk opened up a healthy lead over Tarquini, who had eyes on claiming back his WTCR OSCARO points lead lost to Yvan Muller in Race 2. His cause was helped by Muller’s YMR Hyundai struggling to maintain its pace in P6. The Frenchman lost places to both Frédéric Vervisch and Nathanaël Berthon in their Comtoyou Audis on lap three.
On the following lap Jean-Karl Vernay’s Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team entry made a move on Muller at the chicane that ended in a collision. Vernay dropped down the order as Muller maintained his eighth position – but not for long. The Hyundai was forced to retire with a front right puncture on lap seven, Muller reporting a “big hit” on the first lap that might have contributed..
Thenthe race was temporarily halted for safety reasons to allow track officials to rectify a kerbing issue on lap nine. Officials placed a tyre stack on the inside of the circuit to allow racing to resume.
Back on the grid, the YMR mechanics set to work on Björk’s car to repair a problem on the front axle in time for the restart.
The problem didn’t divert Björk from his task in hand. “During the red flag I was relaxed,” he said. “I was just thinking about my family. They were more nervous than me!”
At the restart on lap 10 he was never under threat and completed the 17 laps with a gap of 1.928s over Tarquini.
Dupont was delighted with P3, his best finish in WTCR OSCARO so far, while Comtoyou team-mate Frédéric Vervisch also put in a strong performance to take P4.
Vervisch was P6 at the restart, but quickly began to pile pressure on Rob Huff’s Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR ahead of him. He made a move stick on lap 13 as Nathanaël Berthon, Pepe Oriola and Aurélien Panis joined the fight to briefly form a thrilling five-car train.
Vervisch then stretched away and caught Norbert Michelisz running in fourth. The BRC Racing Team Hyundai was struggling to maintain his pace and the Audi driver was able to pass him on the final lap. Michelisz hung on to finish in P5 ahead of Huff, Oriola, Berthon and Panis – making it four Comtoyou Audis in the top nine positions. Mehdi Bennani’s Volkswagen Golf rounded out the top 10.
WTCR OSCARO debutant Timo Scheider once again just missed out on points, repeating his P11 finish from Race 1 in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR. Vernay recovered to P12 following his clash with Muller, ahead of team-mate Gordon Shedden.
Kevin Occon was P14 in his Mulsanne Srl Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR, as team-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi hit trouble and retired before the red flag interruption. Zengő Motorsport’s Norbert Nagy was next up, ahead of DG Sport Compétition’s Aurélien Comte in his PEUGEOT 308TCR.
Boutsen Ginion Racing’s Ma Qing Hua failed to take the start in his Honda because of a turbo problem following his clash with ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Yann Ehrlacher in Race 2. Ehrlacher started his repaired Honda from the pitlane but could only finish in P19.
Via FIA WTCR