Sunday, 11 March 2012

WTCC Monza Review - Chevrolet start where they left off...

Chevrolet got off to a fantastic start to the 2012 WTCC season with reigning champion Yvan Muller winning both action packed races at Moza, Italy.

After a tight battle with pole sitter Gabriele Tarquini, Muller took the lead at the end of lap 1. Independent drivers Stefano D'Aste, Franz Engstler and Tiago Monteiro had a comming together at the first corner with James Nash also picking up damage to his Ford Focus S2000 TC on his WTCC debut. Rob Huff later passed Tarquini to make it a Chevrolet 1-2 after the Italian faced engine and braking problems later on in the race. It wasn't all plain sailing for Chevrolet however with Muller surviving a trip across the grass on lap 2 and Rob Huff clashing with the third Chevrolet driver, Alain Menu, at the first Lesmo, sending the Swiss driver into the gravel allowing current STCC champion Rickard Rydell jump the pair in what is a one off appearance in the world championship. Huff  then began his recovery with the Brit passing Tom Coronel for 4th. Menu's woes continued with a spin on some oil that dropped him down to 12th. The oil that caused the spin was cleared up during a safety car period. After this, Huff made his move on Rydell for 3rd but the Swede responded and the positions were swapped before Huff finally prevailed. He then took Tarquini for a 2nd place finish.

Pepe Oriola took his first win in the Yokohama independents trophy with a 6th placed finish. Debutant Alex MacDowall had a strong showing finishing 8th (the same place where he qualified). Fellow BTCC converts Tom Chilton and James Nash faird less well in the first race for the new Global Ford Focus S2000 TC with 13th and 16th place finishes respectivley.

Race 2 was just as dramatic, before the race even strated infact! SEAT drivers Pepe Oriola and Aleksei Dudukalo suffered with mechanical issues. Oriola started from the pit lane. Dudukalo stopped on the circuit as the cars went out to the grid.

Rydell had a clear start due to the absence of Oriola's SEAT and was expected to capitalise on this advantage but instead bogged down at the start and was swamped by the works RML Chevrolets of Muller, Huff and Menu. Tom Coronel launched from the third row of the grid in the rear-wheel drive of ROAL BMW and in second by the first corner behind pole sitter, the Hungarian Norbert Michelisz another BMW. On lap 2, as they went into the first corner, Rob Huff was behind teammate Yvan Muller drafting past Menu aswell when he hit the back of Muller, with possible assistance from Gabriele Tarquini, knocking the race 1 winner into a spin. Tarquini retired with suspension damage after being caught up in the action and spinning himself.

Michelisz kept Tom Coronel at bay upfornt until the Dutchman was passed on lap 7 by Muller, who had recovered from his earlier spin to pass Bamboo Chevrolet of Alex MacDowall and the Wiechers-Sport BMW of Stefano D'Aste. Muller later took the lead into Ascari. The Hungarian rapidly lost ground after hitting a bird. becuase of this, he dropped back from the lead to finish in 8th place, still in the points.

Menu pressurised Muller towards the end of the race but was unable to stop Muller from taking the checkerd flag, what was only his second career double victory in a race weekend. Rob Huff came home third to complete a Chevrolet clean sweep of the podium. D'Aste finished 5th, 1st in the  independents' class ahead of Franz Engstler and Alex MacDowall who leads the independant standings after only his first ever WTCC weekend.

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