Ryo Michigami made history on the legendary Macau street circuit as he became the first Japanese driver to finish on an FIA World Touring Car Championship podium.
The Japanese driver had started third on the partially-reversed Opening Race grid and held his position throughout the event, which was stopped short of its intended distance because of a multi-car incident.
The Honda Racing Team JAS driver’s result helped Honda to further close in on the lead of the Manufacturers’ Championship. Honda are 30.5 points behind and could take the top spot in Sunday’s Main Race.
Drivers’ Championship contender Norbert Michelisz started eighth and was running fifth with two laps to go when he was involved in a multi-car incident in the 6.8km Macau Guia Circuit’s twisty hillside section.
The Hungarian hit a barrier and came to a standstill; his Castrol Honda WTCC team-mate Esteban Guerrieri, who was following behind, sustaining damage of his own as Norbert’s car blocked the track.
The incident, which involved five other following cars, caused the race to be red-flagged and then abandoned. With a result declared and full points awarded, Norbert and Esteban were classified in fifth and sixth places.
Norbert is now 16.5 points away from the Drivers’ Championship lead and starts second three places ahead of his title rival in Sunday’s Main Race.
Ryo Michigami #34: « It’s a huge honour to be on the podium for the first time in the WTCC and to become the first Japanese driver to do this. I have to thank everybody for their support in helping me to get here. The race was quite tough because I was trying to see if I could make up some positions, but also aware of who was behind me, and the need to score Manufacturers’ points. I’m doubly proud because at the start of the season I wasn’t able to contribute many points for the team, but in the Asian races, things have been much better. I want to help Honda and Norbi as much as possible in the championship fight. »
Norbert Michelisz #5: « I started eighth and I was classified fifth on a track where overtaking is tough, so really it’s an OK result. The circumstances are quite frustrating though. I made a mistake, crashed and blocked the track and unfortunately the next car was Esteban, who also had some damage. I always stay a little bit away from the apex at that corner because it’s dusty, but this time I was just too close to the barrier on the inside, clipped it, broke the steering and went into the wall. I’ve scored the same points I would have done otherwise, so it’s OK. As long as the car is repairable, I will make up for it tomorrow. »
Esteban Guerrieri #86: « The result is disappointing because, despite being classified sixth, my car suffered a lot of damage in the race-stopping crash and I really hope it can be fixed. I was disappointed with my start because my practice was good and my race one was bad, so we have to investigate what went on there. That lost me some places and when I saw Norbi alongside me, there was no point to making life hard for him. I left a gap to Norbi to make sure I had some room if anything happened, but when we had the accident the track was blocked and I had nowhere to go. »
Alessandro Mariani – Team Principal: « I’m very happy for Ryo, who has not only made history as the first Japanese driver to finish on a WTCC podium, but also scored some very important points in the Manufacturers’ Championship, which is now looking like quite a close fight. He held off the WTCC Drivers’ Championship leader on true pace, which was very impressive and an indication of how his performances have improved of late. The incident that involved both Norbi and Esteban was unfortunate and has caused a lot of damage to both of their cars, which I hope we can repair for the Main Race. »
Ryuichi Furukawa – Large Project Leader WTCC Development, Honda R&D : « I am very happy for Ryo to take the first WTCC podium for a Japanese driver after an impressive performance today. To be able to achieve this with a Honda is very special for us. It’s disappointing to see the way the race turned out for Norbi and Esteban because they were driving carefully. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us to get both cars repaired and ready for the Main Race, but we will try our very best to achieve this. »
Press Release Castrol Honda,