Sunday evening, after the races, we were left with one impression; Vila Real had delivered a great race weekend. Traditionally marking the end of the European leg of the WTCC season, Vila Real is one of the most challenging street circuits in the world and one where overtaking usually requires patience and intelligence. However this year things were shaken up and we got to witness two great races!
Let’s take a look back on the highlights of the weekend:
Not even five minutes into Free Practice 1, Tom Coronel suffered a big failure under braking for Turn 19, which would mark the end of his race weekend. The bolts had snapped on the left front wheel of his Chevrolet Cruze (The same issue as John Filippi in Marrakech 2016), which caused Coronel to go straight down an escape road and into a firetruck with an out of control Chevrolet. The front of the car incurred huge damage, including chassis damage and ROAL Motorsport decided to ship the car out to the workshop of fellow team Campos Racing in Barcelona in order to repair the car in time for the next race in Argentina in only three weeks time.
A impressive Pole lap from Michelisz
Norbi Michelisz got his second pole position of the year after an extremely impressive lap in the Q3 shootout. With a near-perfect lap of 1.55.845, he would put 2nd placed Rob Huff almost seven tenths behind him. Tiago Monteiro would miss out on an all Honda front row with a big slide into the last corner that could have proven catastrophic, but cost him 3 seconds in the end and placed him 4th on the grid. Further down the grid, John Filippi would miss out on P10 and opening race pole by a small margin of three tenths.
The Joker Lap
New for this year at Vila Real is the “Joker lap”, taken from the world of Rallycross. Situated at the last turn, the joker lap must be taken once by all drivers during the races and adds roughly 2 seconds a lap. The idea of this is to shake up strategy and the races in order to boost overtaking, which was to play out well in the races.
The first thing one will notice when coming to Vila Real is the extremely passionate fans. The grandstands are packed with fans making car-deafening noise and the podium ceremonies are filled up with joyous Portugese fans singing the name of their favourite driver Tiago Monteiro and the Portugese anthem. This is definetly one of the great races in terms of fans!
The races delivered great action and were definitely worth a watch last Sunday afternoon. Mehdi Bennani had a great start and snatched first from Ryo Michigami in the first sector before creating a gap that would deliver him the win. Tiago Monteiro would go all the way from 8th to 2nd and took the championship lead back from Nicky Catsburg. In the second race Rob Huff would stall at the start and he would be forced to climb all the way up from the back to 4th with perfect timing of his joker lap, while Norbi Michelisz led a lights-to-flag victory ahead of his teammate Tiago Monteiro in third. Volvo’s Thed Bjork came under pressure for 2nd place, but held his own and secured 2nd place on the podium and in the championship.
The WTCC circus will now head for Argentina and Termas de Rio Hondo, where in three weeks they will be racing in front of the Argentine crowd.
See you July 15-16th!
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