José María López has once again triumphed on home soil at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo, although this time the Argentine was made to work hard to cross the finish line first in Sunday’s main race.
The result ended a five-race winless streak for the Citröen driver – the longest drought of his record-breaking World Touring Car Championship. Tellingly, it was his fifth race win on home soil in eight starts, and his sixth victory out of the eight main race legs held to-date in 2016.
Having climbed from last to fifth in the day’s earlier race won by fellow Citröen runner Tom Chilton, López looked set for a lights-to-flag demonstration run after claiming pole position for the day’s closing 14-lap affair.
Yet it was Honda’s Norbert Michelisz who led early on thanks to the Hungarian driver making a better start off the front row. López gave chase and ran side-by-side with Michelisz through the opening sequence of corners before the Honda driver was able to shut the door and assume the lead down the long back straight.
López had a wobble on approach to the straight and fell back into the clutches of teammate Yvan Muller, leaving Michelisz to ease clear from the squabbling Citröen drivers.
His joy would be short-lived. By the end of the first lap, López and Muller were hot on his heels and threatening to spoil the party. Michelisz successfully defended under braking at the end of the back straight for the next six laps, all but parking his Honda on the apex to back López into Muller and the rest of the chasing pack of cars.
Michelisz’s defense was getting more desperate his front tyres started to fade, and on Lap 7 he had López and Muller on either side of him on the approach to Turn 9. López snuck through into the lead, while Muller tried to capitalise at the same time that Michelisz was trying to keep the French veteran at bay. Both ran off-line and slid straight into the gravel at Turn 11, removing themselves from an exciting three-way scrap for the lead.
That promoted ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel into second place ahead of the Hondas of Rob Huff and Tiago Monteiro; Muller rejoined in fifth while Michelisz slipped back to eighth between the privateer Sébastien Loeb Racing Citröens of Mehdi Bennani and Tom Chilton.
Local driver Esteban Guerrieri had climed to sixth place in his Campos Racing Chevrolet, despite a clutch problem that gave him a sluggish start from fifth on the grid. His teammate John Filippi ran tenth.
With the battle for the lead now over, the top ten ran in that order for the remainder of the race, with López easing off in the closing stages to win with a two-second margin over Coronel.
Victory for López helped him eke out 13 points over Monteiro in their battle for the Drivers’ Championship title, with his lead over the Portuguese driver a near-insurmountable 117 points.
|2016 FIA WTCC Race of Argentina – Race 2 Final Classification (14 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||José María López||Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée||14||24:52.898|
|2.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||14||+ 2.032|
|3.||Rob Huff||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||14||+ 2.583|
|4.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||14||+ 3.956|
|5.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée||14||+ 4.305|
|6.||Esteban Guerrieri||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||14||+ 8.740|
|7.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||14||+ 9.126|
|8.||Norbert Michelisz||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||14||+ 11.649|
|9.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||14||+ 12.659|
|10.||John Filippi||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||14||+ 14.693|
|11.||James Thompson||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||14||+ 18.103|
|12.||Nick Catsburg||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||14||+ 18.523|
|13.||Gabriele Tarquini||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||14||+ 20.205|
|14.||Thed Björk||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||14||+ 20.827|
|15.||Grégoire Demoustier||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||14||+ 24.046|
|16.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||14||+ 24.931|
|17.||Dániel Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||14||+ 37.987|
|DNF.||Hugo Valente||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||8||Power Loss|
Images via FIA WTCC