They were treated to two close races, and if the first one was a fast procession led by the Honda trio, the second one provided plenty of action and overtaking.
Gabriele Tarquini became the first driver to win a WTCC race for three different manufacturers when his Honda Civic won the first of today’s two races at the Slovakia Ring. His win – also the first for the Castrol Honda WTCC team, and the second for the Japanese manufacturer since James Thompson won with an Accord at Imola in 2008 – follows his victories for Alfa Romeo and SEAT and formed part of an all-Honda podium; his teammate Tiago Monteiro finished second and Norbert Michelisz was third in a Zengö Motorsport Civic.
Race 2 then saw victory go to the BMW 320 TC of Tom Coronel, who became the fifth driver to win a round of this year’s WTCC. Six of the seven BMW cars competing at the Slovakia Ring were fitted with new carbon fibre doors to reduce weight and it seemed Coronel took full advantage of the change. For a while, it looked as though there would be four different manufacturers represented on today’s two race podiums, but a slight error by the reigning WTCC Champion, Rob Huff, saw his SEAT León run wide on the penultimate lap, allowing the Chevrolet Cruze of Yvan Muller to finish second with Tarquini’s Honda third.
In the Yokohama Trophy for Independent drivers, there was a win apiece for the two bamboo-engineering drivers. James Nash took maximum points in Race 1 by finishing sixth overall while Alex MacDowall claimed the category win in Race 2 when he finished eighth.
The championship will resume next weekend at Budapest’s Hungaroring for rounds 7 and 8.
RACE 1 – FIRST VICTORY FOR HONDA CIVIC
Gabriele Tarquini gave the Castrol Honda team its first WTCC win when he converted pole position into victory in Race 1 at the Slovakia Ring. In second place was Tarquini’s team-mate Tiago Monteiro, with Hungary’s Norbert Michelisz completing a Honda 1-2-3 by bringing his Zengö Motorsport Civic home in third place. James Nash finished as the leading Yokohama Trophy competitor, in sixth place overall in a bamboo-engineering Chevrolet Cruze.
The rolling start saw Tarquini, Monteiro and Michelisz head into Turn 1 in the positions in which they had qualified and that’s the way it stayed, despite challenges from Michelisz on Monteiro and fourth-placed Yvan Muller on Michelisz. Tom Coronel spent much of the race pressuring Nash and the pressure paid off on Lap 8 when the BMW finally passed the Chevrolet. A thrilling four-way scrap for tenth position saw Mehdi Bennani pass Stefano D’Aste on Lap 9, with Fredy Barth then grabbing eleventh place from D’Aste as the cars crossed the finish line side by side.
Tom Chilton’s race lasted a little over a lap, with the Chevrolet Cruze taking to the gravel trap at Turn 6. Tom Boardman also failed to finish; the STR team was anxious to understand the cause of the engine problems that had dogged the SEAT all weekend and so told Boardman to come into the pits on Lap 7.
RACE 2 – CORONEL SCORES ONE FOR BMW
After Gabriele Tarquini’s lights-to-flag victory in Race 1, this time it was the turn of Tom Coronel to accomplish the same feat. From the standing start, Coronel was first into Turn 1 and then never looked back, pulling away from the battle for second place that was being waged behind him and eventually crossing the finish line nearly three seconds clear. The Race 1 podium had been an all-Honda affair, but Race 2 saw three different manufacturers occupying the top three places; Yvan Muller finished second in a Chevrolet Cruze while Tarquini’s Honda was third. The maximum points in the Yokohama Trophy went to Alex MacDowall, who finished eighth in the bamboo-engineering Chevrolet.
When the lights went out, Michel Nykjær stalled his Chevrolet on the startline and was narrowly avoided by Fredy Barth’s BMW. With Coronel then driving an unchallenged race at the head of the field, the battle for the remainder of the podium places took centre stage; the SEAT cars of Pepe Oriola and Rob Huff both took turns at occupying second place, with mistakes by both drivers eventually allowing Muller to finish as runner-up to a clearly delighted Coronel. Tarquini followed up his Race 1 win with third place in Race 2 – results that move the Italian driver up into second place behind Muller in the Drivers’ Championship.
As if Coronel’s win wasn’t enough reason for his team to celebrate, his colleague Darryl O’Young eventually finished in tenth place, after the ROAL Motorsport team had worked long into the night repairing the extensive damage caused by his accident in Qualifying yesterday.