Following Chevrolet’s decision to withdraw from the WTCC, a deal to run a pair of Cruze cars was done at the last minute and so a 1-2 in the first race and another victory and fifth place in the second must have left team members pinching themselves as they left the Monza circuit. Tom Chilton’s first race weekend with the RML team also went like clockwork! The Castrol Honda team will also be pleased with the weekend – Gabriele Tarquini gave the Civic its first podium finish by holding off a determined charge from the SEAT of Marc Basseng to finish third in Race 2. In the Yokohama Trophy, there were wins for Alex MacDowall of bamboo-engineering and Michel Nykjær of Nika Racing – both men driving Chevrolet cars.
The reigning World Champion, Rob Huff, will be pleased just to have taken away some points from Monza after a clash on the first lap of qualifying left his SEAT León with broken suspension. Starting from the back of the grid in both races as a result, Huff carved his way through the field to finish sixth in Race 1 and tenth in Race 2. Not so fortunate were the two Lukoil LADA drivers; Aleksei Dudukalo missed his braking point in the same qualifying session and crashed into his teammate James Thompson. Although Thompson was able to go on to qualify ninth, both cars were too badly damaged to race and the team withdrew them.
The championship will resume at Marrakech, Morocco, on April 7 for rounds 3 and 4.
RACE 1 – MULLER LEADS RML 1-2
Yvan Muller completed a lights-to-flag domination of the first race of the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship season to record RML’s first victory as a non-Manufacturer Chevrolet team. Tom Chilton made it a 1-2 for the team while Alex MacDowall completed an all-Chevrolet podium in the bamboo-engineering Cruze and so took maximum Yokohama Trophy points. Behind the three, Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monterio gave the new Castrol Honda WTCC team plenty to cheer about by bringing their two Civic cars home in fourth and fifth places respectively.
Heavy rain at Monza meant the race started behind the safety car, with Muller, Chilton and MacDowall running in a Chevrolet 1-2-3 throughout the race at the head of the field. An incident on Lap 4 that saw Stefano D’Aste’s BMW collide with the barriers briefly saw the re-appearance of the safety car, while contact between the Chevrolet of James Nash and the SEAT of Tom Boardman on the penultimate lap saw the León parked up with broken suspension and so the last lap was completed under yellow flags in that sector.
One of the drives of the race came from Robert Huff. A similar incident in Qualifying to that which befell Boardman meant the reigning World Champion had to start from the back of the grid, but he steadily carved his way through the field to end up in sixth place behind the two Honda cars and so salvaged some points from the race.
RACE 2 – MULLER ENCORES FROM NYKJÆR
Yvan Muller gave the RML team the perfect start to the 2013 WTCC season when he took his second victory of the afternoon. A thrilling ten-lap race saw the lead change hands three times, with pole-sitter Darryl O’Young being overtaken by Gabriele Tarquini on the opening lap and Muller then passing the Italian driver’s Honda on Lap 4. The battle for the remaining podium places was no less exciting, with the Chevrolet of Michel Nykjær finishing second – and so claiming maximum Yokohama Trophy points – and third place only decided on the final lap; Tarquini holding off a determined charge from the SEAT of Marc Basseng and the pair crossing the finish line virtually together.
The standing start then saw Basseng almost stall the car leaving the line, allowing Targuini to nip through into second place behind O’Young as the field headed down to the first chicane. Driving around the outside of the BMW at Turn 3, Tarquini took the lead, with O’Young then being passed by Basseng, Nykjær and Muller in quick succession. Tarquini’s lead lasted until Lap 4, when Muller first passed Basseng for second place and then the Chevrolet driver snatched the lead from the Castrol Honda team Civic before Muller held on to take his second win of the day.
Behind Muller, Nykjær, Tarquini and Basseng, Muller’s teammate Tom Chilton finished fifth, ahead of Pepe Oriola, James Nash, Tiago Monteiro and Stefano D’Aste. Rob Huff once again carved his way through the field after starting from the back of the grid to score a point by finishing in tenth place.
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