Drivers took the alternative route in both the Opening Race and Main Race in Vila Real as part of a pioneering plan to spice up the action on a street circuit where overtaking isn’t always possible.
Tiago Monteiro, who moved back into the world championship lead with a brace of podiums at his home event for the factory Honda team – much to the delight of the thousands of passionate Portuguese fans – said: “Two podiums on a track where it’s hard to overtake wouldn’t have been possible without the ‘joker’ lap. It was a good success and congratulations to the organisers, Eurosport Events and François Ribeiro. To have put this altogether in such a short amount of time was not easy but, in the end, the result paid off and it could be interesting for the future.”
Monteiro came from seventh to second in the Opening Race before taking third in the Main Race to reclaim the title initiative over new second-placed contender Thed Björk, the Polestar Cyan Racing driver also taking two podiums in his Volvo S60.
Bennani was also on fighting form for Sébastien Loeb Racing with his second victory of 2017 in the Opening Race, while Michelisz celebrated his first win of the campaign, converting his second consecutive DHL pole position into the top step of the podium.
Tom Chilton was twice in the top six but couldn’t resist fellow Citroën privateer Rob Huff, who fought back from last to fifth in the Main Race with a storming drive for ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport. His lap record-breaking effort earned him the TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy. Along with this WTCC Trophy success, the award went some way to cancelling out the disappointment of stalling on the front row of the grid. Nicky Catsburg led the standings heading to Portugal for Polestar Cyan Racing but has slipped to third, 10 points behind Monteiro after finishing fourth and fifth in the two races. Vila Real resident Manuel Fernandes was twice a finisher on his WTCC debut with RC Motorsport, while Japan’s Ryo Michigami started the Opening Race from pole in his works Civic but was ultimately denied a strong finish when he picked up a puncture in the closing stages.