A win in the opening World Touring Car Championship race at Porto has helped Alain Menu close the points gap to team-mate and championship leader Robert Huff, after the Swiss driver took a lights-to-flag victory as the RML Chevrolet squad locked out the podium.
The veteran Menu finished ahead of defending champion Yvan Muller and team-mate Huff in a formation finish for the all-conquering Chevrolet Cruze.
At the rolling start that greeted today’s first of two eleven-lap races, Menu led from the off with his team-mates behind, but Huff momentarily came under pressure when tapped by Gabriele Tarquini on the opening lap.
Tarquini’s contact allowed his fellow SEAT runner (and hometown hero) Tiago Monteiro to nip through for fourth place.
The opening lap also saw a collision between the SEATs of Fredy Barth and Aleksei Dudukalo. Barth appeared to be tapped into a spin by Javier Villa’s BMW, only to be collected by an unsighted Dudukalo, who was out on the spot. Barth managed to limp back to the pits for repairs.
The Barth-Villa incident was under investigation by the stewards, but Villa succeeded in avoiding a pit-lane penalty when he crashed out of the race on lap 7 as he tried to chase down Kristian Poulsen. The Spanish rookie hit the barriers at the Turn 7 chicane.
Behind the top-five, Tom Coronel finished as the best-placed BMW, while Robert Dahlgren finished seventh in his Volvo C30. The top-ten was completed by Norbert Michelisz – winner of the Independents’ Trophy category in this race – Michel Nykjær and Stefano D’Aste, in a race was not surprisingly devoid of any real overtaking.
D’Aste will start this afternoon’s race from pole position, and the Italian will be hoping he can take a fairytale victory on his return to the championship.
2011 FIA WTCC Race of Portugal Final Classification (Race 1 – 11 laps):
|1.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 11.697|
|2.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.262|
|3.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.519|
|4.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 5.710|
|5.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 10.457|
|6.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 12.237|
|7.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30 1.6T ‘Drive’||+ 16.693|
|8.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||+ 17.256|
|9.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 17.724|
|10.||Stefano D’Aste||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 18.232|
|12.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 20.360|
|13.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 25.778|
|14.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 27.343|
|15.||Kristian Poulsen*||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 48.801|
|16.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 55.046|
|17.||Mehdi Bennani**||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 56.084|
|NF.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||6 laps|
|NC.||Fredy Barth||Swiss Racing SR León 1.6T||3 laps|
|NF.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil-SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||0 laps|
|Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||2:06.815|
* Denotes a 30-second penalty applied post-race for cutting a chicane and failing to redress the advantage gained.
** Denotes a 30-second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision
[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]