After particularly poor rounds in Brno and Oschersleben, defending WTCC champion Gabriele Tarquini has reignited his campaign for back-to-back titles with a lights-to-flag victory in the opening race of the championship round at Valencia. It was his fifth race victory of the season.
The 2009 champion had lost a crucial margin in the championship race to Yvan Muller over the last two events, but somewhat stopped the points haemorrhage with an all-important win, although Muller would minimise the points damage by finishing in second place after the place was surrendered by Chevrolet team-mate Robert Huff early in the race.
The two Chevrolets would tail Tarquini home, with SEAT’s Jordi Gené capturing his best result of the season with fourth place, successfully fending off the advances of a hard-charging Andy Priaulx, with the BMW driver putting in one of his customary charges through the field after a poor qualifying performance where he lined up ninth on the grid.
The Guernseyman climbed from ninth to seventh on the opening lap, and then into sixth place as he passed Tiago Monteiro along the back straight.
He – along with several other drivers – was promoted one place further as Alain Menu split a 2-3-4 result for Chevrolet by dropping down the order to claim pole position for the afternoon’s partially-reversed-grid race. It was second time that Menu had attempted this stunt (having first tried the move in the opening race at Brands Hatch), and the Stewards again took a dim view of this by imposing a €5,000 fine for his troubles.
With the top-eight runners’ finishing order reversed for the second race, Fredy Barth will start alongside Menu on the front row, having survived a contentious scrap with Augusto Farfus. The Swiss driver had initially been overtaken by the Brazilian on the inside at the final corner, but held his nerve attempting to regain the place.
He nerfed the back of Farfus’ BMW midway around the next lap, and succeeded in displacing Farfus’ rear fender so it started to rub on his right-rear tyre. The next time around, he tried a more forceful form of Morse code, hitting Farfus several times from behind before pushing him wide, which promoted everyone behind up a place as the Brazilian had to pit for repairs and rejoin in second-last place.
The Stewards later investigated the incident, and penalised Barth a ten-plaice grid penalty, suspended until the end of the season.
It was generally a good race for the SEAT crew, which succeeded in getting all-bar-one of its manufacturer-backed cars into the top-ten, with Michel Nykjær and Tom Coronel (who started from sixteenth place after a grid penalty for an engine change) finishing ninth and tenth respectively.
Norbert Michelisz was the sole turbodiesel León not to finish in the points on the manufacturer’s home turf, coming home eleventh, just holding out against Kristian Poulsen, who took the Indepdents’ race win from guest driver Marc Carol, who piloted the only petrol-powered SEAT in the field.
WTCC Valencia Race 1 Final Classification (13 laps):
[Original image via FIA WTCC official site]