Despite still being mathematically in contention to win a fourth World Touring Car Championship crown, Andy Priaulx has all but conceded the 2010 championship crown to Yvan Muller after spinning out of a rain-soaked second race at Okayama last weekend.
The RBM BMW driver – who took a hat-trick of championship crowns with the marque between 2005-7 – trails Chevrolet’s Muller by 37 points with a maximum of 50 up for grabs at the final round in Macau in three weeks time.
A podium finish in either race for Muller would give the Frenchman a second championship title, to add to the one he took in 2008 when driving for SEAT. Priaulx, on the other hand, needs to take both race wins (a feat last achieved in the WTCC by James Thompson in 2007) to stand a hope of claiming the title for himself.
“I have to say well done to Yvan and to Chevrolet, because the championship is theirs now,” a magnanimous Priaulx conceded after the Japanese event.
“It’s very frustrating to end things this way, but that’s racing. I couldn’t see anything because of the spray and just made a mistake on the straight, braked about five metres too late for a corner and spun off.”
A more circumspect Muller appreciates that the title will only be his when he’s won it, and will be no doubt aware that the Macau double-header has a tendency to produce a surprise result.
The Frenchman will no doubt recall the 2007 event when, one lap away from taking the world championship crown for himself in the first race, his fuel pump died, which handed Priaulx the spoils to take the title in the second race.
Chevrolet is also on the verge of clinching its first WTCC manufacturers’ title, now sitting 72 points and 76 points clear of BMW and SEAT respectively, with a maximum of 86 up for grabs at the Guia street circuit.
[Original images via FIA WTCC official site]