Robert Huff took his third victory of the 2011 World Touring Car Championship season by winning the opening race at Monza today, but there was drama on the final lap between his Chevrolet team-mates Yvan Muller and Alain Menu, with the latter being tipped into a spin by the former.
Menu’s last-lap retirement saw Tiago Monteiro manage to sneak onto the podium but only after out-dragging Norbert Michelisz in the last few hundred metres of the race in a made sprint to the finish line.
With the RML Chevrolet team assuming its customary 1-2-3 in qualifying for the opening race, Huff led Muller and Menu off the line from pole to assume a lead he would hold for the rest of the race.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing, with Muller keen to chalk up his first win of the season. Sensing an opportunity to get by Huff, he tried his move around the outside of the Parabolica at the end of the opening lap, but this compromised his exit onto the start/finish straight and he was passed by Menu into Turn 1.
Behind them, Monteiro had made a great start to leap into fourth place to be the leading SEAT, chased by Norbert Michelisz in the BMW.
Behind them, Gabriele Tarquini had also made a quick start off the line, and he had climbed up to seventh place, only to slow with a mechanical problem. He retired in the pits at the end of the fourth lap.
As the nine-lap race drew to a close, Menu now started to sense he had an opportunity to take the lead from Huff, and he had a crack at the Briton on the run into Turn 1, but was fended off.
Later around the lap, he would accidentally tag the back of Huff’s car – resulting in minor damage – but both would continue.
On the final lap, Muller had a lunge at Menu at the second Lesmo right-hander to try and wrest second place from his team-mate, but he only succeeded in punting the Swiss driver into the kitty litter and retirement when Menu tried to shut the door on the apex.
Behind them, Michelisz managed to squeeze by Monteiro to take fourth place – and what quickly became third, with Menu’s retirement – only for Monteiro to get a better run on the Hungarian as they exited the Parabolica for the final time. In a thrilling chase to the finish line, the honours went to Monteiro – by just 0.030 seconds!
Behind them, Tom Coronel finished in fifth place, with Kristian Poulsen just over a second behind. Darryl O’Young managed to hold out Javier Villa for seventh place, with Franz Engstler and Fredy Barth completing the top ten.
However, the results could quite well change with the Muller-Menu collision being one of three incidents that stewards will deliberate.
Race 2 begins shortly, with Tiago Monteiro starting from pole position.
2011 FIA WTCC Race of Italy Final Classification (Race 1 – 9 laps):
|1.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||18:07.398|
|2.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.291|
|3.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 4.239|
|4.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||+ 4.269|
|5.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 4.499|
|6.||Kristian Poulsen||Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 5.509|
|7.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 10.506|
|8.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 10.798|
|9.||Franz Engstler||Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 11.492|
|10.||Fredy Barth||Swiss SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 15.366|
|11.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 18.439|
|12.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 18.873|
|13.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 19.286|
|14.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 20.070|
|15.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30||+ 30.709|
|16.||Ibrahim Okyay||Borusan Otomotiv Motorsport||+ 58.046|
|17.||Urs Sonderegger||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 59.018|
|18.||Fabio Fabiani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si||1:25.422|
|19.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1 lap behind|
|20.||Marchy Lee Ying Kin||KK Motorsport BMW 320TC||1 lap behind|
|NF.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||5 laps|
|NF.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil-SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||2 laps|
|Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:59.960|
[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]