Motegi, FP1: Michelisz pips Catsburg
"The track was quite tricky"
Norbert Michelisz kicked off his FIA WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan with the fastest time in a wet first free practice session at Honda’s home circuit this afternoon as the FIA World Touring Car Championship visits Twin Ring Motegi for the third time this weekend.
The Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team driver topped the session for most of its 45 minutes, only for the Volvo S60 of Polestar Cyan Racing’s Nicky Catsburg to go fastest in the closing moments. But Michelisz went quicker on his final lap to stop the clocks at 2m08.363s. That left him with an advantage of 0.3s over Catsburg.
“The track was quite tricky,” said Michelisz. “I tried to slowly build confidence learning the lines and braking points, and I was quite happy. I was struggling with the car a bit, but looking at the lap times we are competitive.”
Home hero Ryo Michigami was third fastest in his Honda Civic to pay back his Honda Racing Team JAS squad for a building up a new chassis in less than 24 hours. He outpaced Briton Rob Huff, the 2012 WTCC champion, in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée WTCC.
Esteban Guerrieri made a strong start to his debut for the factory Castrol Honda squad with the fifth fastest time. The WTCC Race of China Opening Race winner has switched from Campos Racing this weekend to substitute for the injured Tiago Monteiro.
Yann Ehrlacher was sixth in his RC Motorsport entry on his first experience of Motegi, ahead of Polestar Cyan Racing’s Néstor Girolami and ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel. The Volvo of Thed Björk, the world championship leader, and Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Tom Chilton, pacesetter in the WTCC Trophy after 14 races, rounded out the top 10.
Guerrieri’s replacement at Campos, Kris Richard, was 14th fastest on his first drive in the Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1. The Swiss only found out on Tuesday that he’d be driving in Japan as a prize drive for winning the 2016 FIA European Touring Car Cup. He reported a windscreen wiper issue but otherwise impressed on his first wet-weather running for more than two years.
Following a revision to the timetable for this weekend, Free Practice 2 of WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan takes place at 08h00 local time on Sunday, with qualifying due to start at 09h40 and the Opening Race at 14h15.
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