Stefano D’Aste has claimed a lights-to-flag win in today’s final World Touring Car Championship race at Suzuka’s East Circuit, leading home a closely-fought race that saw the first nine finishers covered by just over seven seconds.
It was the flamboyant Italian’s second victory of the 2012 season, coming in the wake of his spectacular maiden WTCC win, which came about on the final lap of a thrilling reverse-grid race at the Salzburgring earlier in the year.
This time, D’Aste didn’t have to rely on the misfortune of others to claim victory. He blasted away from the grid to head the field around the opening lap, and it the closest he came to losing the lead was courtesy of a minor error on the fifth lap that allowed the chasing Pepe Oriola to get a tow down the start/finish straight.
D’Aste proved resolute in his defence of his lead, steering blocking the Spanish teenager’s attack with a defensive line down alongside the pit wall. On a circuit where overtaking proved very scarce, it was as close as anyone would get to him for the 26-lap race.
His passage to victory was made easier – in part – by the misfortune that befell the race’s only other realistic winner, Tom Coronel. Starting from the second row’s last year’s reverse-grid winner bogged his BMW down off the line and tumbled to the rear of the field by the first corner. He could only recover to finish a distant 15th.
Fellow BMW runner and Independent Trophy leader Norbert Michelisz had a nightmare weekend at Suzuka. After failing to finish well in Race 1, his misery was compounded when he was punted into an instant retirement in the gravel by Tiago Monteiro on the opening lap.
At the front of the field, Oriola had his own troubles to contend with, which came in the form of former WTCC title-holder Gabriele Tarquini, who swarmed all over the rear of the Spaniard’s sister SEAT for much of the race.
Despite his experience, Tarquini couldn’t find a way past Oriola, and although he momentarily made contact with Oriola on Lap 18 – which proved enough to give him a momentary dose of opposite lock as he fought to correct the slide – he had to settle for third place.
Positions for through six were occupied by the factory Chevrolets of Rob Huff, Race 1 winner Alain Menu and reigning champion Yvan Muller, who ran nose-to-tail for almost the entire race. No doubt much to Muller’s chagrin, his progress was hurt by Menu getting ahead of him at the start, and for the second race in succession, he was unable to get by his Swiss team-mate.
The result ensures that, incredibly, Muller and Huff leave this event as they arrived at it: as joint leaders of the Drivers’ Championship – courtesy of his Race 1 win, Menu has closed the gap to the pair to 38 points with four races remaining.
The three Chevrolets progress through the field was slow, and they were held up for a lengthy period by Mehdi Bennani, who showed a more circumspect style of driving after his Race 1 collision with Aleksei Dudukalo. The Moroccan drove well to keep the three works car behind his BMW for lap after lap, only for his tyres to fade in the closing stages as he slipped to seventh place.
Dudukalo claimed more points with an eighth-placed finish, holding off the attentions of Race 1’s Independent Trophy winner Alex MacDowell for much of the race.
Tiago Monteiro again claimed the final points-paying position with a run to tenth place in his JAS Honda Civic, an excellent end to the Japanese carmaker’s works’ debut in the WTCC.
2012 FIA WTCC Race of Japan – Race 2 Final Classification (26 laps):
|1.||Stefano D’Aste||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||26 laps||Y|
|2.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 2.562||Y|
|3.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 2.845|
|4.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 3.774|
|5.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 4.220|
|6.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 4.568|
|7.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing BMW 320TC||+ 4.879||Y|
|8.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 7.174||Y|
|9.||Alex MacDowell||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 7.707||Y|
|10.||Tiago Monteiro||JAS Honda Civic S2000 TC||+ 10.583|
|11.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 11.997||Y|
|12.||Tom Boardman||Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 18.156||Y|
|13.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 18.945||Y|
|14.||Alberto Cerqui||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 19.154||Y|
|15.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 19.492|
|16.||James Nash||Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC||+ 25.856|
|17.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 25.857||Y|
|18.||Tom Chilton||Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC||+ 26.142|
|19.||Hiroki Yoshimoto||Tuenti Racing SR León 1.6T||+ 34.762||Y|
|20.||René Münnich||Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 35.074||Y|
|21.||Masaki Kano||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320si||+ 40.576||Y|
|NF.||Fernando Monje||SUNRED Engineering SEAT León WTCC||18 laps||Y|
|NF.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport BMW 320TC||0 laps||Y|