Norbert Michelisz moved into contention for the FIA World Touring Car Championship with a fifth podium finish of the year in torrential rain at Ningbo International Speedpark in China.
The Hungarian came home second in a shortened Main Race to add to an earlier fourth-placed finish; results that moved him to within two points of the Drivers’ Championship lead.
With team-mate Tiago Monteiro, who missed the event through injury just half a point away from the top spot in the title race, the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team left the brand-new circuit with two drivers in the thick of the championship battle.
Hungarian racer Norbert started the wet Opening Race from ninth spot on the reversed grid, but climbed to fourth place by the chequered flag; aided by team-mate Gabriele Tarquini, who substituted for Tiago.
With the Main Race starting behind the Safety Car, and then being abandoned after two laps, Norbert claimed the runner-up spot in the event, for which half-points were awarded due to its earlier-than-planned finish.
Gabriele, having allowed Norbert to pass him in the Opening Race, held off those behind him to claim fifth and then added fourth spot in the Main Race.
Ryo Michigami’s day began badly as he was forced to start from the back of the grid due to an engine-change penalty a legacy of his qualifying issues. But the Japanese driver kept his concentration superbly in the treacherous conditions to climb to a career-best ninth spot.
He then repeated that result in Race Two to lie 16th in the championship.
Honda hold second place in the Manufacturers’ points table, just seven points away from the lead.
Norbert Michelisz #5 : « I came here 29 points away from the championship lead and I’m leaving just two behind, so from that point of view, it’s been a successful weekend. What’s been not so good is knowing that Tiago is at home and not able to race, and I think everybody’s missed him. It’s been great having Gabriele around though and he was able to help me in Race One, which is exactly what we needed as a team. The conditions today were very tough, but not impossible, and the car worked very well. »
Gabriele Tarquini #2 : « I’m very happy with my own performance on what’s been a very difficult day in terms of the track conditions. In Race One there was a lot of water on the main straight, which led to some aquaplaning, and meant the concentration levels had to be absolutely top. I came here to help Norbi’s title push and try and protect Tiago’s position on top of the championship and I was able to do both. When Norbi came up behind me in Race One I let him pass me and then helped to give him a gap so he could maximise his result. Fifth and fourth is probably better than I expected, but I’m happy with the way things have gone. I hope now that both Norbi and Tiago can continue to push for the title in Japan. »
Ryo Michigami #34 : « Today I’ve scored the best results of my WTCC career and that makes me very happy. The conditions were pretty bad on the track, which meant that the concentration had to be one-hundred per cent, all the time, because starting from the back of the grid after the engine change, I knew there would be lots of battles. The car was much better than in qualifying with a fresh engine and I was able to pass some people and make up a lot of positions. I didn’t make any mistakes and two points finishes is the result. This gives me a lot of confidence as we prepare for my home race and also Honda’s home race at Motegi in two weeks. »
Alessandro Mariani – Team Principal : « Our aim for this weekend was to keep Tiago in the hunt for the Drivers’ Championship and put Norbi up there too and we have achieved this. I have to say a huge thank you to Gabriele for standing in for Tiago and doing a fantastic job, despite having not driven our car for nearly two years. Norbi did exactly what he needed to and Ryo had his best race day of the year. As a team we did a very good job of managing a tough weekend and that’s something everybody can be proud of. »
Ryuichi Furukawa – Large Project Leader WTCC Development, Honda R&D : « I am very happy with the results today. As soon as it was confirmed that Tiago would have to miss this event, we knew it would be very tough for the whole team, but everybody has worked very hard to make sure he is still a main contender for the championship and to put Norbi up there too. The drivers showed their skills today in very difficult track conditions and the three cars which featured some new parts since Argentina performed very well too. I’m also very pleased that Ryo scored his best WTCC result in Race One and then repeated it in Race Two. »
Press Release Castrol,