The result capped of the perfect finish to what had started out as a nightmare weekend for the Swiss veteran, who had initially looked to have missed out on a berth in the all-important second qualifying session on Saturday. A post-qualifying penalty to his compatriot Fredy Barth – who was sent to the back of the grid – gave Menu a lucky break and the front-row start for the weekend’s second race, in accordance with the series’ complicated qualifying rules.
But Menu bogged it down off the standing start and this allowed Coronel to sprint into an early race lead.
But Menu fought back, passing the SEAT of Gabriele Tarquini for second place on the third lap – the Italian would then lose further places to Menu’s three Chevrolet team-mates: Robert Huff, Yvan Muller and Carlos Bueno. Tarquini would finish in sixth place, the best-placed of the SEAT drivers.
Menu then set about closing down the gap to Coronel, whom he passed on the tenth lap by outbraking the Dutchman into Turn 1. Light contact was made between the pair, forcing Coronel to run across the Turn 1 chicane – an incident that both were later happy to write off as part of racing.
Meanwhile, Muller moved ahead of Huff to assume third place, but the three-way battle between the Chevrolets for third place saw them lose ground to the lead battle between Menu and Coronel.
Coronel tried every trick at his disposal in order to force a mistake from Menu, but the veteran touring car wasn’t to be outdone and took victory by less than three-tenths of a second from Coronel, with the remaining Chevrolets following right behind.
Tiago Monteiro finished in seventh place, while WTCC debutant Javier Villa recovered from a difficult weekend to finish in eighth place and take Independent Class victory in his Proteam BMW.
Kristian Poulsen should have taken the class victory, but he was bundled out of the position after contact from fellow Dane Michel Nykjær, in an impact that saw the retirement of the SEAT driver – Poulsen would finish a frustrated 14th.
Fredy Barth then took a turn at the head of the Independents’ leaderboard in ninth place overall. This was an impressive performance from the Swiss driver given he had started at the back of the grid for his qualifying infringements, but he would crash out of the race.
Franz Engstler finished in ninth place, while Villa’s compatriot and fellow debutant, the teenage Pepe Oriola, finished tenth and in the last of the points’ positions. The Spanish youngster’s SEAT had enjoyed a fresh coat of paint after securing some new sponsorship over the weekend: most appropriately from London-based fashion retailer Pepe Jeans.
With the next championship round scheduled in late-April at Belgium’s Zolder circuit, Huff will enjoy a slender four-point lead over team-mates Menu and Muller, who are tied for second place.
2011 FIA WTCC Race of Brazil Final Classification (Race 2 – 14 laps):
|1.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||19:38.428|
|2.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 0.265|
|3.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.917|
|4.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.321|
|5.||Carlos ‘Cacá’ Bueno||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 2.409|
|6.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 4.512|
|7.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 7.810|
|8.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 16.894|
|9.||Franz Engstler||Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 17.571|
|10.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 20.361|
|11.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Chevrolet Lacetti 2.0||+ 27.978|
|12.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil-SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 31.428|
|13.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30||+ 35.296|
|14.||Kristian Poulsen||Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 35.770|
|15.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Chevrolet Lacetti 2.0||+ 36.203|
|16.||Marchy Lee Ying Kin||KK Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 39.845|
|NF.||Fredy Barth||Swiss SEAT León 2.0 TDI||7 laps|
|NC.||Fabio Fabiani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si||7 laps behind|
|NF.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||5 laps|
|NF.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||0 laps|
[Original video via FIA WTCC Media]