Chevrolet’s Alain Menu has won the first-ever World Touring Car championship race in Hungary, while a crowd of over 60,000 flocked to the Hungaroring circuit to cheer home local hero Norbert Michelisz, who drove a great race to finish second from sixth on the grid.
WTCC rookie driver Javier Villa took an excellent third-placed finish – his first WTCC podium – while Robert Huff staged an impressive comeback drive to finish fourth after his qualifying woes yesterday.
The first race’s rolling start brought about a bit of chaos as the 19-car field funnelled into the Turn 1 hairpin, with Michelisz tapping Villa in the back, triggering a chain reaction that saw Villa slide into Tom Coronel, who in turn tapped Yvan Muller.
The main victim in the panel rubbing was Robert Dahlgren, who was shoved off into the Turn 1 gravel trap, putting his hopes of a hefty points haul out of the window. Dahlgren’s Volvo had proven surprisingly quick all weekend, and he’d ominously gone quickest in this morning’s warm-up session with the fastest lap of the entire weekend. The Swede was able to limp back to the pits for repairs and returned to the circuit to ensure he would keep his starting position for Race 2.
The Turn 1 shenanigans saw Menu skip off into the lead, while Michelisz had leapt into second place, while Gabriele Tarquini found himself in the giddy heights of third place in his SUNRED Engineering SEAT León TDI, gaining six places from his ninth-placed grid position.
Menu quickly set about building himself an early lead, but an inspired Michelisz was gradually able to reel the Swiss driver in and the pair enjoyed a spirited battle for the lead. Although Michelisz was never able to find a way past Menu, the pair crossed the finish line just over a second apart.
The man battle of the race was for third place, with Tarquini doing everything he could to keep a long train of cars at bay. Tarquini managed to hold off fourth-placed Villa – who himself was being harried by the Chevrolets of Muller and Huff – until the final lap, when Villa forced his way by with the pair making light contact and Villa being pushed off the circuit by the Italian.
Tarquini briefly fought back, but he was shoved wide by Villa, and this allowed both Chevrolets to slip by, with Huff sneaking past Muller to take fourth place.
Tarquini headed a nice points haul for the SUNRED squad, with Tiago Monteiro finishing seventh, followed by Fredy Barth, who took the team’s first points with the new 1.6-litre turbo making its debut. Kristian Poulsen and Pepe Oriola completed the top-ten.
Two drivers who missed out on the top-ten places were Darryl O’Young and Tom Coronel. Coronel was forced into the pits with a puncture to his ROAL BMW, while O’Young dropped out of the top-ten when he – along with Michel Nykjær and Mehdi Bennani – was issued with a drive-through penalty for cutting the Turn 14 kerbing.
Race 2 begins shortly, with Mehdi Bennani starting from pole alongside Alain Menu.
2011 FIA WTCC Race of Hungary Final Classification (Race 1 – 12 laps):
|1.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||23:45.874|
|2.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||+ 1.047|
|3.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 17.383|
|4.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 17.983|
|5.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 18.365|
|6.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 18.780|
|7.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 19.374|
|8.||Fredy Barth||Swiss Racing SR León 1.6T||+ 24.349|
|9.||Kristian Poulsen||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 24.481|
|10.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 26.555|
|11.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 35.306|
|12.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 43.368|
|13.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 44.247|
|14.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 46.490|
|15.||Franz Engstler*||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:06.399|
|16.||Aleksei Dudukalo*||Lukoil-SUNRED SEAT León 2.0 TDI||+ 1:10.090|
|17.||Fabio Fabiani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si||+ 1:54.908|
|NC.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 3 laps|
|NC.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30||+ 7 laps|
|NS.||Urs Sonderegger||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||did not start|
|Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||1:57.552|
* Post-race 30-second time penalty applied by race stewards (in lieu of serving a drive-through penalty)
[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]