Chevrolet driver Alain Menu has held off persistent attacks from the BMW of Colin Turkington to claim his fifth win of the 2011 season and keep his slim championship hopes alive by finishing ahead of his team-mates Robert Huff and Yvan Muller, who completed the top-four finishers.
Huff’s third place means he trims the championship lead of Muller by a further two points.
Despite the circuit’s extremely tight first corner, the entire field managed to scramble through the first corner at the race’s rolling start, which pole-sitter Menu led from Huff and Turkington.
The tight track layout was largely suited to the BMWs – unless you were Norbert Michelisz (more on him later) – who were better able to put their power down exiting the slower corners.
And it was little surprise to see Turkington swarming all over the back of Huff in the opening laps as he set about trying to fulfil his pre-race prediction that he would win the race.
He tried a lunge on Huff during the fourth lap, but was aggressively held off by the Chevrolet driver. Ten laps later and with Huff’s tyres starting to go off, Turkington threw it up the inside at Turn 1, and gave Huff the choice of surrendering the position or some serious panel damage.
Almost instantly, Turkington closed down the gap to Menu, and the rest of the race saw an exciting battle for the lead. Ultimately, Turkington’s hopes of a final-lap pass were dashed when the pair came across the stranded Chevrolet of Yukinori Taniguchi, who crashed out on the back straight when his front suspension failed.
Huff took a comfortable third, ahead of Muller, who was the first in a sequence of drivers to overtake Norbert Michelisz, who started to rapidly tumble down the field as his rear brakes began to boil.
He lost two more places in rapid succession to Tom Coronel and Kristian Poulsen, his main rival in the Independent Trophy standings. Ultimately, the Hungarian finished a disappointing eleventh.
Mehdi Bennani (Proteam BMW) showed his morning warm-up speed was no fluke with a strong drive to finish seventh, while Tiago Monteiro was the only SUNRED driver to finish in the points, as the Spanish outfit struggled with tyre wear problems, being unable to put the power down exiting the slow corners.
2011 FIA WTCC Race of China Final Classification (Race 1 – 25 laps):
|1.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||28:05.718|
|2.||Colin Turkington||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 1.222|
|3.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 5.065|
|4.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 8.005|
|5.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 9.010|
|6.||Kristian Poulsen||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 9.921|
|7.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 15.487|
|8.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 22.630|
|9.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30 1.6T ‘Drive’||+ 26.204|
|10.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 27.118|
|11.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||+ 28.291|
|12.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 28.539|
|13.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 38.072|
|14.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 53.157|
|15.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 59.011|
|16.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||DeTeam KK Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 1:11.155|
|17.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1 lap behind|
|18.||Fabio Fabiani||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320si||1 lap behind|
|19.||Philip Ma||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si||1 lap behind|
|20.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||2 laps behind|
|21.||Fredy Barth||Swiss Racing SR León 1.6T||4 laps behind|
|NCF.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||10 laps behind|
|Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:06.333|
[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]