Robert Huff has won the opening race of this weekend’s World Touring Car Championship Race of Belgium from pole position, leading home a Chevrolet 1-2-3 at the Zolder circuit today.
The Briton lead team-mate Alain Menu away off the rolling start, while defending champion Yvan Muller finished third, passing Gabriele Tarquini’s SEAT with a few laps to go before the chequered flag.
Tarquini had actually run as high as second after the race started, diving past Menu at Turn 1, only to be gobbled up by the Swiss driver just one corner later.
The race was interrupted by a four-lap safety car period that was triggered by two simultaneous accidents on the third lap.
The first accident saw Yukinori Taniguchi’s Chevrolet tipped into a spin by SEAT rookie Aleksei Dudukalo at Turn 1 when the Russian tried to pass the Bamboo Chevrolet entry. Taniguchi had a half-spin, but he was collected broadside on the right-hand-side by Marchy Lee’s BMW. The collision put Lee out of the race, while Taniguchi was able to bring his damaged Cruze home in 14th place.
The second accident saw Tom Coronel lose control of his BMW as he tried to avoid Fredy Barth’s sideways SEAT, which had spun at Turn 4. The Dutchman was hit by Franz Engstler in the melee, ripping the right-front wheel off his car and putting all three drivers out of the race.
The race restarted once the debris had been cleared away, and Muller almost immediately found a way by Tarquini and into third place, while Tiago Monteiro kept a watching brief in fifth in the second SEAT.
Further behind, the leading BMWs of Norbert Michelisz and Kristian Poulsen were enjoying a fierce battle for sixth – and also the lead of the Independent Trophy classification – which was eventually resolved in the Dane’s favour after a door-to-door battle with Michelisz.
And enormous plaudits to the race’s rear-row starters, Michel Nykjær and Javier Villa, who finished in eighth and ninth after each had a sensational run through the field. Villa overtook Darryl O’Young for ninth place on the final lap.
2011 FIA WTCC Race of Belgium Final Classification (Race 1 – 15 laps):
|1.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||29:18.807|
|2.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.244|
|3.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.740|
|5.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 3.790|
|5.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 5.102|
|6.||Kristian Poulsen||Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 8.987|
|7.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||+ 10.878|
|8.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 12.032|
|9.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 12.845|
|10.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 12.901|
|11.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 14.656|
|12.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil-SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 17.538|
|13.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30||+ 18.687|
|14.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 25.864|
|15.||Urs Sonderegger||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 42.236|
|16.||Fabio Fabiani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si||+ 1:07.741|
|NF.||Fredy Barth||Swiss SEAT León 2.0 TDI||2 laps|
|NF.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||2 laps|
|NF.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||2 laps|
|NF.||Franz Engstler||Team Engstler BMW 320TC||2 laps|
|NF.||Marchy Lee Ying Kin||KK Motorsport BMW 320TC||2 laps|
|Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:39.517|
[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]