Norbert Michliesz eased to a lights-to-flag victory in the opening World Touring Car Cup race at Vila Real to carve into Esteban Guerrieri’s championship lead.
Michelisz’s second victory of the season and a non-score for Guerrieri now means that just 15 points separate the pair, with Guerrieri having arrived in Portugal with a 45-point margin.
From pole, Michelisz got off the line well to lead comfortably into the first corner from BRC Hyundai teammate Augusto Farfus and Cyan Racing’s Yann Ehrlacher.
Farfus’ defensive efforts allowed Michelisz to open up a four-second advantage, with the latter easily rejoining from the mandatory joker lap in the lead.
Ehrlacher leapfrogged Farfus after taking his joker a lap after the Brazilian to claim third, with Farfus just hanging onto the final step of the podium from the Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen of Rob Huff.
The tight confines of the 4.79-kilometre street circuit did not produce any repeats of last year’s crashes, with the field managing to get through the first laps unscathed.
Defending WTCR champion Gabriele Tarquini did however collect the Munnich Motorsport Honda of local driver Tiago Monteiro, putting both into the tyre barriers.
Tarquini pitted soon after and retired, while Monteiro finished a lowly 23rd, just one place ahead of Guerrieri who suffered a nightmare race.
The Argentinean only qualified 19th after struggling to find a clear track and made little progress up the field in the early laps.
He was running in the points in 13th before slowing round the back of the circuit, losing several places in the process. The Honda driver made it to the finish, but was left to rue a significantly reduced points lead.
Behind the top three finishers, Huff finished a close fourth behind Farfus, with the VW proving faster towards the end of the race.
He finished ahead of the third BRC Hyundai of Nicky Catsburg and the Comtoyou Cupra of Aurelien Panis.
Nurburgring Race two winner Johan Kristoffersson claimed seventh after electing to take his joker lap in the closing laps to edge fellow Swede Thed Bjork.
Yvan Muller made it three Cyan Racing Lynk & Cos in the top 10 with ninth place, beating Team WRT Audi’s Jean-Karl Vernay.
Team Mulsanne’s Ma Qinghua finished 14th after bogging down heavily from his fifth-place starting position. The Alfa Romeo driver was swallowed up as the lights went out, but showed plenty of pace at the end to claim two points.