It would seem that nothing can stop the RML Chevrolet team from its utter domination of this year’s World Touring Car Championship, the likes of which has not been seen before in the history of the championship.
Even with the all-conquering blue cars qualifying mid-grid for the second race at Donington Park, Yvan Muller was still able to charge to the front and claim back-to-back wins on the series’ first visit to the historic circuit.
The victory – Chevrolet’s thirteenth of the fourteen races held to-date this year – sees the manufacturer move to second (ahead of SEAT) on the all-time winners’ list, while a double-race victory sees Muller close up on championship leader and team-mate Robert Huff in the title race.
Starting from tenth place, Muller took advantage of the now-customary Race 2 standing start chaos to scythe his way up the order.
In dry conditions, the rear-wheel-drive BMWs quickly swamped their front-wheel-drive rivals at the start, and pole-sitter Tom Coronel shot off into a short-lived lead, followed by the other BMWs of Javier Villa, Franz Engstler and Colin Turkington.
Behind, there was mayhem. The SUNRED SEATs of Gabriele Tarquini, Tiago Monteiro and Michel Nykjær found themselves three-wide. The end result was Nykjær out in the gravel and Monteiro out with broken suspension, while Tarquini was somehow able to continue without damage or sanction.
Tarquini again found himself in – or was the cause of – much of the on-track drama. He was also involved in later incidents that saw Javier Villa pick up a puncture. Furthermore, he collided with Colin Turkington on lap 2. And as if to highlight the inconsistency of the stewards’ decision-making this season, he escaped all sanction.
On the second lap, Coronel threw away his chance of victory when he ran wide at Coppice and allowed Villa into the lead. A mistake at the same corner saw Villa surrender his lead to Engstler and Alain Menu, and shortly after he was hit by Tarquini.
Meanwhile, Muller and Huff were steadily picking their way through the order. Huff had managed to get past Darryl O’Young’s Chevrolet, and Muller tried to follow through a few corners later at Goddard’s, only to lose it under braking and tag the hometown hero, tipping the Briton into a half-spin. Incredibly – this being at least the third occasion this year where Muller has been involved in contact with his team-mates – the Frenchman would later escape serious penalty, being hit with a three-place grid drop, suspended for two races.
On the fifth lap, Muller took second from Gabriele Tarquini, and then followed suit with a pass on Engstler to again deprive BMW of its first win of the season.
Huff followed suit and finished in second place again, while Engstler survived further onslaught for a well-deserved third place, a result that puts him right back into the title hunt in the Independents’ Trophy championship standings.
Engstler’s points’ gain came at the hands of his team-mate Kristian Poulsen attempting a clumsy passing move on fellow BMW driver Norbert Michelisz. The Dane tried to pass the Hungarian at Goddard’s, but he tipped him into a spin which led to front-end contact for the pair. Poulsen met with the stewards after the race and was hit with a five-place grid drop for the next race in Germany.
Coronel and Menu would complete the top-five placings, with the Swiss driver just managing to hold off Robert Dahlgren’s Volvo, with the Swede underlining his inherent pace with another storming drive from the back of the grid. It was an outstanding result considering his woes in qualifying, but he surely could have been a threat for better results if he’d not taken such a gamble on the Saturday.
Tarquini concluded an action-packed race in seventh place, while the final championship points’ places were completed by O’Young, Mehdi Bennani and Colin Turkington.
2011 FIA WTCC Race of UK Final Classification (Race 2 – 13 laps):
|1.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||21:33.182|
|2.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.957|
|3.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 3.676|
|4.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 4.826|
|5.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 8.392|
|6.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30 1.6T ‘Drive’||+ 9.016|
|7.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 11.587|
|8.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 13.031|
|9.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 13.959|
|10.||Colin Turkington||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 14.662|
|11.||Fredy Barth||Swiss Racing SR León 1.6T||+ 19.693|
|12.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||+ 24.802|
|13.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 31.646|
|14.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 33.495|
|15.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 1:26.671|
|16.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||1 lap behind|
|17.||Kristian Poulsen||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||4 laps behind|
|DNF.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1 lap|
|DNF.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||0 laps|
|DSQ.||Fabio Fabiani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si||Disqualified|
|Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:37.993|
[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]