While Sunday’s two World Touring Car Championship races at the Hungaroring won’t go down in the annals as edge-of-the-seat thrillers, the championship’s third round highlighted two points: reigning champion Yvan Muller remains a force to be reckoned with, and the Citroën Racing team can actually be beaten.
Muller claimed a lights-to-flag victory in Race 1 to move to second in the Drivers’ Championship standings behind teammate José Maríá López, while series returnee Gianni Morbidelli enjoyed one of his greatest touring car triumphs with victory in Race 2 to end the French carmaker’s run of five successive wins
Race 1: Muller beats López to victory
Race 1 saw Muller and López convert their front row grid positions into a formation 1-2 by Turn 1, but the same fate was not enjoyed by their teammate and third-fastest qualifier, Sébastien Loeb, who had an awful start and fell to seventh. The nine-time rally champion was gobbled up by the chasing Honda quartet of Tiago Monteiro, Gabriele Tarquini, Mehdi Bennani and a fast-starting Norbert Michelisz, who delighted his home fans by vaulting up to sixth from eleventh on the grid.
The top-seven ran in that formation for the rest of the race, with the series’ increased aerodynamic regulations ensuring that the cars simply had too much downforce around the twisty circuit to make any overtaking opportunities possible.
While Monteiro was able to briefly run with the leading Citroëns, his pace faded along with his Honda’s tyres and he finishes almost nine seconds adrift. Teammate Tarquini kept Bennani at bay, while Michelisz kept a frustrated Loeb behind him.
There were some battles further down the order. After missing out on the previous round in France, Tom Coronel was determined to get his first points’ finish and did so with an eighth-placed effort to lead the Chevrolet charge. He was briefly threatened by ROAL teammate Tom Chilton, but the Brit was hauled into the pits under instructions from race control after one of his bonnet catches worked itself loose.
That left the Dutchman to finish a lonely eighth, while Gianni Morbidelli headed the remaining train of TC1 runners in ninth, with Hugo Valente rounding out the points-paying positions in tenth, finally coming out on top in a race-long battle with the LADAs of Rob Huff and James Thompson, as well as the Chevrolet of Dušan Borković.
The battle for TC2T class honours was an entertaining inter-team scrap between the Liqui Moly BMW teammates of Franz Engstler and Pasquale di Sabatino. Having passed di Sabatino at the start, Engstler looked set to claim his fifth class win on the trot, only to find himself mugged by the Italian at Turn 12 when he lost his advantage with a mistake earlier in the lap.
2014 FIA WTCC Race of Hungary – Race 1 Classification (14 laps):
|1.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||25:57.292||TC1|
|2.||José María López||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 1.282||TC1|
|3.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 8.961||TC1|
|4.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 13.980||TC1|
|5.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||+ 14.747||TC1|
|6.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 16.672||TC1|
|7.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 17.475||TC1|
|8.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 22.863||TC1|
|9.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 27.891||TC1|
|10.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 36.287||TC1|
|11.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 42.968||TC1|
|12.||Dušan Borković||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 43.715||TC1|
|13.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 48.481||TC1|
|14.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 55.861||TC1|
|15.||Pasquale di Sabatino||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:23.040||TC2|
|16.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:23.757||TC2|
|17.||John Filippi||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:48.371||TC2|
|18.||Yukinori Taniguchi||NIKA Racing Honda Civic S2000 TC||+ 1:48.877||TC2|
|19.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 1 lap||TC1|
|DNF.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||4 laps||TC1|
Race 2: Morbidelli breaks Citroën’s stranglehold
Race 2 finally saw Citroën’s run of victories come to an end, with series returnee Gianni Morbidelli giving the Münnich Motorsport team victory exactly a year on from its first triumph – although that was with a SEAT piloted by Rob Huff – as well as the first win for the new RML-built Chevrolet Cruze.
With the top-ten qualifiers’ grid positions reversed, the Citroëns (starting in P8-P10) were perhaps going to struggle to make much headway if Race 1 was anything to go by.
It was undoubtedly the best opportunity that the non-Citroën runners have had to claim victory to-date in 2014, and Morbidelli duly capitalised from his front-row starting position. The Italian touring car veteran outdragged pole-sitter Hugo Valente off the line to lead into Turn 1, while a fast-starting Tiago Monteiro leapt from seventh to second as Valente slipped to third.
Tom Coronel kept the fast-starting Citroëns at bay as he slotted into fourth, with Yvan Muller and José María López right behind in fifth and sixth.
With overtaking opportunities proving extremely difficult once again, Morbidelli was shadowed throughout a tense race by Monteiro and Valente. Monteiro was quicker through the twisty part of the lap, but the wily Italian made sure he had the traction when it counted. Lap after lap he delivered a perfect exit from the final corner, keeping just enough of a gap down the short start/finish straight to thwart any threat of an attack from Monteiro.
The only moment of drama came on the final lap when Monteiro tapped Morbidelli into a slide through the Turn 5/6 chicane, but the Chevrolet stayed straight and denied the Honda the bragging rights of the first non-Citroën win of the season.
Likewise, Coronel found himself resisting immense pressure from the clearly faster Muller and López. Muller head several runs on the Dutchman at Turn 1, but was unable to make the move stick. He came under pressure from López in the final laps, but the pair crossed the line in the same Lap 1 order.
Tom Chilton finished seventh despite a broken front damper, while Gabriele Tarquini kept the third Citroën of Sébastien Loeb and fan favourite Norbert Michelisz at bay to complete the top-ten.
2014 FIA WTCC Race of Hungary – Race 2 Classification (14 laps):
|1.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||26:15.851||TC1|
|2.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 0.350||TC1|
|3.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 1.206||TC1|
|4.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 5.104||TC1|
|5.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 5.435||TC1|
|6.||José María López||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 5.605||TC1|
|7.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 6.306||TC1|
|8.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 7.828||TC1|
|9.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 8.308||TC1|
|10.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 8.842||TC1|
|11.||Dušan Borković||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 11.724||TC1|
|12.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 21.487||TC1|
|13.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 23.210||TC1|
|14.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 26.391||TC1|
|15.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 55.381||TC2|
|16.||Pasquale di Sabatino||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 59.926||TC2|
|17.||John Filippi||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:19.313||TC2|
|18.||Yukinori Taniguchi||NIKA Racing Honda Civic S2000 TC||+ 2 laps||TC2|
|DNF.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||3 laps||TC1|
|DNS.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||TC1|
Images via FIA WTCC Media