Yvan Muller has had all his Christmases come at once, claiming back-to-back wins at Valencia after the BMW drivers conspired to throw away victory after Tom Coronel and hometown favourite Javier Villa collided while disputing the lead.
Muller led home another Chevrolet podium lockout from team-mates Robert Huff and Alain Menu, with the Frenchman extending his championship lead over Huff to 16 points.
Race 2 had looked certain to be a rare BMW win (for 2011, at least), although the bolts were quickly becoming undone when pole-sitter Franz Engstler almost stalled from pole position, being lucky not to get collected by Michel Nykjær, who was himself issued with a drive-through penalty for jumping the start.
Engstler’s misfortune was Coronel’s gain, with the Dutchman sprinting into an early lead from fellow BMW runners Javier Villa and Norbert Michelisz.
The German marque’s best result looked to be in hand until the trio decided to hand victory on a plate to the chasing Chevrolets.
On Lap 9, Villa sparked the melee by nudging Coronel at Turn 2 as the pair braked for the corner. To the delight of his home fans, the Spanish rookie nipped through to take the lead, but his joy would be short-lived as Coronel immediately launched a counter-attack at Turn 3.
As they raced side-by-side through Turn 3, Coronel’s car drilled Villa’s left wheel-arch, and he finished him off by punting the hapless Villa into a spin at Turn 4.
Behind them, Michelisz hesitated, sensing the opportunity to profit at low cost, but his too-cautious approach was all the invitation that Muller needed to nip through into an unlikely lead, which would go on to become one of the Frenchman’s most opportunistic wins.
But as if BMW hadn’t yet taken the hint that it wasn’t to be their day, Michelisz tried one attack on Muller on the final lap when the Frenchman’s tyres were showing their wear.
With Michelisz boxed in by Muller, Huff took the opportunity to steal second place from the Hungarian at the final corner with a lunge up the inside. Michelisz tried to switch back to reclaim the place, but applied too much power and lost the rear end of his car, lurching into a clumsy spin to hand a podium ‘bluewash’ to the Chevrolets when a grateful Menu took third place.
The result meant that Chevrolet clinched back-to-back Manufacturers’ Championship crowns, having won all but two of the eighteen races held in a truly dominant championship year.
Coronel would finish fourth on the road, but would quickly be demoted to seventh when hit with a ten-second time penalty for his shenanigans with Villa, from which each blamed the other for triggering the fracas.
This promoted Gabriele Tarquini to fourth, while Kristian Poulsen claimed his second Independent Trophy win of the day with fifth place, extending his lead over Michelisz in that title race.
2011 FIA WTCC Race of Spain Final Classification (Race 2 – 13 laps):
|1.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||23:14.296|
|2.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.434|
|3.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.143|
|4.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 2.966|
|5.||Kristian Poulsen||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 5.560|
|6.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||+ 9.201|
|7.||Tom Coronel*||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 12.184|
|8.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 15.651|
|9.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30 1.6T ‘Drive’||+ 17.952|
|10.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 19.055|
|11.||Stefano D’Aste||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 22.493|
|12.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 24.806|
|13.||David Sigacev||DeTeam KK Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 29.091|
|14.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 30.030|
|15.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 30.488|
|16.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 40.370|
|17.||Fabio Fabiani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si||+ 1:41.824|
|18.||Fredy Barth||Swiss Racing SR León 1.6T||2 laps behind|
|19.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||4 laps behind|
|DNF.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||4 laps|
|DNF.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1 lap|
|Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:44.683|
* Denotes a 10-second time penalty applied post-race for causing a collision with Javier Villa.
[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]