Yvan Muller has taken his third race win on the trot after his double-win at Donington Park a fortnight ago, taking out a narrow victory over Chevrolet team-mate Robert Huff in the opening race of this weekend’s round at a wet Oschersleben.
The Frenchman’s win now sees the two-time World Touring Car Champion close to within 8 points of season-long points’ leader Huff, with the pair set to battle it out once again in this afternoon’s second race, in which Muller will start from ninth on the grid.
It took a few attempts for the race to be given the green light, with the cars following front-row starter Robert Dahlgren not passing through their grid slots as dictated under the series’ rules.
On the third start attempt, the racing got underway, and Dahlgren too cautious approaching the incident-prone first corner, immediately getting swamped into the tight left-hander and dropping to fifth behind Gabriele Tarquini and Tom Coronel. Muller took the lead, while team-mate Huff followed in his wheeltracks.
Further around the circuit, Dahlgren’s promising qualifying result was quickly unravelling when he was tipped into a half-spin by Alain Menu, who took fifth place while the Swede fell to eighth.
Behind the leaders, the positions chopped and changed, with Michel Nykjær showing great pace in his SUNRED SEAT, quickly passing Menu and Coronel to move into fourth. Coronel, meanwhile, struggled with the BMW in the slippery conditions and steadily fell down the order, claiming the final point with tenth place.
Coronel only took the place courtesy of Franz Engstler, who had a disastrous first race on home soil, causing contact with Norbert Michelisz and later he caused himself to spin when he tried to pass Aleksei Dudukalo on the final lap.
Up at the front, Huff harried Muller for the opening few laps until he had a moment and ran off the circuit, losing a few seconds to Muller and nearly getting passed by Tarquini in the process. He was quickly able to stretch his legs and get back to Muller rear bumper, but he had to follow in his team-mate’s wheeltracks for the third race on the trot.
With Tarquini finishing third to complete the podium, Dahlgren staged an impressive fightback to finish fourth, running out of time to overtake the Italian for the final podium spot. Were it not for his first-lap incident and the fact that he was the only driver who could run at the same pace as the Chevrolet duo out front…
Menu was passed by Dahlgren in the latter stages of the race and finished fifth to consolidate his third place in the Drivers’ Championship standings. But the Swiss driver is rapidly losing ground on the Huff-Muller battle up front, and he’ll need to win soon to keep in the game.
He finished ahead of WTCC returnee Stefano D’Aste, who won the Independent Trophy category and took the honours as the best-placed BMW driver on a circuit that the German carmaker has almost had a mortgage on. The Italian just edged out Nykjær for the Trophy winner’s spot, with the Dane finishing in seventh place.
Rookie WTCC drivers Pepe Oriola and Aleksei Dudukalo finished eighth and ninth, although the Russian could be under the microscope after his last-corner contact with Engstler.
The second race commences at 3pm local time.
2011 FIA WTCC Race of Germany Final Classification (Race 1 – 14 laps):
|1.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||25:54.624|
|2.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.289|
|3.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 13.810|
|4.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30 1.6T ‘Drive’||+ 14.665|
|5.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 18.578|
|6.||Stefano D’Aste||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 25.058|
|7.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 33.795|
|8.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 34.362|
|9.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 43.187|
|10.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 45.665|
|11.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 46.105|
|12.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 46.328|
|13.||Kristian Poulsen||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 46.627|
|14.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 46.919|
|15.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||+ 47.560|
|16.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 55.237|
|17.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1:29.885|
|18.||Ibrahim Okyay||Borusan Otomotiv BMW 320si||+ 1:52.554|
|19.||Fabio Fabiani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si||1 lap behind|
|DNF.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||7 laps|
|NCF.||Fredy Barth||Swiss Racing SR León 1.6T||5 laps|
|Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:49.734|
[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]