Chaos at the start; Dahlgren is sent sailing into the wall

Alain Menu has claimed victory in the first World Touring Car Championship race at Suzuka today. The Chevrolet driver won by three seconds, while behind him there was chaos on the opening lap…

The Swiss driver led home team-mate Robert Huff to claim another one-two for Chevrolet, helped by the team’s main rival, Volvo’s Robert Dahlgren, being pitched into the barriers before he even made it to the first corner.

Elsewhere in the midfield, separate accidents saw Tiago Monteiro (SUNRED) out of the race, while Tom Coronel (ROAL BMW) and WTCC debutant Hiroki Yoshimoto (SUNRED) were also sidelined. Gabriele Tarquini headed for the pits with badly flat-spotted tyres after he was also caught up in the first-lap melee.

Alain Menu claimed his third win of the season The Safety Car was called out while the mess was mopped up, and it was Menu’s team-mate Yvan Muller who was in fact the leader.

But when racing got underway, a circumspect Muller – the championship leader over his team-mates – elected not to defend his position when Menu attempted to reclaim the lead.

Muller appeared to be battling with the handling of his car, and it wasn’t long before he made a seemingly inevitable mistake when he ran wide on the tenth lap; this saw him rejoin behind Huff and SUNRED’s Michel Nykjær.

Muller brought the car home fourth, fending off the attentions of Independent Trophy points leader Kristian Poulsen (Engstler BMW).

Sixth place went to WTCC returnee Colin Turkington, who was making his second appearance in the Wiechers-Sport BMW; he was followed home by local hero Yukinori Taniguchi (Bamboo Chevrolet), who earned his best finish of the season.

The points places were completed by Mehdi Bennani (Proteam BMW), Gabriele Tarquini – who had a storming drive through the field after his pit stop – and Norbert Michelisz (Zengõ-Dension BMW).

However, Michelisz and four other drivers (Javier Villa, Aleksei Dudukalo, Pepe Oriola and Fredy Barth) were each awarded with 30-second time penalties post-race for exceeding the 90km/h prescribed speed limit for the race’s rolling start. The stewards’ decision had the biggest effect on Michelisz, who lost the Drivers’ Championship point he earned by crossing the line tenth – it instead went to Franz Engstler.

This afternoon’s second race will see Bamboo Engineering driver Darryl O’Young start from pole alongside Coronel.

 

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2011 FIA WTCC Race of Japan Final Classification (Race 1 – 25 laps):

Driver Team Result
1. Alain Menu SUI RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 25:50.919
2. Robert Huff GBR RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 3.133
3. Michel Nykjær DEN SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred + 3.766
4. Yvan Muller FRA RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 4.441
5. Kristian Poulsen DEN Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC BMW + 4.851
6. Colin Turkington GBR Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC BMW + 8.601
7. Yukinori Taniguchi JPN Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 13.472
8. Mehdi Bennani MOR Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW + 13.730
9. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred + 14.045
10. Franz Engstler DEU Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC BMW + 15.950
11. Darryl O’Young HKG Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 20.833
12. Masaki Kano JPN DeTeam KK Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 25.889
13. Toshihiro Arai JPN RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 26.767
14. Charles Ka-Ki Ng HKG Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320si BMW + 39.298
15. Norbert Michelisz* HUN Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC BMW + 44.478
16. Javier Villa García* ESP Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW + 50.554
17. Aleksei Dudukalo* RUS Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred + 1:16.031
18. Pepe Oriola* ESP SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 5 laps behind
           
  NOT CLASSIFIED        
DNF. Hiroki Yoshimoto JPN SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 11 laps
NCF. Tom Coronel NED ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW 20 laps behind
DNF. Fredy Barth SUI Swiss Racing SR León 1.6T Sunred 2 laps
DNF. Robert Dahlgren SWE Polestar Volvo C30 1.6T ‘Drive’ Volvo 0 laps
DNF. Tiago Monteiro POR SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 0 laps
DNQ. Fabio Fabiani ITA Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si BMW did not qualify
           
FASTEST LAP
  Alain Menu SUI RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 54.521

* Denotes 30-second time penalty applied post-race for exceeding the 90km/h speed limit during the race’s rolling start

[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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