Lopez and Muller take WTCC honours in Argentina

Track action Local hero ‘Pechito’ López re-wrote the history books when the WTCC paid its first visit to Argentina this weekend.

In 2005, Duncan Huisman became the first driver to win a WTCC round at his first attempt, but López doesn’t have anything like the experience of Huisman had in FIA Touring Car Championships and so López’s victory in Race 2 at Termas de Río Honda was truly the first WTCC win by a ‘rookie’ driver.

For a while, it looked as though Yvan Muller might score back-to-back wins, but after taking maximum points in Race 1, the RML Chevrolet driver was handed a drive-through penalty in Race 2 after making contact with Tiago Monteiro while the pair were battling for second place. Monteiro’s teammate Gabriele Tarquini gave the Castrol Honda team something to celebrate by finishing second in Race 2, while a delighted Pepe Oriola recorded a pair of podium finishes and so collected a healthy points haul from the long journey to South America.

Hugo Valente was another driver to be under investigation after an incident involving another car, but the Stewards decided a reprimand was sufficient punishment after he made contact with Darryl O’Young and so the Frenchman scored his first WTCC points by finishing in a brilliant eighth place in Race 2.

In the Championship standings, Muller now has a massive 132 point lead in the Drivers’ table ahead of Michel Nykjær, with Tarquini in third place. Nykjær has also extended his lead in the Yokohama Trophy to nine points after the two races in Argentina, ahead of the British pair of James Nash and Alex MacDowall.

The championship will resume after a one month break for rounds 17 and 18 that will take place at Sonoma, USA on September 8.

After starting from pole position, Yvan Muller took another commanding lights-to-flag victory to further extend his lead in the WTCC Drivers’ Championship. It was also yet another all-Chevrolet top three, but this time the runner-up to Muller was Pepe Oriola in the Tuenti Racing car and not Muller’s RML teammate Tom Chilton, who had to settle for third place.

Fourth-placed Gabriele Tarquini’s Honda Civic finished as the best non-Chevrolet, while ‘Pechito’ López finished in a sensational fifth position and winner of the Yokohama Trophy, delighting the local fans. This was the Argentine driver’s debut in the Wiechers-Sport BMW and, since he starts Race 2 from pole position, he must be hoping that a record-breaking rookie victory is more than possible.

Both Rob Huff and Tiago Monteiro started from the back of the grid after engine changes and both drivers carved their way through the field to record top-ten finishes. Huff’s SEAT León passed the Chevrolet of James Nash on the final lap to reward the World Champion with eighth place, while Monteiro in the Castrol Honda Civic couldn’t find a way past the bamboo-engineering car and so took the chequered flag in tenth position.

History was made at Termas de Río Hondo when the BMW 320 TC of local hero José Maria ‘Pechito’ López crossed the finish line to record the first-ever victory by a driver on his first appearance with FIA touring cars.

López, driving for the Wiechers-Sport team, started from pole position and never looked threatened; his victory was a popular one as the Argentine driver also won in the first ever WTCC event held in his home country.

Gabriele Tarquini finished second in the Castrol Honda team Civic, while Pepe Oriola finishing in third place in the Tuenti Racing Chevrolet meant there were three different manufacturers represented on the podium. Honda also had two other reasons to celebrate: Norbert Michelisz and Tiago Monteiro finished fourth and fifth respectively after a close fight between the pair right until the end of the race.

Any thoughts Yvan Muller had of a repeating his Race 1 victory evaporated on Lap 5 when there was contact between his Chevrolet and the Civic of Monteiro while the pair battled for second place. The resulting drive-through penalty saw Muller eventually finish the race in 13th place and out of the points. There was also contact between Hugo Valente’s SEAT León and the BMW of Darryl O’Young on Lap 9 that was referred to the Stewards for investigation.

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