Honda’s Tiago Monteiro has extended his lead in the World Touring Car Championship standings with victory in the Opening Race at the Hungaroring, withstanding a threat from Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën driver Tom Chilton.
In doing so, the Portuguese driver became the season’s first multiple race-winner, with his quest to extend his points lead helped by the retirement of his closest rival, Volvo’s Thed Björk.
After being a disappointing ninth-fastest in Saturday’s qualifying session, a major points haul was on top of Monteiro’s shopping list at a track where overtaking is extremely difficult. With the top-ten qualifiers’ starting positions reversed for the Opening Race, this would present his best shot at doing so.
His cause was helped by pole-sitter John Filippi stalling his SLR Citroën as the lights went out, with the Corsican yet again throwing away a chance of a career-best result from a front-row start.
Monteiro’s passage to the lead now clear, he slotted into the lead at Turn 1 and held Chilton at bay for the race’s 12-lap duration to extend his points’ lead to 40.
Behind them, Björk came to grief with Monteiro’s Honda teammate Norbert Michelisz through the opening sequence of corners, with the pair each puncturing a tyre and opting to retire with no chance of points on offer.
The final podium position went to Münnich Motorsport driver Rob Huff, who proved that overtaking is indeed possible with a hard-fought run from ninth on the grid in his Citroën.
As a number of drivers ahead of him tripped over each other on the opening lap, Huff found himself up to fifth place and set about clearing the Campos Racing Chevrolet of Esteban Guerrieri. That task accomplished, he closed down Guerrieri’s fellow Argentinean Néstor Girolami in third.
Huff overtook the Volvo driver with a neat dummy under braking for Turn 2, giving him the outside line through the left-hander which became the inside line for the right-handed Turn 3.
Girolami fell back into the clutches of Volvo teammate Nicky Catsburg in the final laps, but had enough in hand to keep the Dutch driver behind him. Guerrieri had fallen down to sixth in his Chevrolet, while behind him was Mehdi Bennani who had climbed to seventh from fourteenth on the grid.
WTCC rookie Yann Ehrlacher put in another drive that belied his inexperience to finish in eighth place in his RC Motorsport LADA, with Tom Coronel and Aurélien Panis completing the final points’ positions.
|2017 FIA WTCC JVC Kenwood Race of Hungary – Opening Race Final Classification (12 laps)|
|1.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||22:28.644||MF|
|2.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 0.768||IND|
|3.||Rob Huff||Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée||+ 2.296||IND|
|4.||Néstor Girolami||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 4.537||MF|
|5.||Nick Catsburg||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 5.221||MF|
|6.||Esteban Guerrieri||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 10.308||IND|
|7.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 10.893||IND|
|8.||Yann Ehrlacher||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 13.183||IND|
|9.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 21.703||IND|
|10.||Aurélien Panis||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 37.886||IND|
|11.||Ryo Michigami||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 38.532||MF|
|12.||Kevin Gleason||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 38.808||IND|
|13.||Dániel Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 39.607||IND|
|14.||John Filippi*||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 1 lap||IND|
|DNF.||Norbert Michelisz||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||Collision||MF|
|DNF.||Thed Björk*||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||Collision||MF|
* Post-Race Penalties:
- John Filippi was fined €1,000 for failing to remove his car to a safe location when it experienced a terminal mechanical failure (Article 99 of the Sporting Regulations)
- Thed Björk was officially reprimanded for causing an avoidable collision with Norbert Michelisz as a result of failing to safely re-join the circuit at Turn 3 on Lap 1 (Article 87 of the Sporting Regulations).
Images via Polestar Cyan Racing