Huff and Muller battled it out for the lead at Macau

Robert Huff has kept his World Touring Car Championship title hopes alive by winning an incident-filled first race at Macau, fending off repeated attacks from Chevrolet team-mate and championship rival Yvan Muller.

The first attempt at the rolling start was aborted when most of the field failed to line up in correct formation, but the second attempt saw Muller push ahead as the pack funnelled along the three straights making up the opening sequence of the lap.

But that was as much as the Frenchman would lead, for Huff reclaimed top position around the outside of the Mandarin right-hander to edge ahead.

Behind them there was chaos. SUNRED driver André Couto seemed to lose the back end of his car as the pack swept into the fast sweeper. The Macanese driver had a massive tank-slapper and collected the hapless Chevrolet of Alain Menu, making the second time that the pair has collided this weekend.

The safety car was called to slow the field while the mess was cleaned up, and racing got underway on the fifth lap, although the action would only last as far as the Lisboa corner before a full-course caution was called again.

This time is was triggered by Darryl O’Young (Bamboo Chevrolet), who was trying to defend his place from Mehdi Bennani (Proteam BMW). The pair made light contact at the apex, and O’Young foolishly tried to close the door on the Moroccan as they exited the corner. The Hong Kong driver was pitched nose-first into the wall, while Bennani was able to rejoin and finish in ninth place.

The second restart came with just four laps to go, and Huff had to keep his wits about him trying to keep Muller at bay. On each lap, Muller swarmed all over his team-mate on the long run into Lisboa, but he couldn’t find a way by as Huff gamely defended his position to the chequered flag.

Gabriele Tarquini took a comfortable third in his SUNRED, while Tom Coronel finished fourth in his ROAL BMW.

Fifth place went to Michel Nykjær, who took his SUNRED to an Independent class win ahead of the Engstler BMW pairing of Franz Engstler and Kristian Poulsen, whose third place in the class was enough to ensure he would claim his first Independent Trophy title with a race to spare.

The field (or at least, those without massive panel damage) will quickly regroup for the afternoon’s second race, with Huff now just 13 points adrift of Muller with a maximum of 25 points available.

Starting the second race from third place behind Engstler and Nykjær, Huff effectively needs to win and hope that Muller (who provisionally starts from eighth) finishes fifth or lower in order for him to claim the championship.

 

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2011 FIA WTCC Race of Macau Final Classification (Race 1 – 11 laps):

Driver Team Result
1. Robert Huff GBR RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 35:01.903
2. Yvan Muller FRA RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 1.016
3. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred + 6.666
4. Tom Coronel NED ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 8.239
5. Michel Nykjær DEN SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred + 10.778
6. Franz Engstler DEU Team Engstler BMW 320TC BMW + 11.165
7. Kristian Poulsen DEN Team Engstler BMW 320TC BMW + 11.860
8. Norbert Michelisz HUN Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC BMW + 12.049
9. Mehdi Bennani MOR Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW + 14.149
10. Pepe Oriola ESP SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred + 16.940
11. Javier Villa García ESP Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW + 17.136
12. Tiago Monteiro POR SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred + 21.775
13. Charles Ka-Ki Ng HKG DeTeam KK BMW 320TC BMW + 41.256
14. Jo Merszei MAC Team Engstler BMW 320si BMW + 46.447
15. Filipe de Souza MAC Corsa Motorsport Chevrolet Lacetti BMW 2 laps behind
16. Gary Kwok CDN Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC BMW 3 laps behind
           
  NOT CLASSIFIED        
DNF. Aleksei Dudukalo RUS Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 7 laps
DNF. Philip Ma HKG Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si BMW 7 laps
DNF. Mak Ka Lok MAC RPM Racing Team BMW 320si BMW 7 laps
DNF. Darryl O’Young HKG Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 4 laps
DNF. André Couto MAC Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T Sunred 1 lap
DNF. Alain Menu SUI RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1 lap
DNS. Kuok Io Keong MAC Corsa Motorsport Chevrolet Lacetti BMW did not start
DNS. Robert Dahlgren SWE Polestar Volvo C30 ‘Drive’ Volvo Injured
DNS. Fredy Barth SUI Swiss SR León 1.6T Sunred Injured

[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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