Malaysia, Race 3: Kristoffersson takes victory as Michelisz claims title
A dramatic finale for the 2019 WTCR season
Johan Kristoffersson pulled off an incredible win from P22 on the grid in Race 3 at WTCR Race of Malaysia as Norbert Michelisz clinched the 2019 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup title during a thrilling Sepang super-finale.
SLR Volkswagen driver Kristoffersson prevailed after a jaw-dropping four-way fight for the win, which eventually cost Esteban Guerrieri his shot at the WTCR title. Over the opening laps, the destiny of the title swung between Guerrieri and Michelisz almost by the corner, only for the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda to lose power with a suspected blocked radiator after contact with Azcona forced a trip across the grass.
From the beginning, the two title protagonists were locked in a duel as they started from the front row of the grid. Michelisz, starting from the Pole Position, just lost out at Turn 1 as Guerrieri swept around the outside line, pulling PWR Racing’s Mikel Azcona with him into second as the evening drama played out on a wet track under floodlights.
The trio were soon joined by the remarkable Kristoffersson who seemingly came from nowhere to make it a four-way battle and demote Michelisz another place, only for the safety car to be called upon on lap two as Augusto Farfus beached his Hyundai in the gravel.
Racing resumed on lap five as the top four put on an unforgettable spectacle. The key moment was a duel between Guerrieri and Azcona, who tapped the Argentinian. The contact forced the Honda to briefly take to the grass – then Guerrieri reported he was “losing power”. Heartbreakingly, he dropped down the order, only to set the fastest lap of the race once the blockage had cleared. He finished in P22.
Guerrieri’s loss meant Michelisz was safe to claim his WTCR crown and he dropped to fifth. Ahead of him Kristoffersson and Azcona were joined by the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR of Team Mulsanne’s Kevin Ceccon for a new three-way fight.
Following another brief safety car interruption, the trio scrapped corner by corner until Kristoffersson took a decisive lead from Azcona with an inspired outside pass at the last corner on lap 11. Azcona chased him all the way to the chequered flag on lap 14, with Ceccon completing the podium ahead of Comtoyou Team Audi Sport’s Frédéric Vervisch and a relieved Michelisz.
His BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse team-mate and 2018 title winner Gabriele Tarquini finished sixth, ahead of Guerrieri’s team-mate Néstor Girolami, KCMG’s Tiago Monteiro and Cyan Racing Lynk & Co’s Thed Björk. SLR Volkswagen’s Benjamin Leuchter completed the top 10. Rob Huff, Jean-Karl Vernay, Yvan Muller, Andy Priaulx and Daniel Haglöf were next with Malaysian MotoGP star Hafizh Syahrin P16 on his first international car race.
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