Robert Huff became just the third driver in the World Touring Car Championship’s history to win both races at a single round, holding out Chevrolet team-mate Yvan Muller for victory in another thrilling race at Monza. Engstler BMW driver Kristian Poulsen took his maiden outright podium finish.
But there was drama for the RML Chevrolet team before the start, with Alain Menu sent to the back of the grid when his team had to break parc ferme conditions to carry out the necessary repairs to his batter Cruze, with the damage earned courtesy of Muller punting him into the Lesmo barriers at the end of the first race.
While no doubt disappointed, Menu pragmatically dismissed the incident as part of racing, while race stewards would later take a dim view of Muller actions, and handed out a 10-place grid penalty, suspended for two races, for his actions in causing the Race 1 accident.
But Monza is among the easiest of circuits on which to overtake if you have a fast car, and Menu put in one of the best rearguard drives of his extensive career to climb through the field and finish fifth at the end of the nine-lap race. It was a remarkably disciplined piece of driving as he gradually picked off his rivals one by one.
At the front of the field, Huff would start from the front row alongside Race 2 pole-sitter Tiago Monteiro, who no doubt held hopes that he could pick up his second podium finish of the weekend with a good start.
But Monteiro’s getaway wasn’t quite as quick as Huff’s, and he was beaten off the line and fell to second by Turn 1, with Muller easing past the Portuguese driver to take second place and start his chase on Huff.
As in Race 1, Huff had to fight every inch to take victory against a very hungry team-mate in identical equipment. The Briton doggedly held the inside line at every opportunity, forcing Muller to take the long way around any braking zone if he wanted to get past.
But running off-line doesn’t help in keeping one’s tyres in a fit state, and on one lap approaching the Parabolica, he braked earlier than Muller expected and was hit from behind as the Frenchman tried to avoid replicating his Race 1 error. Fortunately both were able to gather it back up and continue, but Muller was shown the bad sportsmanship flag.
Nevertheless, he kept the pressure right on Huff all the way to the chequered flag, and just two-tenths of a second separated them at the finish.
The battle for third place down was equally exciting, and the race’s TV broadcaster was simply spoilt for choice as places continued to chop and change at almost every corner.
Monteiro quickly succumbed to Poulsen, while fellow BMW drivers Tom Coronel and Norbert Michelisz were also in on the action, with the Bamboo Chevrolet of Darryl O’Young also keeping a watching brief on the four-way scrap.
Menu would steadily work his way up and into the battle, and when a puncture struck Coronel on the final lap, his sudden loss of speed was enough to split the battle and give Poulsen the breathing space he needed to take the podium.
Monteiro crossed the line in fourth place, with Darryl O’Young finishing sixth and trailing Menu’s works Chevrolet home.
In a scrappy last lap, Michelisz held on for seventh place, while Javier Villa out-dragged Franz Engstler on the sprint to the finish line to win by two-thousandths of a second.
Gabriele Tarquini took the final point for tenth place – only by dint of Coronel’s last-lap puncture – but the SEAT driver was well down on straight-line speed and no doubt wishing that the SUNRED team would get its new turbocharged engine under the bonnet as quickly as possible.
2011 FIA WTCC Race of Italy Final Classification (Race 2 – 9 laps):
|1.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||18:10.032|
|2.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.242|
|3.||Kristian Poulsen||Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 3.559|
|4.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 6.211|
|5.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 8.896|
|6.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 10.089|
|7.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||+ 10.780|
|8.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 11.054|
|9.||Franz Engstler||Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 11.056|
|10.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 12.800|
|11.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 19.420|
|12.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 21.519|
|13.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30||+ 23.532|
|14.||Marchy Lee Ying Kin||KK Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 27.912|
|15.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 28.095|
|16.||Ibrahim Okyay||Borusan Otomotiv Motorsport||+ 48.069|
|17.||Urs Sonderegger||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 52.972|
|18.||Fabio Fabiani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si||+ 1:27.890|
|19.||Fredy Barth||Swiss SEAT León 2.0 TDI||2 laps behind|
|20.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||2 laps behind|
|NF.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil-SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||1 lap|
|NS.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||did not start|
|Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:59.355|
[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]