And the 2011 WTCC season is underway

Robert Huff has given Chevrolet the perfect start to its championship defence – and the debut of its new 1.6-litre turbo engine – by heading a team washout of the podium at the opening race of the 2011 World Touring Car Championship in Brazil.

After locking out the first three places on the grid in qualifying on Saturday, Huff ran in formation with team-mates Yvan Muller and guest driver Carlos Bueno to take an emphatic 1-2-3, heading Muller by 0.8 seconds.

Muller was unable to create an opportunity to pass his British team-mate, and so consolidated his championship defence with second place, while Bueno’s fortunes greatly improved in his second outing with the team (his first, at Brands Hatch last year, had seen him retire with a spectacular engine fire) to finish in third place, much to the delight of his home crowd who flocked to Curitiba to support him.

The battle for fourth place was probably the most interesting. Kristian Poulsen made a great getaway and briefly challenged Bueno for third place on the run into Turn 1, but as the race progressed, the Dane found himself under attack from the similar-spec BMW driven by Tom Coronel.

It took a small mistake from Poulsen – running slightly through the Esses – for Coronel to seize the initiative and take fourth.

But Poulsen wasn’t about to be undone, and he launched a counter-attack with three laps to go, diving up the inside of the ROAL Motorsport driver under braking for the Entada do Miolo corner, a long right-hander. Coronel resisted, but gave Poulsen enough room, and the pair ran side-by-side through the next sequence of corners, with Poulsen easing ahead.

Not to be outdone, Coronel retook the place from Poulsen’s Engstler BMW on the final lap to end a great wheel-to-wheel battle.

Finishing in sixth place was Alain Menu, who gained four places from his tenth-placed grid slot by using his Chevrolet’s clear performance advantage to climb up the field. He passed the SUNRED pairing of Gabriele Tarquini and Michel Nykjær at mid-distance, and had he more laps left in the race, he could well have gotten in the mix in the Coronel-Poulsen battle.

Tarquini and Nykjær – along with the rest of the six-car SEAT fleet – wouldn’t really feature and the pair finished seventh and eighth respectively, no doubt looking forward to the carmaker’s release of its own turbocharged engine to replace the turbodiesel currently in use.

Rounding out the points-finishing places were Franz Engstler and Mehdi Bennani.

The second race gets underway shortly, with Alain Menu starting his Chevrolet from pole position.

 

2011 FIA WTCC Race of Brazil Final Classification (Race 1 – 14 laps):

Driver Team Result
1. Robert Huff GBR RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 19:29.481
2. Yvan Muller FRA RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 0.873
3. Carlos ‘Cacá’ Bueno BRZ RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 3.924
4. Tom Coronel NED ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 12.714
5. Kristian Poulsen DEN Team Engstler BMW 320TC BMW + 13.004
6. Alain Menu SUI RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 13.402
7. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Lukoil-SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI SEAT + 14.214
8. Michel Nykjær DEN SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI SEAT + 14.716
9. Franz Engstler DEU Team Engstler BMW 320TC BMW + 19.100
10. Mehdi Bennani MOR Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW + 19.591
11. Tiago Monteiro POR SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI SEAT + 20.001
12. Robert Dahlgren SWE Polestar Volvo C30 Volvo + 20.343
13. Pepe Oriola ESP SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI SEAT + 25.098
14. Javier Villa García ESP Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW + 25.527
15. Fredy Barth SUI Swiss SEAT León 2.0 TDI SEAT + 28.285
16. Marchy Lee Ying Kin HKG KK Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 41.400
17. Aleksei Dudukalo RUS Lukoil-SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI SEAT + 41.820
18. Yukinori Taniguchi JPN Bamboo Chevrolet Lacetti 2.0 Chevrolet + 45.265
19. Fabio Fabiani ITA Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si BMW 1 lap behind
NF. Darryl O’Young HKG Bamboo Chevrolet Lacetti 2.0 Chevrolet 4 laps

[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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