Norbert Michelisz braved torrential rain to take a superb FIA World Touring Car Championship victory on Honda’s home soil at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.
The victory was his third of the season and the fifth for the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team; a result that launched the Hungarian into second place in the Drivers’ Championship
Starting from pole position, Norbert led the race, which was red-flagged and declared after 10 laps due to the dangerous track conditions, from start to finish.
That result came after a bruising Opening Race in which he was spun out of a top-five position, for which his assailant was penalised with a drive-through penalty. After falling to 11th, he recovered to seventh by the chequered flag.
He has cut his deficit in half, going from 32.5 points adrift of the lead to just 16.5 behind with four races to go, while Honda has also drastically reduced the gap in the Manufacturers’ Championship to the leaders.
His new team-mate Esteban Guerrieri, who is standing in for the unavailable Tiago Monteiro, made a sensational debut to finish third in the Opening Race after being hit several times following over-aggressive behaviour by another driver.
He added fourth place with a more straightforward drive in the Main Race to complete a very successful weekend that leaves him seventh in the championship; three spots behind Tiago.
Home hero Ryo Michigami started a career-best fifth in the Main Race and battled for the position early on before a sticking brake pedal contributed to an off at Turn 9 that ended his race.
He scored a point for 10th place in the Opening Race, having been hit twice by rivals and taken off the track.
The penultimate round of the series takes place on the streets of Macau on November 16-19.
Norbert Michelisz #5 : « I’m extremely pleased to win for the third time this year and I want to thank the team massively. We were really up against it to have the cars ready for this weekend, so to win the Main Race is a great achievement. I definitely had the best car for the conditions and we’re now much closer in the Drivers’ Championship battle than 24 hours ago. I’m not happy about the result in the Opening Race though. I’d got to about fifth and felt a big hit on the rear from Nestor Girolami. I think it was an unfortunate move from his side and it put me much lower than I should have been. »
Esteban Guerrieri #86 : « I’m very happy with how my debut weekend for Honda has gone, and especially to take a podium finish after a very tough battle with Thed Bjork in the Opening Race. We had a nice battle, side-by-side, but then I got ahead of him on the outside at Turn 8, he didn’t want to lift, got on the kerb and came into me and put me at 90 degrees to the track. He said it was his mistake, but without this I could have had second place and helped the team even more. I’m happy with the performance I’ve put in this weekend and if Honda need me again in the future, I’d love to do some more with them. »
Ryo Michigami #34 : « I wanted to do my best in front of my home fans very badly and I’m satisfied with my performance. It’s the first time this season that I’ve been in the top five for virtually the whole weekend on speed and the first time I’ve had a really good battle in the wet in a WTCC car, so it’s been entertaining. Unfortunately, the results weren’t what I wanted. In Race One I was hit twice and lost ground and had a damaged car, and in Race Two I had a sticking brake pedal, which caused me to go into the gravel. I definitely have more confidence for the next two races though. »
Alessandro Mariani – Team Principal : « For the past two weeks the whole team has worked like crazy to make some updates to the cars, and it looked like we might not even be ready for the weekend. But everybody pulled together and to win with Norbi is a fantastic result for every member of our team who has worked so hard. Esteban did a fantastic job on his first weekend with us and took a very important podium despite being hit many times by Thed Bjork in the Opening Race. The target this weekend was to reduce the gap in the championship and we have done this. It’s a good way to finish a tough week. »
Ryuichi Furukawa – Large Project Leader WTCC Development, Honda R&D : « I’m very happy for the whole team, who have worked very hard for this result to produce a car that was the best for the wet conditions all weekend. All three drivers have performed very well; Norbi to win, Esteban to finish on the podium and Ryo to have his most competitive performance of his WTCC career in qualifying and the races. It’s unfortunate he didn’t get the race result he deserved, but I’m sure it will come. »
Press Release Castrol,